If thereís one thing you have to consider when buying Stanley Cup futures, do not let regular season play interfere with your NHL Playoff handicapping and learn to separate the two formats. Letís face it; regular season hockey and playoff hockey are two different animals. Thereís absolutely no comparison to be made, as thereís hardly no pressure during regular season play, but each playoff game lost is one step closer to the golfing season. NHL playoffs is all about giving everything youíve got on the ice and goaltending! Without defense and goaltending, youíre chances of winning a Stanley Cup are pretty slim.
The NHL All Star game is over and now the fun starts for NHL GMís, as they now have to get their minds in playoff mode and review their teams to see if they have good enough goaltending and team toughness for the Stanley Cup grind. Thereís an old saying in the military, ďexpect the unexpectedĒ and GMís can use this philosophy while building their teams, because if one of their top moving puck defensemanís get injured, do they have the appropriate back up? What if their starting goalie pulls a groin, is the back up capable of jumping in and taking over and winning playoff rounds?
In my view, there are 7 current NHL teams who have a real shot at winning the Stanley Cup and Iím going to give a synopsis of each of them and what their value is on winning the Stanley cup and how much money I would lay on their futures prices.
New Jersey Lay $100 to win $2050: The X factor with the New Jersey Devils will always be Martin Brodeur, as long as heís healthy and still playing, itís hard to bet against one of the top playoff goaltenders of all time. Furthermore, with a coach like Brent Sutter behind the bench, team toughness should never be questioned, as they donít come any more ďold schoolĒ then any of the Sutter boys. My only concern with the Devils is their defense, without a mobile puck moving defenseman on the power play, can hurt them on those road games when they are behind a few goals. (Ronís Recommendation: Pass on buying)
Boston Lay $100 to win $1415: The Boston Bruins have looked great during the regular season, they know how to win on the road and theyíve got a great goaltending duo with Thomas and Fernandez. In fact, Tim Thomasí numbers are great, heís got 20 wins at the halfway mark, his save percentage is 934% and he owns 3 shutouts. However, this is regular season play and my concern with the Bruins is their team size. Letís face it, Lucic, Chara and Thornton are the physical backbone of this Bruins team, but I feel a guy like Donald Brashear needs to set the tone with a guy like Chara and this will have such a huge psychological impact on this Bruins team, they will fold like a tent. As soon as somebody takes care of Chara and stops him from picking his spots on the smaller guys he likes to push around, then you will see a way different Boston Bruins team. Right now, Chara is having his way with the smaller tough guys in the league, but as soon as the Bruins play a team with a legitimate tough guy like Washington (Brashear) or Anaheim (Parros), Chara and the Bruins seem to hide and play some soft hockey, but thatís because Chara is picking his spots to use his aggressiveness, because he knows thereís no repercussions coming his way. Bruins might win a round or two, but their team size will hurt them in the later rounds of the playoffs. (Ronís Recommendation: Pass on buying)
Montreal Lay $100 to win $1215: Iím a true believer in team tradition and history, as certain teams and cities know how to win championships! Letís look at different sports like baseball and football, why do you think teams like the Steelers and Yankees keep winning championships? They have a history and tradition of winning and thatís not only inserted in the teams, but in the cities they play in. Maybe you can call it Karma, but itís hard to argue with success. The Montreal Canadiens are deep in talent and if you look at the last month, they have 5 regulars whoíve been in and out of the line up and they are just starting to get healthy again. As much as the media wanted Mats Sundin to play in Montreal, one of the best acquisitions General Manager Bob Gainey made was acquiring Robert Lang as a free agent. In fact, heís their top points producing forward and he brings tons of experience and quiet leadership in the room. Furthermore, when Alexei Kovalev is in the mood to play hockey, heís perhaps the most gifted hockey player in the league today behind Ovechkin. Carey Price is still in his second year in the league, but he brings a lot of team confidence when heís behind the pipes. Plus, once George Laracque can get 100% healthy and take a regular shift, I feel Montreal will be the team to beat in the East, because no other player in the league will want to mess with the Rock if they start going after guys like Komasarek who plays with an edge that other teams hate. (Ronís Recommendation: I would lay $500 to win $6075 and keep in mind you can start hedging in the finals)
Washington Lay $100 to win $1215: Keeping Alexander Semin will be the key to the Capitals success, because he brings more depth to the Caps up front and it takes a bit of pressure of Backstrom to keep feeding Ovechkin. Washington reminds me of the Canadiens in many ways, they have an ex-Montreal goaltender in Jose Theodore whoís also an ex-Hart Ross league MVP and if he can just get back a bit of that magic, he will be able to take the Caps farther in the later playoff rounds. They have a player like Sergei Federov whoís been there before and can share some of his playoff experience he once shared with the Red Wings in the past. The X factor for the Capitals is forward Tomas Fleischmann whoís third in goals on the team and can play a big role in the playoffs, somewhat of what John Druce did for the Caps in the 90ís. See what I mean now on how team tradition and history can recycle itself? My only concern with the Caps is their defense, they arenít loaded on the back end, but a guy like Mike Green can really help them on the power play. (Ronís Recommendation: I would lay $200 to win $2430 and let it ride.)
Detroit Lay $100 to win $365: Hard to bet against a team like the Detroit Red Wings, especially when they are loaded up front and have a future hall of fame QB on the point in Nicklas Lidstrom. However, to be honest with you, making the Red Wings a $365 price to win the Stanley Cup is a very generous number, considering they arenít the top team in the NHL and a team like Boston who has 73 points is priced higher at +1415. Furthermore, I feel the Western Conference is the most physical conference in hockey and I believe fatigue will play a major role for the Red Wings in the second half of the season. In fact, I wouldnít be surprised if they get bounced in the first round. However, they are deep in talent and are one of my top 3 teams in the West. However, with all due respect to this team, I would pass on paying the price. (Ronís Recommendation: pass on buying)
Calgary Lay $100 to win $1415: Hereís one of my top picks in the West, the Calgary Flames! I was very concerned at the beginning of the season, Keenan and Kiprusoff were at odds, the team was fighting way too much in my view, they spent half the game in the box, but things have turned around in Calgary. As I mentioned in my introduction, defense and goaltending wins Championships and I feel the Flames have one of the best one-two punch tandem in the league when it comes to defense and goaltending. My only concern with the Flames is goalie burnout! Keenan needs to start giving Kiprusoff some time off, as heís played 43 of the Flames first 46 games and this could have an effect on him during the playoffs. The thing I love about Calgary is their overall balance, they have 3 big lines who can produce and their top 4 defensemanís are considered one of the best in the leagues. As long as Bertuzzi can stay healthy, Calgary is my top pick to come out of the West. (Ronís Recommendation: I would lay $500 to win $7075 and hedge in the finals)
San Jose Lay $100 to win $365: Everybody loves the San Jose Sharks, but Iím not buying into their stock this year! Iíve seen this story before; they fool everybody with a great regular season performance, and then have their usual playoff meltdown and Joe Thornton will again be MIA in the playoffs. As much as Nabokov is having a solid year, heís not a playoff goaltender and the coaching change will not bring the success the Sharks management and ownership are hoping for! However, if thereís a bright spot and a chance the Sharks can go deep into the playoffs it will be because of one player, Dan Boyle. Boyle has the experience of winning a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lighting, and his experience and ability to move the puck and score goals on the road could be the difference for the Sharks making that next big jump. But! (Ronís Recommendation: Pass on buying)