We look at three underdogs who could contend for this year’s Stanley Cup
In the summer of 2018, NHL fans witnessed the fruition of two miracles on ice. Not only did the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights storm to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Washington Capitals finally overcame the curse that had held them back against the Pittsburgh Penguins before and went all the way to hoist the trophy. Neither team was heavily favored to even make it to the final.
As we approach the 2018/19 campaign, new favorites to win the Stanley Cup have emerged in the form of the Toronto Maple Leafs – who won the race for John Tavares in the summer – at +700, as well as consistent favorites in the Tampa Bay Lightning at +800, and the resurgent Boston Bruins at +900.
But, as we often see in the NHL, a contender not tipped as the favorite early on often emerges to add even more excitement to the postseason. These are the best underdog teams ready to upset the odds this season:
For a huge chunk of last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to have the Presidents’ Trophy locked down as they skilfully decimated almost every team that stood in their way. But, then, they began to slip, allowing the ever consistent Nashville Predators to sweep up and claim the grand regular season prize with 117 points. They conceded the second-fewest goals in the league (211) and scored the seventh-most (267) despite pivotal defensive defenseman Ryan Ellis missing nearly half of the season.
This year, the Predators return with a slightly improved team – only slightly, because it is very difficult to improve a team this good – boasting a healthy and locked down Ellis as well as trusty defenseman Dan Hamhuis added to the fold. Everything appears to be in shape for the Predators to dominate the league again and defy their odds. In the NHL betting, Nashville’s given odds of +1000 to win the Stanley Cup, which ranks them as the fourth-favorites. Given the strength of their team, team chemistry, and playoff experience as a team, the Predators should really be ranked as the favorites or at least second-favorites.
The 201718 campaign saw the Flyers get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, and yet, there’s even more hope swirling around Broad Street. Their defensive youth movement is finally paying dividends with the likes of Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Ivan Provorov proving their worth in the NHL, as well as the massive Sam Morin peeping up.
Up top, youth has integrated very well with the veterans. Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny have posted strong seasons while appearing to boost the play of all around them, including captain Claude Giroux. The only sticking point is the goaltending. It’s been a problem for a while in Philly, and they’re once again set to rely on a dysfunctional tandem. Teams need elite-level goaltending to contend for the Stanley Cup, which is why the Flyers are at +2500 to win it this year, but there is a chance that Alex Lyon could emerge as a decent option in the NHL.
Last season, the high-flying Winnipeg Jets defeated the Nashville Predators in the playoffs, with their speed and aggression on top of Nashville’s apparent fatigue – possibly from making it to their first ever finals the year before – proving to be the deciding factors. But, there’s no denying that the Jets have evolved into a very strong team. With high-scoring wingers, mighty defensemen, workhorse centers, and a top goalie, Winnipeg has itself an energetic and very well-balanced team, which should be rated at higher than +1100.
The high-scoring nature of the Philadelphia Flyers will take them a long way, as will the anticipated further development of their young stars, but they’ll need consistency in net if they hope to be a dark horse in the race for the Stanley Cup. As for the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, they’re certainly the best teams in the Western Conference and could give any Eastern Conference team a run for their money. One of them will almost certainly be in the Stanley Cup Finals this year.