Plenty of Star Power Remaining in Playoffs
The opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs ended with a flourish with the record-setting Boston Bruins and defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche both eliminated in Game 7s at home. That certainly made plenty of NHL news.
Then, the New Jersey Devils blanked the New York Rangers in Game 7 to become the final team to advance to the second round.
With the elimination of the Bruins and the Avalanche, the pecking order in the NHL playoffs underwent a huge change. The two teams that many who make NHL predictions had a meeting in the Stanley Cup title are out of the playoffs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs (+350) now have the best odds to win the Stanley Cup title according to the NHL playoff odds.
Favorites Take a Tumble
If the first round proved anything, it is that matchups are more important than regular-season records when it comes to making NHL picks.
The Florida Panthers gave the Bruins more trouble than any of the other possible teams that Boston might have drawn in the first round.
Goals were 17-15 in favor of the Bruins. However, Florida outshot Boston 37-34.8 during the four games played during the regular season. There was no fear factor when Florida went up against a team that set the NHL records for wins and points during the regular season.
When Boston failed to close things out at home in Game 5 despite outshooting the Panthers 47-25, that opened the door for the upset. Florida posted 4-3 overtime wins on the road in Games 5 and 7 to seal the deal.
It was a similar script when Colorado met Seattle. The Kraken, in just its second NHL season, outscored Colorado in the meetings during the regular season and neutralized a potent Avalanche power play. That set the stage for Seattle to win three times on the road in the series.
Is This the Year?
No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Before Montreal’s improbable run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, no team from Canada advanced that far since the Vancouver Canucks lost a hard-fought seven-game series against Boston in 2011. That ended a stretch of four different teams from Canada playing for the Stanley Cup title in a span of seven years.
After the Toronto Maple Leafs took out the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning in six games and the Edmonton Oilers eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in the first round for the second season in a row, they are now the front-runners to win the Stanley Cup, according to the Las Vegas odds.
Toronto won’t have to deal with Boston, the team that eliminated the Maple Leafs from the playoffs in 2013, 2018, and 2019. There will be no Colorado team blocking Edmonton’s path. When looking at the sportsbook, the best odds for a Stanley Cup matchup is the +700 price for Edmonton and Toronto to be the last two teams standing.
Minding the Store
There have been some big-name goalies who led their teams to the Stanley Cup title.
That might not be the case this year.
The last four winners of the Vezina Trophy saw their teams eliminated in the first round with Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Minnesota Wild, Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy coming up short.
That leaves Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers as the only Vezina Trophy winner still alive in the playoffs.
Akira Schmidt of the New Jersey Devils, Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers, and Laurent Brossoit of the Vegas Golden Knights are among the goalies who might not be well known to the casual fans tuning into the playoff games.
Akira Himothy Schmid. pic.twitter.com/imlqMFPbW7
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) May 2, 2023
Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars is the only one of the eight remaining starting goalies who was selected in the first round in the NHL Draft.
There has been plenty of goalie movement among the contenders.
Ilya Samsonov is in his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after playing for Washington for three years.
When the Boston-Florida series began, it was Alex Lyon between the pipes for the Panthers before he gave way to former Vezina Trophy winner Bobrovsky.
Antti Raanta and Frederick Andersen are in their second season with Toronto.
Star Power Still Matters
Six of the top seven point producers left in the playoffs were first-round picks.
The lone exception is Roope Hintz of the Dallas Stars. The current scoring leader in the playoffs was picked in the second round in 2015.
Leon Draisaitl of Edmonton, Mitch Marner of Toronto, Matthew Tkachuk of Florida, Connor McDavid of Edmonton, Evan Bouchard of Edmonton and Auston Matthews of Toronto were all former top-10 picks.
Seven of the last 14 No. 1 overall picks are still alive in the playoffs.
Edmonton has two (McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), as does Toronto (Matthews and John Tavares) and New Jersey (Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier). Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad is the other top overall selection looking to win it all. It was Tavares who scored the goal to eliminate Tampa Bay.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 30, 2023
Since 2009, the only No. 1 overall pick to win the Stanley Cup is Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. Each of the players selected first in the draft from 2003-2008 has won NHL titles. That could certainly change this year.