Congratulations to the National Hockey League as they rolled out a flawless start to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The games were exciting and there was action from noon to night over nine days. Plus, the NHL has done a fantastic job of keeping the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton COVID free. The round-robin series closed with games that determined the No. 1 seed on both sides and there were several upsets in the eight qualifying series.
How do the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs work?
Two round-robin tournaments featured the top four teams in each conference battling to earn the top four seeds in the quarterfinal round. In games played on Saturday, Philadelphia defeated Tampa Bay to earn the top seed in the East while Vegas topped Colorado to take the top seed in the West. The 2020 NHL postseason was expanded from 16 to 24 teams and the bottom eight teams played best-of-five qualifying series in each conference.
Teams were seeded by their regular season win percentage and mayhem ensued during the qualifying series. That included No. 12 seeds Montreal and Chicago knocking off Pittsburgh and Edmonton who were the No. 5 seeds. With the dust settled, we are left with 16 teams. Four playoff rounds, all best-of-seven series, will determine the Stanley Cup Champion.
With a day off on Monday, August 10th, the official "first round" of the playoffs will begin when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets drop the pick on Tuesday from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Here are my best bets to win the Stanley Cup and Conference Championships.
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Futures Betting Odds
Quarterfinal playoff action begins on Tuesday, August 11, so this is the last chance to get in on the richest Stanley Cup futures prices. While NHL championship futures odds will be available throughout the postseason – prices will shrink as the games play out and the field gets smaller. Illustrated in the odds posted below, prices have changed across the board since our conference power rankings preview prior to the qualifying round.
Heading into the quarterfinals, Vegas represents the West as the top Stanley Cup favorite while Philadelphia is second chalk out of the East. The Golden Knights and Flyers went undefeated in the round-robin series and earned the top seed in each conference. Colorado and Tampa Bay are third and fourth favorites as the No 2 seeds. The Avalanche are legitimate contenders while the Lightning are dealing with key injuries that may stall their run.
Carolina was the only team with a 3-0 qualifying series sweep as the Hurricanes knocked off the New York Rangers. Columbus vs. Toronto was the only series that went five games as the Blue Jackets eliminated the Maple Leafs during the final contest of the opening round. Five Metropolitan teams, plus three from the Atlantic division, are still alive in the East. Four teams from the Central and Pacific divisions represent the West.
In a year like no other – this is a Stanley Cup race like no other. As the qualifying round showed, a few underdog squads are playing at a high level. Chicago is one of those teams as the Blackhawks are loaded with playoff veterans and their young players are also making major contributions. Calgary is rolling on offence as 12 players posted at least two points and the Flames scored 16 goals during their 3-1 series win over Winnipeg.
Stanley Cup Champion: Colorado Avalanche (+625)
Stanley Cup Longshot: Chicago Blackhawks (+3200)
Eastern Conference Championship Futures Betting Odds
Philadelphia closed the regular season on a 9-1-0 roll and went 3-0 in the round-robin series. That earned the Flyers the No. 1 seed in the East and they are the top favorite to win the Eastern Conference championship. Tampa Bay is second chalk as the No. 2 seed but all-stars Steve Stamkos and Victor Hedman are both questionable for the second round. I am avoiding the Lightning who drew a tough matchup versus Columbus.
Boston is third overall chalk as the No. 4 seed while Washington is the fourth favorite as the No. 3 seed in the East. Carolina played solid two-way hockey during the qualifying round and the Hurricanes are fifth chalk. Prices go up after that, as the NY Islanders, Columbus and Montreal are bottom three underdogs. I like favorites Philadelphia and Washington, plus underdogs Columbus and Carolina, to win the East quarterfinal series.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series Odds and Picks
- No. 1 Philadelphia (-240) over No. 8 Montreal (+195)
- No. 7 Columbus (+160) over No. 2 Tampa Bay (-195)
- No. 3 Washington (-182) over No. 6 NY Islanders (+150)
- No. 5 Carolina (+120) over No. 4 Boston (-143)
Eastern Conference Champion: Washington Capitals (+550)
East Longshot Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets (+1500)
Western Conference Championship Futures Betting Odds
A juggernaut on offense, racking up 15 goals over three round-robin games, Vegas begins the quarterfinal round as top chalk to win the Western Conference championship. The Golden Knights defeated Colorado 4-3 in overtime on Saturday to earn the No. 1 seed in the West. Colorado earned the No. 2 seed and the Avalanche are right behind Vegas as second chalk. Defending Cup Champion St. Louis is the third overall favorite.
Prices swell after the top three as Dallas and Calgary round out the top five West favorites. The Stars went 1-2-0 during the round-round tournament and I like the red-hot Flames defeating Dallas in round two. Vancouver looked strong in their series against Minnesota but I am betting on the Blues over the Canucks. I also like Colorado eliminating Arizona, plus Chicago upsetting Vegas, as Western Conference quarterfinal picks.
Western Conference Quarterfinal Series Odds and Picks
- No. 8 Chicago (+225) over No. 1 Vegas (-278)
- No. 2 Colorado (-250) over No. 7 Arizona (+205)
- No. 6 Calgary (+100) over No. 3 Dallas (-118)
- No. 4 St. Louis (-200) over No. 5 Vancouver (+165)
Western Conference Champion: Colorado Avalanche (+275)
West Longshot Pick: Calgary Flames (+900)