Top Sportsbooks like MyBookie favor the Washington Capitals to win the NHL Eastern Conference championship and the Minnesota Wild to win the Western Conference title and meet each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. If these two teams were already favorites, they are not favoriter thanks to a couple of trades made at the stroke of midnight (figuratively speaking).
The Caps acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk – together with goalie Pheonix Copley – from the Blues in exchange for Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round draft pick and a conditional second-round draft pick in 2019 on Monday. Shattenkirk played seven non-consecutive seasons in St. Louis (he played 12 games with the Turun Palloseura of the Finnish Liiga in 2012-13 due to the NHL lockout) during which he recorded 258 points to rank 5th among all blueliners in Blues history. Additionally, Shatty had 11 goals, 31 assists, and 42 points in 61 regular season games in St. Louis last in 2016-17. Overall, Shattenkirk has 284 points (66 goals and 218 assists) in his NHL career.
The Caps’ power play is already pretty powerful as it is – 22.1% rate – but Shatty’s arrival gives them, in the immortal words of Tim Allen, “More Power!” (grunt grunt). It also provides them with another puck-moving defenseman who can connect with Alex Ovechkin and et al up front. When Brooks Orpik makes his return to the lineup, Washington will have arguably the best D-pairings in the NHL which of course include Braden Holtby and Barry Trotz. Is it us or is the Capitals’ goal looking narrower? Nope, it’s just us. The Caps are in top of the Metro division with a 42-13-7 record (25-5-1 at home, 17-8-6 on the road) and 91 points, seven ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington has nine division titles and one conference championship. This would be their first betting Stanley Cup.
In the West, top U.S. sportsbooks darlings the Wild acquired Czech center Martin Hanzal – and less to the point, Ryan White and a fourth-round pick in 2017 – from the Coyotes in exchange for a 1st-round pick in 2017, 2nd-round pick in 2018, conditional 4th-round pick in 2019, and Grayson Downing on Sunday. Hanzal had 26 points (16 goals and 10 assists) in 51 games with Arizona this season, and has 315 NHL points (118 goals and 197 assists). more importantly, Hanzal won more than 56% of the faceoffs he had with the Coyotes – important because Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau’s masterplan revolves around having control of the puck in the defensive zone.
The Wild have never gone beyond the second round of the postseason, while a Bruce Boudreau coached club has reached the conference finals just one time and made it out of the first round four times in eight showings. Minnesota leads the Central division with a 40–14–6 record (22-8-1 at home, 18-6-5 on the road) and 88 points, three ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks. Even though the Wild is the favorite to win the Western Conference – which would be their first and, by definition, their second division title –, top sportsbooks favor to the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup.