It’s been a while since we checked in with the NHL, but since we’re only a couple of months away from the playoffs, this seems as good a time as any! So who are hockey’s frontrunners right now? Who has the best chance to make it to the postseason? And will the St. Louis Blues be able to defend the Stanley Cup from the competition? Here’s a look at a few of the top NHL teams as of February 2020 and the odds on this season’s favorites to win the NHL Championship, even if it is a little early.
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Tampa Bay Lightning
Since the NHL All-Star break, the Lightning have been surging. They’ve got a stacked roster, a record of 33-15, and they’re just five points behind the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning had a rough go of things earlier this season (and, well, the last postseason too), but they’re back to looking like contenders again after losing only three games in January. When Andrei Vasilevskiy is in the net, they can’t seem to lose (his last loss was in mid-December), and the elite goaltender is now back in the mix for the Vezina Trophy. Nikita Kucherov is also starting to play well again. This team as a whole just feels complete; they don’t look like they need to seek out anything new at the upcoming February 24th trade deadline.
Speaking of the Bruins, this team is also flourishing as of late under the leadership of David Pastrnak, who has the second-most goals in the whole NHL (38), the third-most points (75), and solid MVP hopes for the season (he already won the title of All-Star MVP back in January). Put him together with Brad Marchand, who is fifth in assists in the league (with 46), and the duo is nearly unstoppable. Despite the Bruins’ diminishing lead in the Atlantic Division, they’re still rolling. The Bruins have won five of their last six games. They’ve also got one of the best goalies in the whole of the NHL in Tuukka Rask, who has the league’s lowest GAA at 2.15 and three shutouts this season.
Since their 2018 Stanley Cup win, the Capitals have been thriving. They’re currently heading up the Metropolitan Division with a record of 36-13, six points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps are led by record-setting Alex Ovechkin, who just made his way into the number-eight spot on the NHL’s all-time goals list as he nears ever closer to the 700-goal mark. And the 34-year-old Russian actually has the most goals in the league right now with 40. In addition, the Capitals have the top-scoring defenseman in the NHL in John Carlson, who has racked up 65 points. The Caps are tough to beat this season and we don’t see that changing any time soon. Even when they give their best effort, they can still win. It’s possible that they’ll trade for some defense before the deadline, but they don’t need to.
St. Louis Blues
How are last year’s Stanley Cup winners holding up? We’re not sure if there’s an equivalent of the Super Bowl hangover in hockey, but at this moment in time, it doesn’t look like it for the Blues. Despite a tough start to 2020, they’re currently leading the Central Division by seven points with a solid record of 32-14, and they’ve also got one of the best home records in the league this season at 18-4-4. Winger David Perron is making waves on offense with 53 points across 53 games, and goalie Jake Allen is tough too – he holds fifth-lowest GAA in the league at 2.26. The Blues still look like a contender, but the trade rumors that are swirling might be for good reason – they need that extra edge (possibly in the form of a new forward) if they want to defend their title.
Let’s talk about the Penguins. They’ve got it rough being in the same division as the Capitals, but since the return of a healthy Sidney Crosby, this team is starting to look like it did back when it won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017… and apparently, it looks that way to oddsmakers too (see below). Crosby has rejoined his teammates after taking two months off the ice to recover from abdominal surgery, and while they played well without him, this team now looks like a threat in the East. The centerman has racked up 11 points in his six games back. It’s just too bad that winger Jake Guentzel is now out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Still, Tristan Jarry is a top goaltender, Kris Letang is a top defenseman when it comes to scoring, and the Penguins have won four out of their last five games, so watch out!
Odds to Win the Stanley Cup in 2020
The NHL Playoffs don’t start until April, but how about a little speculating? The Lightning really let us down last year, but Vegas oddsmakers sure seem to have faith in them right now. Here are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2020, according to OddsShark:
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+700|
|St. Louis Blues||+1200|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1600|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+1600|