NHL’s Western Teams Seen Stronger by Oddsmakers as Season Opens

The National Hockey League’s Western Conference teams, bolstered by a majority of the sport’s biggest offseason moves, are a good bet to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title, according to oddsmakers.

The Western Conference has six of the eight teams with the shortest odds to win the Stanley Cup, including the favorite Chicago Blackhawks at 6-1, according to online sports book Bovada.lv. The Anaheim Ducks and defending-champion Los Angeles Kings are next at 10-1.

“There is no question that the Western Conference in the NHL, similar to the NBA, is a powerhouse conference compared to the East,” Bovada Sports Book Manager Kevin Bradley said in an e-mail. “Teams such as the Blackhawks, Kings and Ducks showcase skill and depth suitable for a good playoff run, and we put them ahead of the rest in terms of odds compared to anyone in the East.”

The 2014-15 NHL regular season begins tonight with four games, including the Montreal Canadiens against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Kings hosting the San Jose Sharks.

The Blackhawks are also the 6-1 favorite at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, followed by the Boston Bruins (7-1), Kings (8-1) and Pittsburgh Penguins (8-1). Western Conference teams make up five of the seven shortest odds at the Las Vegas book.

Western Domination

The Western Conference has won the past three Stanley Cup titles -- the Kings in 2012 and 2014, and the Blackhawks in 2013 -- and six of the last eight. The conference has 14 teams, two fewer than the East, which Bradley said also helps shorten those teams’ odds.

The Blackhawks made perhaps the biggest moves of the offseason, extending All-Star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to eight-year contracts worth $84 million each, according to CBS Sports. Toews, 26, and Kane, 25, both had contracts set to expire after the 2014-15 season.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters three days ago that roster continuity from the team that went to the Western Conference finals last year has helped during the offseason.

“When we talk about systems and situations, it’s not an education process, it’s more of a reminder,” he said. “Everybody is quite familiar with what makes us effective and how we have to play.”

The Kings re-signed All-Star Marian Gaborik to a seven-year deal, and the St. Louis Blues acquired center Paul Stastny. All-Star players moving from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference include Jason Spezza, traded to the Dallas Stars from the Ottawa Senators, and Thomas Vanek, who joined the Minnesota Wild after playing most recently with the Canadiens.

The New York Rangers, who lost to the Kings in the Stanley Cup finals last season, are listed at 20-1.

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