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This past week, the NHL announced its intentions to return to play by way of a 24-team playoff tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion. In order to make it to the finals, a winner must be determined from both the Eastern and Western Conferences to decide the final matchup.
Using Draftkings’ odds, let’s discuss the favorites and value plays that have a chance to come out of the east on top.
Boston Bruins (+300)
When the NHL put its season on pause, the Bruins were leading the NHL in points with an even 100 and could smell a number one seed – well, at least Brad Marchand could.
Boston is one of the most complete teams in the league and are constructed to succeed in the playoffs. They have four solid lines, a veteran defensive corps, and the best goaltending tandem in the league between Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.
The offense is led by the aforementioned Marchand, two-way center Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak – who was tied for the NHL lead in goals with 48 upon the stoppage.
Between their depth and veteran leadership, look for the Bruins to come out of the east on top and avenge their loss from the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals.
Philadelphia Flyers (+500)
In his first season at the helm, Head Coach Alain Vigneault seemed to provide the Flyers with the leadership it has lacked for years. Philadelphia sat fourth in conference standings upon the delay with 89 points and had already locked up a playoff berth.
For the first time in what seems like eons, the organization has a true franchise goaltender in Carter Hart. The second-year netminder had a 2.42 GAA and .914 SV% upon the delay, resulting in this team having palpable confidence that reflected in its play on the ice.
Offensively, they’re led by Captain Claude Giroux, along with center’s Sean Couturier and leading scorer, Travis Konecny; while Ivan Provorov leads a balanced defensive group comprised of both veteran’s and youth.
This team seems to have finally found its stride after years of mediocrity and are well-positioned to make a championship run.
Toronto Maple Leafs (+1300)
Due to their history and lore, the Maple Leafs continue to be one of the most scrutinized and polarizing teams in the league.
Offense is the name of their game and they have plenty of it. Center Auston Matthews had 47 tallies at the pause and is supported by the creative Mitch Marner and smooth skating William Nylander.
Their glaring weakness is on the blueline. Morgan Rielly is a franchise defensive and Tyson Barrie is an offensive whiz, but quite frankly, that’s the last thing they need. Goalie Freddie Andersen faces a barrage of shots each night, which isn’t sustainable for long-term success.
The team lacks true leadership and there’s been a few instances this season when the team has simply given up when having a bad game. Additionally, The National Ballet of Canada is grittier than these guys. Which doesn’t bode well for traditional playoff hockey.
However, if Andersen plays strong, this team can outscore anyone on a given night and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see them win the east – although unlikely.
Carolina Hurricanes (+1600)
I find it somewhat surprising to see the Hurricanes with such long odds. When the season was put on hold, they had 81 points with fourteen games yet to play – while also missing standout blueliner, Dougie Hamilton, due to a broken leg.
Better known for their goofy post-game celebrations, the Hurricanes are a super young, yet talented team. Winger Sebastian Aho was further breaking out with 38 goals and trade deadline acquisition, Vincent Trocheck provides further offense to complement youngsters Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.
Carolina is exceptionally deep on defense. Led by Hamilton and Jacob Slavin, they also added veterans Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen at the deadline. The goaltending is suspect between Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, but their strong offense and defensive play cover that up for the most part. Plus, they could always give David Ayres a call if they get desperate.
For the value provided by such a deep and talented team, the Hurricanes certainly warrant a few speculative dollars.
Florida Panthers (+2500)
Being the lesser-known of the Florida teams, the Panthers don’t receive much attention or fanfare. However, they have a lot of offensive talent in Sasha Barkov, Mike Hoffman, and Jonathan Huberdeau – who was top-10 in overall scoring when the season came to a halt.
The defense isn’t inspiring, but they do have goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who when on his game, is one of the best. He has struggled thus far in his first full season in South Florida, but that has more to do with poor defensive play than his talent suddenly eroding.
Between the offense and three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach, Joel Quenneville, leading this squad; the Panthers have the ability to truly compete with any team in the east.