Winning a championship in any sport is rather difficult. In 2020 in the NHL, it will be even harder.
With the regular suspended and eventually cancelled by the coronavirus, the NHL moves ahead with its restart in July. The teams will begin the postseason immediately with a unique 24-team tournament with the ultimate goal of crowning a Stanley Cup champion.
Betting the Stanley Cup playoffs and the eventual champion is really not that much different for bettors. There may be some different factors to take into account but, for the most part, there are certain trends bettors can examine in betting the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
Trend 1: Strength in the Middle
It all starts at center. For last year’s Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, it was Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn. O’Reilly is the Blues leading scorer again this season with 61 points. Schenn is third with 58.
Looking back, in 2018 it was Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov setting up Alex Ovechkin on the win and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.
Of this year’s favorites – Boston and Tampa Bay – the Lightning have the edge in the middle with Steven Stamkos (66 pts) and Brayden Point (64). Both Tampa Bay and Boston are listed as +650 favorites to win this year’s Cup.
Trend 2: Goaltending
The big reason why St. Louis was able to capture last year’s Cup was G Jordan Binnington. Remember, the Blues were the worst team in the NHL at the beginning of last January. They recalled Binnington from the AHL and he went on to post a 1.89 goals against average, the lowest since the 1950-51 season.
Boston has Tuuka Rask and his league-leading 2.12 GAA and his second-best .929 save percentage. That is why the Bruins are a favorite to win this year.
The smarter bettor will see an interesting potential wager would be on Dallas. The Stars have Anton Khudobin in net and he leads the NHL in save percentage (.930) and he’s third in goals against (2.22). Dallas is listed at +1500 to win the Cup in 2020.
Trend 3: The Back End
Teams likely will not win a Stanley Cup without a proven puck mover on the back line. Alex Pietrangelo is that guy for St. Louis. The Capitals had John Carlson and the Penguins relied on Kris Letang.
Pietrangelo is still in St. Louis, which is given +1100 odds to repeat as champion in 2020. One of the best in the game is Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman who is fourth on the team in scoring with 55 points. He’s another reason why the Lightning are favored to win. Sometimes going with the favorite isn’t the right strategy, but buying winning sports picks is.
Trend 4: Defense (and Offense) Wins Championships
Yes, eight of the last 12 Stanley Cup champs finished in the top-10 in goals allowed per 60 minutes. That would favor teams like Boston (1st), Dallas (2nd), St. Louis (4th), and Tampa Bay (8th).
But, don’t forget about the offense. Positive shot generation numbers are directly related to Stanley Cup success. Eight of the last 10 champs finished in the Top-10 in Corsi (shot attempt differential at even strength).
Greater puck possession and more shots translate into more championships. Surprisingly, the Bruins (50.33) are 11th in Corsi percentage. Tampa Bay is not in the Top-10 either.
Bettors might take a look at Pittsburgh, which is fourth in Corsi percentage (51.28). The Penguins are somewhat of a longshot at +1600, but they still have Crosby and Malkin in the middle.