With minimal roster losses from its Stanley Cup-winning team, the Chicago Blackhawks have a real shot at becoming the first repeat champion in the NHL since the Detroit Red Wings went back-to-back in 1997 and 1998.
In fact, online bookmaker Bovada thinks the ‘Hawks have the best Cup chances of all 30 teams in 2013-14.
Following is the full list of odds:
Chicago Blackhawks 6/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 13/2
Boston Bruins 10/1
Los Angeles Kings 12/1
St. Louis Blues 12/1
Detroit Red Wings 16/1
Vancouver Canucks 16/1
San Jose Sharks 18/1
Edmonton Oilers 20/1
Minnesota Wild 20/1
New York Rangers 20/1
Anaheim Ducks 22/1
Montreal Canadiens 25/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 25/1
Washington Capitals 25/1
Philadelphia Flyers 28/1
New York Islanders 33/1
Ottawa Senators 33/1
Carolina Hurricanes 40/1
Colorado Avalanche 40/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 40/1
Dallas Stars 40/1
New Jersey Devils 40/1
Nashville Predators 50/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 50/1
Winnipeg Jets 50/1
Phoenix Coyotes 66/1
Buffalo Sabres 100/1
Calgary Flames 100/1
Florida Panthers 150/1
A few thoughts:
—- Can’t really argue with the ‘Hawks at 6/1. The one concern may be the center position, particularly after Dave Bolland was traded to Toronto. Remember, it was already a concern with Michal Handzus centering the second line heading into the playoffs. Could Brandon Saad fill that role?
—- Even with all its young talent, Edmonton at 20/1 seems rather optimistic considering the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. Is Boyd Gordon that good?
—- For a long shot, you could do worse than Tampa Bay at 50/1. If the Lightning can get better goaltending than they got last season, they could make the playoffs and go on a run. We all know they can put the puck in the net.
—- Is Buffalo so bad that the Sabres deserve to be tied with Calgary for second-biggest underdog? We suppose it depends what happens with Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. If those two are traded for picks/prospects, the answer may be yes. Otherwise, it’s worth noting the Sabres finished 2013 quite well, going 8-4-0 in April. They badly need Tyler Myers to find his game again.
These are pretty decent times for the Blue Jackets.
The team is 7-3-2 in its last 12, recently re-upped with Ryan Murray on a two-year deal and, on Friday, announced that blueliner David Savard has been activated from IR after missing the last 11 games to an oblique strain.
Savard, 25, was a pretty integral part of John Tortorella’s defense when healthy. He averaged over 24 minutes per night and had 15 points through 39 games prior to being sidelined by the ailment.
He’ll presumably draw back into the lineup when the Jackets take on Ottawa on Saturday. No word yet on a corresponding roster move.
Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.
It was a real nightmare for those guys.
Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.
Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.
Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.
Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:
Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.
In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.
On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.
John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.
Now, he wants to get back to work.
Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.
“It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”
Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.
Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.
The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?
Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’
Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.
Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.
Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.
For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.
— Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.
— Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.
— Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”
— Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.
— The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.
— Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.