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St. Louis Blues +185 Favorites to Earn Western Conference #1 Seed

Eric Thompson

by Eric Thompson in NHL Hockey

Updated Mar 18, 2021 · 2:37 PM PDT

St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, left, clears the puck from in front of the net as Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog looks on in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
  • The defending champion St. Louis Blues are favored to earn the top seed in the West in the Stanley Cup Playoffs qualifying round
  • The Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars will also have a shot at top billing when play restarts next weekend
  • See below to find out which team you should back to finish first in the Western Conference

In an effort to give the NHL’s best teams something to play for in the upcoming qualifying round, the league decided the top four seeds in each conference should play a round robin to determine their standing. That means in the West, the Blues, Avalanche, Stars and Golden Knights will battle it out to see who gets “home ice” for the remainder of these bubble-based playoffs. Suffice it to say, there’s never been a less meaningful prize on the line.

Playing in your own barn already barely matters when it comes to Stanley Cup playoff results (home teams went 3-5 in last year’s opening round). Now, with no fans in the stands, the only reward the winner of this mini tournament gets is last change and slightly cooler jerseys a majority of the time.

So why does this little round robin matter at all? Because you can bet on it!

NHL Western Conference No. 1 Seed Odds

Team Odds
St Louis Blues +185
Colorado Avalanche +205
Vegas Golden Knights +300
Dallas Stars +475

Odds as of July 25

Which team offers the most value to win this brief tournament? Let’s explore.

Blues Catch a Big Break

Obviously, the easiest way to emerge as the top seed in the West is for any of these teams to run the table. But seeing as this is hockey and randomness rules, it’s far more likely we’ll see a few teams tied at 2-1.

Any tiebreaker scenario will be decided by a team’s regular season points percentage, which is good news for St. Louis, who barely eked out the Avs for that honor.

That’s why those two have significantly lower odds than the Stars, who will have to go 3-0 in order to snag that top spot.

Who is Poised To Start Fast?

Predicting these qualifying rounds feels like one giant shrug emoji. Sure, we could look at the stats from the regular season to try and determine how each team stacks up, but the last time anyone played a game was four and a half months ago! Hell, the Blues entire offseason last summer was shorter than the COVID-19 break they just took.

In terms of the underlying numbers though, Colorado appears to be the team most likely to struggle out of the gate. For one, they were tops in the league in PDO — a puck luck stat that, when it regresses to the mean, usually spells trouble. And while the extended time off means the Avalanche should come into these playoffs healthier than they were at just about any point this season, there’s still some questions lingering. Thanks to the NHL’s useless new injury reporting, we have no idea of the status of Calder Trophy favorite Cale Makar or Hart Trophy nominee Nathan MacKinnon.

As for a team that could catch everyone by surprise, who else would we look to but the Vegas Golden Knights? The expansion darlings look poised for another deep playoff run, going an impressive 15-5-2 after hiring new head coach Peter DeBoer in January and then loading up at the trade deadline. No one knows what impact this layoff will have on goaltenders, but with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner on their roster, surely Vegas will have someone capable of stopping a puck. The Golden Knights also led the league in expected goals this season so they can beat you a number of ways; unlike their opening opponent, the Dallas Stars, who can’t win without great goaltending.

Who Should You Back?

Based on the setup of this little round robin, the smart money is on St. Louis to emerge, thanks in large part to the tiebreaker. While I do like Vegas to play well here, you’re better off just betting them to win each game, since that’s probably what they’ll need for the top seed as well. The Golden Knights are currently -125 favorites in Game 1: a parlay of three wins for Vegas would pay over +500.

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