The top two teams in the NHL's Atlantic Division are the favorites on the Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, and they squared off with bragging rights on the line Thursday in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning (25–7–1) routed the Toronto Maple Leafs (21–10–1) at home 4–1 to stake their claim as the league's best team with their eighth consecutive victory.
Tampa Bay is listed at +350 (bet $100 to win $350) to take home the Stanley Cup while Toronto is right behind at +380. The Lightning lead the Maple Leafs by eight points in the standings though and just got goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy back from a broken foot. Vasilevskiy had 48 saves against Toronto in his return after missing 14 games, making a strong team even stronger and sending a message to the rest of the NHL.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals (18–9–3) have won three straight games since losing to the Vegas Golden Knights 5-3 on December 4, and they are at +1600 odds to pull off a repeat in the spring.
The Capitals lead the Metropolitan Division over the Columbus Blue Jackets (17–12–2) and look to be the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, but the Buffalo Sabres (19–9–4) have more points right now as the third-place team in the Atlantic. The Sabres are +1700, just ahead of the +2000 Boston Bruins (17–10–4), who are four points behind them heading into Friday night's NHL schedule.
In the Western Conference, there are seven teams that seem to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders at this point, including three in the Central Division and four in the Pacific.
The Golden Knights (18–14–1) surprised everyone a year ago en route to becoming the second expansion team ever to make the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural campaign, and they are +2400 to win it all this season. However, Vegas has some stiff competition in the Pacific this year, with the Calgary Flames (20–10–2), Edmonton Oilers (17–12–3) and San Jose Sharks (17–11–5) all also in contention.
The division-leading Flames are +1000 to win the Cup at betting sites followed by the Oilers at +2000 and the Sharks at +2200.
The Central has two really strong teams again in the Nashville Predators (21–10–1) and Winnipeg Jets (20–9–2) while the Colorado Avalanche (17–9–5) are also in the mix. The Predators are the +800 third choice to win their first Stanley Cup, with the Jets at +1400 and the Avalanche at +1800.
Nashville won the Presidents' Trophy last season for the most points in the league but fell to Winnipeg in the second round of the playoffs.