With the start of the 2014/2015 NHL season very imminent, fantasy pools are starting up and everyone is getting ready to watch the most brutal game on ice once again. Just think: it's been almost four months since the L.A. Kings defeated the New York Rangers in five games to win the Stanley Cup.
Among the many games occurring Wednesday, October 8th, the first is a game which will reignite the most historic rivalry in the NHL, between the constantly competitive Montreal Canadiens and the team with the most loyal fans, in spite of terrible teams year after year; the Toronto Maple Leafs (No offense to Torontonians, I'm a Leafs fan, but be realistic, the franchise laughs at us).
Along with the start of any sports season, there will be a tsunami of fans, analysts and street preachers howling about how "THIS IS OUR YEAR!" and how "TEAM X FINALLY HAS ALL THE OFFENSIVE WEAPONS THEY NEED TO HOIST THE CUP!" In reality though, most of these people are just enthusiasts who watch a few games per month and just want to spread their optimism.
The people one should listen to are the oddsmakers. They make these predictions for a living, and while they make mistakes as well, they've crunched more numbers than any fan in his or her basement or any analyst on TV or radio. To start off your NHL watching season with some solid information; here are the top 10 NHL teams most likely to win the Stanley Cup during the 2014-2015 season.
While any website can publish their own numbers, these are taken from vegasinsider.com. Remember, just because your team may make this list, we here at Thesportster.com do not advise anyone to bet their spouse, family, car or house on any of these teams.
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10 Montreal Canadiens - 18/1
Remember how Canadians invented the game with a couple of downed tree branches on a frozen pond? Neither do I, as money talks and all the best talent seems to be in the United States right now. As such, (spoiler alert) the Habs are the only Canadian team on this list. The team that has won the most Stanley Cups in the history of the league have a lot going for them this year.
At times, Carey Price is the best goalie in the league. His haters will call him overrated, and his obsessed fans will say he's the best every day of the week. Neither are right. P.K. Subban is also one of the most skilled defensemen in the league. Whether you like him or no, you don't want to play against him.
9 Tampa Bay Lightning - 15/1
At number nine on this list stand the Tampa Bay Lightning. These guys have the best of both worlds; they get to play hockey for a living and they don't have to live in the frozen tundra that is Canada.
But all that aside, the team looks pretty strong this year, as it has for the past few. The Lightning are entering the 2014-2015 season with a great group of young forwards and great experienced players on defense. The key to their offense is Steve Stamkos, who is one of the most consistent leadership personalities in the league. He has averaged over a point per game since 2009 but missed most of last season with a broken tibia. His injury having healed, he looks ready to go for this year.
8 San Jose Sharks - 14/1
The Sharks enter the 2014-2015 season with one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL. While many of them are up there in years, the team has a scary amount of mature talent from which to choose among their forwards.
Joe Thornton, Raffi Torres and Patrick Marleau are all 32 or older while Joe Pavelski just 30, but they are not showing any signs of slowing down just yet. 25 year old Logan Couture is one of the younger stars on the offense who can be relied upon for a great year in 2014-2015.
7 T6. St. Louis Blues - 12/1
The Blues were very close to winning the Central Division last year but came up just a point shy of the Colorado Avalanche. Many were disappointed by their first round exit from the playoffs but beating the Chicago Blackhawks is no simple task.
The Blues brought back some key players from last year and look just as strong as they did. Look for Alexander Steen and TJ Oshie to make lives hellish for opposition defensemen, and for Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk to cause problems from the blue line.
6 T6. Minnesota Wild - 12/1
The Minnesota Wild pulled off something very unexpected during the playoffs a few months ago, beating the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. Unfortunately, they were unable to get past the Blackhawks in the next round.
The Wild return this October with what it can be argued is a significantly improved team. They signed Austrian sniper Thomas Vanek back in early July which will bring additional options among forwards. Other big names on offense include Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu and Minnesota native Zach Parise.
5 T4. Pittsburgh Penguins - 10/1
This list can't be written without mentioning the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby will yet again be leading one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. Their defense is not too shabby either.
Marc-Andre Fleury boasted a very respectable .915 save percentage last year and should be roughly as effective between the pipes during this season, though they hope he can keep that going in the playoffs. The Penguins have been one of the most stable franchises in the league over nearly the last decade. This year should be no different as they are a legitimate threat to take a run at the cup.
4 T4. Anaheim Ducks: 10/1
While they may no longer be mighty, the Ducks still have a great looking team that is poised to do big things this year. The Ducks have great balance on their roster, with defensemen and forwards who can all be goal scoring threats. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf will likely lead the scoring once again.
Dany Heatley was added in the offseason and is still a decent offensive weapon. From the blue line, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm are both solid hitters but can also make an impact in the offensive zone.
3 Boston Bruins: 8/1
Hockey fans fall into two categories; those who are Bruins fans and those who hate everything about the Bruins. Dirtiness and unsportsmanlike existence aside (we're looking at you Milan Lucic and your inability to shake hands with class), their team is phenomenal. There is no denying skill, and the Bruins have plenty. Zdeno Chara is a massive body who makes things happen. Milan Lucic is a talented hockey player who can rack up over fifty points per season and the always steady Patrice Bergeron is one of the best two-way players in the league.
2 Los Angeles Kings - 15/2
They may have won two of the last three Stanley Cups but few oddsmakers are calling for the Kings as their number one this season. There is good reason for their being named number two by the vast majority. They have maintained a very strong offense during the offseason, but many still question whether they are as strong as the number one team on this list.
Between the pipes will be Jonathan Quick, who had a .915 save percentage last year and was miraculous during the playoffs. On defense, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene and Slava Voynov are among the league's best. Among their forwards are Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and of course Jeff Carter. This should be another good year for the Kings.
1 Chicago Blackhawks - 6/1
While some may disagree with the placement of these top three teams, the Blackhawks definitely belong among them. They won the only cup not won by the Kings in the past three seasons and there are plenty who consider them to be the likely winners this year.
Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Brad Richards. That is a mean group of players and a winning group at that. This is shaping up for a phenomenal year for the Blackhawks, who are another consistent threat in the NHL.
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