- Tampa Bay Lightning are the opening favorites to win the Central Division
- Colorado Avalanche have the shortest odds to capture the West Division
- We examine the opening divisional odds in the West and Central and provide the best bets for right now
There is a report that Nikita Kucherov is battling an injury that may keep him out for a while. The details are sketchy. The Lightning also have some business to do if they plan to sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak without having to trade away someone like Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn to get under the salary cap.
This is a short, 56-game season, which kicks off Jan. 13, and Tampa will likely have a slug-fest on their hands to beat out teams like Columbus, Nashville, Dallas, and Carolina.
In the West, the Avalanche have some unfinished business. Last season, in a shortened 70-game campaign, the team racked up 92 points, which was good for second-best in the Central Division. They are the current favorite to win the West Division in the NHL Divisional Odds.
Let’s take a look at the Central Division odds below.
Central Division Odds
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+160|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+700|
|Detroit Red Wings||+2500|
All odds as of Dec 22
The Blue Jackets have perhaps the most to gain with this realignment because they have been moved away from some talent-heavy teams in the Metropolitan Division. This means they won’t have to battle with the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Islanders, Flyers, and Devils. But it still will be a challenge for Columbus to nail down a top-four spot and get a playoff spot.
No Time for Sleep-Walking
Teams coming off a Stanley Cup victory can tend to sleep-walk through the first part of a new season, and with only 56 games played over a short time period, the Lightning can’t afford a slow start with teams like Carolina and Dallas expected to be breathing down their necks.
Carolina Hurricanes are placed in newly formed Central Division that includes the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 2020 Stanley Cup champions. https://t.co/adOGgSJOXA
— The News & Observer (@newsobserver) December 20, 2020
This should be a feisty division. The Blue Jackets will have no shortage of motivation going against Tampa. They gave the Lightning a hard five-game series last season and now will see each other a lot more in 2020-21.
The other teams in the Central Division are in a rebuild (Detroit) or have aging stars (Chicago) and don’t have a lineup that can contend with either Tampa or Carolina. Supposedly the Lightning are getting Steven Stamkos back at the start of the season, but questions over Kucherov will haunt this team going in.
The Hurricanes have one of the most exciting forward lines in the league, with young scorer Andrei Svechnikov playing with Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen. All three led the team in points, goals and assists. If they can get more balanced scoring, Carolina will be a serious threat.
Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour will have his team prepared and motivated. Carolina did add one veteran player to replace Justin Williams, who retired. The Hurricanes brought in 29-year-old Jesper Fast, who has solid two-way capabilities and should be a good fit in Brind’Amour’s lineup.
And with no Alex Ovechkin one-timer to fear, the Hurricanes have eliminated a major threat. Due to the unclear situation in Tampa with Kucherov, the best value right now is with Carolina.
Pick: Carolina (+350)
West Division Odds
|Vegas Golden Knights||+200|
|St. Louis Blues||+450|
|San Jose Sharks||+1200|
|Los Angeles Kings||+1300|
The new West division is the most top-heavy because it features two of the biggest Western Conference powerhouses in the Vegas Golden Knights and the Avalanche, and you might as well throw the St. Louis Blues into the mix.
Colorado’s path to the playoffs was made easier by the league moving a rival, the Dallas Stars, out of the division. The Stars certainly challenged the Avs, winning the regular-season head-to-head matchup 4-0 last season.
The @GoldenKnights will play in the “West Division” this season.
They’ll play Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, LA, Minnesota, San Jose, and St. Louis 8 TIMES EACH in the regular season.
— Kaitlyn Olvera (@kaitlyn_olvera) December 20, 2020
The Golden Knights have always been sneaky good. They finished with a record of 39-24-8, which was good for 86 points and the best record in the Pacific Division through 71 games. Vegas battled their way into a Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Stars before falling in five games.
Clearly, the Golden Knights and the Blues are the biggest threats to knock off Colorado, and the odds show it. This is looking like a three-horse race, with the top four teams getting into the postseason.
The Avalanche acquired Brandon Saad and Dennis Gilbert from Chicago for Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm and boosted their defense by acquiring Devon Toews from the New York Islanders for two second-round draft picks. Both Saad and Toews are strong skaters on a team that has an abundant supply of them.
As long as the Avalanche have Nathan McKinnon in the lineup, they should never be counted out. That line with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen is the best in hockey. And the defense with Cale Makar is solid. But goaltender Philipp Grubauer is going to have to stay healthy.
The Avalanche can roll four forward lines and boast three solid defensive pairings. They have some elite forwards and some interesting depth pieces. Vegas will give Colorado a good run, but there is good value in betting the Avalanche at these odds.
Pick: Colorado (+180)