- The fight for the Wild Card spots in the East is going to be fierce
- After the making the playoffs for the last three seasons, Toronto is currently on the outside looking in
- The updated playoff odds indicate that Montreal (+525) has basically no hope of cracking the field
According to the oddsmakers, four teams in the Eastern Conference are considered locks for the postseason (Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals) while three more are considered out of the playoff race entirely (Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, and Ottawa Senators).
The other nine will be in a fierce battle for the final four berths in the East. Updated Eastern Conference playoff odds for those nine teams, reproduced in the table below, range from -275 (NY Islanders) to +600 (NY Rangers).
Which teams are the best bets to make/miss the 2020 postseason?
2020 Eastern Conference Playoff Odds
|Team||Odds to Make||Odds to Miss|
|New York Islanders||-275||+235|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||-170||+150|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-135||+115|
|New York Rangers||+600||-800|
Odds taken January 27
Columbus Set to Fall
No team in the NHL has been in a richer vein of form of late than the Columbus Blue Jackets, with the team going 14-2-2 since losing back-to-back games to Pittsburgh and Ottawa in mid-December. As a result, the team, which lost star forward Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the off-season, finds itself in the first Wild-Card spot.
But whether the Blue Jackets can continue to display that red-hot form through to the end of the season is a fair question to ask. For instance, of the three goaltenders to start a game for Columbus this season, Joonas Korpisalo has the lowest save percentage at .913, while Elvis Merzlikins is putting up .926 and Matiss Kivlenieks had a .969 in his lone start.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had their goalie walk for $70 million this summer, are paying their three goalies less than $3 million combined this season, and now have the 2nd best 5v5 save % and 3rd best save % overall
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 20, 2020
Those numbers are likely to fall off at some point, particularly when you consider that, combined, the three goalies have fewer than 200 games of NHL experience.
If their play does regress, look out. With just 138 goals thus far, Columbus is in the bottom third of the NHL in scoring, and that lack of offense could prove terminal in the team’s playoff hunt.
Pick: Miss (+150)
Maple Leafs Poised to Soar
The Maple Leafs were not supposed to be in a dogfight for a playoff spot, opening at -300 odds to reach the postseason. Yet, with 32 games remaining, they are four points back of Carolina for the final Wild Card (with one game in hand).
With more $30-million invested in forwards Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and John Tavares, the Toronto Maple Leafs shouldn’t have any problem scoring goals, and that has proven to be the case. Having found the net 176 times so far, the Leafs are the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL.
Their Achilles heel has proven to be on the blueline, and that weak spot proved even more vulnerable once the team’s two best defensemen – Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin – were forced out of the lineup with fractured feet. But help is the horizon, as fresh out of the All-Star break, Muzzin is set to return as Toronto visits Nashville on Monday night.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 1, 2019
Getting the blueline settled is just one issue the Leafs need to solve. The other part of the equation will be getting the kind of goaltending from Frederik Andersen that saw him voted into last weekend’s All-Star Game. The Danish netminder has been off key of late, with a .888 save percentage in his last 10 starts, well behind his .917 career mark.
Frederik Andersen is in St. Louis right now for his first All-Star Game but he is currently the furthest he’s been — statistically — from all-star status in his seven-year career https://t.co/OPUSc9UiHZ pic.twitter.com/etpV7ZYWel
— Forbes SportsMoney (@ForbesSports) January 25, 2020
If Andersen can produce a sustained stretch of consistent goaltending, the high-scoring nature of the forwards will allow the Leafs to find a way into the playoffs.
Pick: Make (-135)
Canadiens Can Turn Things Around
Of all the teams considered long-shots to make the postseason, the Montreal Canadiens have one thing that the others don’t: Carey Price.
The former Hart and Vezina Trophy-winner may be struggling through a subpar season by his standards, but as the recent NHL Players Association poll showed, there is no other goaltender currently in the league that other players would want in net in a pressure-packed game.
There are 45 goalies with 3000+ FA over the past three seasons. Carey Price is 29th in GSAA (-3.98), 37th in dAv% (-0.46), and 42nd in GSAx (-28.93).
But yeah, he's the best. pic.twitter.com/MQ1HzXHEki
— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) January 20, 2020
After putting up a .901 save percentage through his first 36 appearances this season – well below his career .918 mark – Price was showing signs of pulling out of that slump heading into the break. Over the span of a week, Price went 4-0 with a .959 save percentage.
NHL Leaders – Wins
— UNB! Sports Stats (@unbsportsstats) January 23, 2020
If Montreal can get back some of their injured forwards, such as Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher, to help out an offense ranked 18th overall with 155 goals, that will take some of the pressure off of Price, too.
The team is currently ten points out of a playoff spot, which means there is a massive hill to climb. But there are still 64 points available down the stretch. It’s not insurmountable.
Pick: Make +525
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