2022 Stanley Cup Futures Betting Preview: Back Bruins at Big Prices
Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Brad Marchand, left, and Patrice Bergeron.
The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway on Monday, May 2 with four games starting at 7 p.m. ET.
The Colorado Avalanche will enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the clear favorite at +350, but those odds imply that another team aside from the Avs hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup nearly 78% of the time.
With that in mind, here are a quartet of bets that still have value before the playoffs get underway.
Boston Bruins to Win the Stanley Cup (+2000)
Over the last five seasons or so, we’ve been accustomed to seeing the Boston Bruins enter the postseason as one of the favorites. Boston has been one of the NHL’s best 5-on-5 teams over that span, usually relying on a suffocating defense and a clinical offense to achieve results. The Bruins have become masters of keeping games on script and then winning on the margins to come out ahead in tight, playoff-style games.
And while the general perception around the Bruins this year is that they’ve been underwhelming compared to recent seasons, the truth is that these are basically the same ol’ Bruins, they just had the misfortune of playing in a division with three of the NHL’s best teams in it.
While Florida, Toronto and Tampa were shot out of a cannon at the start of the season and never slowed down, the Bruins slowly trended up as the season progressed and eventually found their form. By season’s end, the Bruins were the NHL’s best team at suppressing scoring chances and expected goals at 5-on-5.
That defensive prowess will be vital for the B’s, as they don’t have the security blanket of Tuukka Rask playing behind them in this series. And while it’s fair to question whether Linus Ullmark or Jeremy Swayman will thrive in their first go-round in the postseason, the Bruins are so stout defensively that Ullmark and Swayman will have a strong chance to succeed.
The goaltending situation will remain a question mark until answered, but we can feel confident that, for the first time in a few years, the Bruins should have some balanced scoring. Jake DeBrusk has enjoyed a break-out season playing next to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and that’s allowed Bruce Cassidy to slot David Pastrnak next to Erik Haula and Taylor Hall, giving the B’s two terrific scoring lines.
The Bruins also have the luxury of playing in the Metropolitan Division bracket, which means the B’s will avoid Florida, Toronto or Tampa Bay until the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite being the lowest seed, I rate the Bruins as the best team in the Metro side of the playoffs and will back them in a number of ways this postseason.
Boston is 20-1 at SuperBook, BallyBet and theScore Bet, and 18-1 at FanDuel.
Patrice Bergeron (+6000) to win the Conn Smythe
Piggy-backing off my Bruins bet above, betting Patrice Bergeron seems like a logical next step for anybody who is bullish on Boston’s chances to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Even at 36, Bergeron remains the most important player for the Bruins. As the team’s No. 1 center, not only Bergeron expected to contribute offense, but he’ll also be going up against the opposition’s top line every night of the postseason. And while the Bruins have a handful of potential Conn Smythe candidates on the roster, it’ll be hard to ignore the storyline surrounding Bergeron should the B’s make a run.
It’s always important to remember that the Conn Smythe (given to the MVP of the Playoffs) is voted on by members of the hockey media. It’ll be hard for them to pass the opportunity to vote for Bergeron, who may retire at season’s end, should he lead his team to another Stanley Cup.
Connor McDavid (+3000) to win the Conn Smythe
While not directly correlated, it behooves bettors to shop around the Conn Smythe market before placing Stanley Cup Futures. For example, it’s hard to imagine the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup and Igor Shesterkin not winning the Conn Smythe. Shesterkin is 30-1 to be named MVP of the postseason and the Rangers are between +1600 and +2000 to win the Stanley Cup. There’s a little bit of risk, but it’s smart to just take the added value on Shesterkin in that case.
Similarly, it’s very hard to imagine the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup and Connor McDavid not being named as the Playoff MVP. And unlike in postseasons past where the Oilers entered the tournament as a heavily-flawed team, this version of the Oil has been superb since Jay Woodcroft took over as head coach.
Woodcroft has led Edmonton a 26-9-3 record in his 38 games in charge. That puts them on a 119-point pace over 82 games. To put it in further perspective: The Colorado Avalanche finished the regular season with 119 points.
In other words, the Oilers are a contender and instead of betting them at 18-1 to win the Stanley Cup, why not take the 30-1 on McDavid, who I may add is one of the few players on the board who has the potential to win the Conn Smythe even if the Oilers reach the Finals and fall short.
Series Moneyline: Tampa Bay Lightning (+100) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning will begin the postseason as a slight underdog against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And despite the noise surrounding this matchup — the Lightning’s prowess in the playoffs and Toronto’s inability to win a series, no matter the opponent — it’s hard to argue that the Buds aren’t deserving favorites in this matchup.
No matter how you shake it, the Maple Leafs were a better team than the Lightning this season. Not only did Toronto finish five points and eight goals ahead of the Bolts in the standings, but the Buds also finished inside the top-5 in terms of goals per game, expected goals rate, high-danger scoring chance percentage and power play percentage. There are ups and downs for every team across an 82-game season, but the Leafs were one of the circuit’s most consistent clubs in 2021-22.
There are a lot of reasons to believe in this Leafs core against the Lightning. Toronto was the stronger 5-on-5 team, they had the better special teams throughout the season and Tampa Bay’s form did wane at times during the stretch run.
But overlook the Lightning at your own risk. Tampa Bay has played a ton of hockey since the NHL returned from its Covid-hiatus nearly 20 months ago, so it’s not all that surprising that the Bolts did seem to pace themselves, especially since they basically had a playoff spot wrapped up in December.
So while the numbers will show that Toronto has been the stronger team, this is a series where you’ll need to rely on raw handicapping in addition to what the numbers tell you. And a lot of that handicapping boils down to this: How much stock should we put into Tampa’s pedestrian stretch at a point of the season where they were likely just waiting for the playoffs to start?
Because from a matchup perspective, Tampa is one of the few teams in the NHL that can feel confident in their ability to match up with Toronto.
A lot of Toronto’s success does hinge on how its high-end players perform. Auston Matthews is the Hart Trophy favorite and Mitchell Marner just posted a 97-point season in 72 games, but none of that will matter if Toronto’s dynamic duo goes quiet in another playoff series. And while it’s unlikely that the Lightning keep Matthews and Marner off the scoresheet entirely, they do have the horses needed to make life tough on Toronto’s best players.
While Matthews, Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander and Michael Bunting (who is questionable for Game 1 and beyond) give Toronto an embarrassment of riches up front, those five players will see a ton of Anthony Cirelli, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak over the course of this series. Outside of the goaltending, Cirelli could end up being the most important factor in this series, as he has the ability to slow down Toronto’s vaunted top line.
Very few teams would reasonably stand a chance to keep Matthews, Marner and Co. in check, but Tampa Bay has a terrific shutdown center, a handful of defensive stalwarts and the best goalie in the world. Those are the ingredients you need to compete against the Leafs.
But Toronto’s defense should also provide a stern test for Tampa Bay’s elite players at the top of the lineup. The Leafs finished inside the top-10 in expected goals against and high-danger scoring chances conceded, so they shouldn’t be overrun by this dynamic attack. Toronto now has three pairs that can play a specific role, with Morgan Rielly playing in an easier role as the puck-mover, while TJ Brodie, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano and Jake Muzzin will be assigned the tough minutes.
As with any best-of-7 series, the difference for this series will likely be the play of the goaltenders. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been the best goaltender in the world for the past three years and even in a year where he didn’t get much attention still posted a .917 save percentage and a +17.6 GSAx. Vasilevskiy is clearly the A-side in this showdown, but just how much of an edge the Bolts have in goal is going to be the big question for this series.
Jack Campbell is the only NHL-level goaltender the Leafs have on their roster and he’s been Jekyll-and-Hyde this season. After a terrific start to the season, Campbell’s form plummeted throughout the winter until he ended up on injured reserve. Campbell has looked more stable since returning from injury, but he’ll need to provide above-average goaltending in a matchup this tight. Whether he can do that is a huge question mark.
In a series where the margin for error is quite thin, the Lightning’s edge in goal is likely the difference-maker. In a coin-flip matchup, the plus-money odds on Tampa provide value.
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