The Vancouver Canucks enter the National Hockey League playoffs as favorites to win their first Stanley Cup title, while the New York Rangers are the longshot, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
The Canucks, who finished the regular season with a league-best 117 points, have 3-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which advises Nevada sports books on gambling lines.
The Rangers, who qualified for the playoffs on the season’s next-to-last day, have the longest odds of the 16 teams in the postseason at 35-1, meaning a $100 bet would return $3,500 plus the original investment if they win the title.
The playoffs open tonight with five games, including the Canucks hosting the Chicago Blackhawks and the Rangers on the road against the Washington Capitals. Andrew Patterson, an oddsmaker at Sports Consultants, said the playoffs may be the most unpredictable in recent memory.
“These 16 teams are closely tied together, and the way the matchups work out, this is going to be a very competitive and wide-open playoffs,” Patterson said in a telephone interview.
Vancouver has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice, losing to the New York Islanders in 1982 and the Rangers in 1994. The last two favorites heading into the playoffs -- the San Jose Sharks in 2009 and the Capitals last year -- lost their best-of-seven-game opening-round series.
The Canucks will attempt to break that streak behind 30-year-old forward Daniel Sedin, who scored a league-high 104 points this season. The defending-champion Blackhawks, who eliminated Vancouver in the conference semifinals the past two seasons, were the favorite to retain the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season. They didn’t gain the West’s final playoff spot until the Dallas Stars lost on the last day of the season. Chicago has 18-1 odds to repeat as champion.
“Vancouver got a terrible break by drawing Chicago,” Patterson said. “The Canucks are No. 1 in my power ratings and they will definitely be favored to advance, but they would be a heavier favorite if they were playing the Nashville Predators or Los Angeles Kings.”
The Predators are seeded fifth in the West and the Kings seventh.
The Capitals, the top seed in the East, have the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup at 4-1, followed by the Sharks at 6-1, the Philadelphia Flyers at 7-1, and Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins at 8-1 each.
The Rangers (44-33-5) last made the postseason in 2009, losing in the first round to Washington in seven games after blowing a 3-1 series lead. They will be without their second-leading scorer, Ryan Callahan, who broke his right ankle on April 4.
New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will be critical to the Rangers’ chances of upsetting the Capitals, according to Pierre McGuire, a hockey analyst for NBC Sports and Canada’s TSN. Lundqvist, 29, was among the NHL’s top 10 in wins, shutouts, saves, save percentage and goals- against average this year.
“The No. 1 thing going for the New York Rangers is that they have a goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist that had more shutouts than anybody this NHL season,” McGuire said on a conference call with reporters. “It’s going to be a fantastically long series with a lot of emotion.”
Three other series start today. The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Predators visit the Anaheim Ducks, and the Red Wings, who have played in two of the past three finals, take on the Phoenix Coyotes in Detroit.
TEAM ODDS Vancouver Canucks 3-1 Washington Capitals 4-1 San Jose Sharks 6-1 Philadelphia Flyers 7-1 Detroit Red Wings 8-1 Boston Bruins 8-1 Pittsburgh Penguins 10-1 Tampa Bay Lightning 15-1 Chicago Blackhawks 18-1 Anaheim Ducks 18-1 Montreal Canadiens 25-1 Los Angeles Kings 25-1 Buffalo Sabres 25-1 Phoenix Coyotes 30-1 Nashville Predators 30-1 New York Rangers 35-1 Source: Las Vegas Sports Consultants
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