With conferences thrown out the window this year to supplement the NHL’s geographically-driven divisions during the pandemic, we’re at the equivalent of the quarterfinal stage — for the most part — as the four series run the gamut of thrilling to snoozing.
The Montreal Canadiens shockingly became the first team to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup semifinals on Monday night with an overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets, completing a sweep for the Northern Division crown that was almost as unlikely as them coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the first round to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So much for writing off the team who had the worst record heading into the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a chance to finish off the Carolina Hurricanes for the Central Division title on Tuesday night — a letdown of a series considering just how good Carolina had been during the regular season, especially against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
As disappointing as those series have been from a competitive standpoint, we’ve been treated to a pair of dandies on opposite coasts.
In the East, the New York Islanders are defying the odds once again to pin the Boston Bruins’ proverbial backs up against the wall. With two straight wins in Games 4 and 5, the Islanders have overturned a 2-1 series deficit and now have a chance to eliminate the Bruins in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Considering each game has been ridiculously close in the third period, though, one can’t write off Boston — especially given the firepower that derives from their first line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand. It just remains to be seen if they’ll have enough to get past a defensive Islanders team that has continued to find ways to win.
Out in the Western Division, the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights are in the midst of a heavyweight bout that has many believing that the victor of this series will be the side to lift the Stanley Cup in 2021.
It’s a reasonable sentiment considering these were two of the very best teams in the NHL all season and they’re stacked with talent that will give the other division winners absolute fits.
So it’s really no surprise that the Avalanche and Golden Knights have two of the three best odds to win the Stanley Cup at the quarterfinal stage even though one team will be going home sometime this week.
Meanwhile, the defending-champion Lightning have the second-best odds while the Islanders — who still have a lot of work to do — are fourth-favored.
It’s only then that the Canadiens, already in the semifinal and waiting for the winner of Hurricanes, Lightning, are favored.
Here is a list of the current odds, courtesy of OddsShark.com:
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+260|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+400|
|New York Islanders||+800|