Bruins, Avs defying projections


Now that we’re past the halfway mark of the NHL regular season, the race to the playoffs is starting to heat up. Hopefully bettors feel good about their futures portfolios. The time to buy low on teams that have performed well to date has passed, but some teams that have failed to live up to expectations are still capable of flipping a switch. Projections are a good reference point, but things often don’t work out the way they should in theory, and projections can change fast.

Take the Boston Bruins. They were well on their way to the East Division title but squandered several opportunities to create space in the standings. Once projected to finish first in the East more than 50% of the time, the Bruins’ chances are closer to 30% (-235). A lot can change in a month. Still, this is a good hockey team that can turn it around quickly, and the remaining schedule is soft. At + 375 or better, value exists in getting behind the Bruins to turn their season around. Not only is their schedule soft, but the team has games in hand on the teams they’re chasing. The current odds imply the Bruins have a 21% chance of winning the division.

In the West, the Colorado Avalanche will look to make a push to catch the Vegas Golden Knights. It won’t be easy. By my estimation, the Avalanche have only a 20% chance. But arbitrarily, it’s now or never if you believe in this team. The Avalanche will face non-playoff teams like the Kings, Ducks, Sharks and Coyotes more than half the time between now and the end of the season. Add the fact that superstar defenseman Cale Makar has returned and the Avs are primed to go on a run. They haven’t rolled over teams the way they did last season, but given the average strength of their remaining opponents, it would be no surprise to see them start to do so. The Avalanche are currently + 230 to win the West Division, but their odds should probably be north of + 300. However, the potential turning point is in front of them, and their odds could improve quickly. These are the considerations a bettor must make.

The Bruins and the Avalanche are still contenders in their divisions. The Bruins’ odds of winning the Stanley Cup, currently 15-1, could be on the move if they can put away the weaker teams like the Devils and Sabres while also solving the Islanders for the first time in 2021. While the Avalanche still have a shot at finishing first in the West, it’s very unlikely that the St. Louis Blues will make their way to the top spot. The Blues had a very light schedule in the first half, which was a blessing because they have had terrible injury luck. Reinforcements are on the way, though, and the Blues still have a very good chance to make the playoffs. This team is very good when healthy, and Jordan Binnington is a solid goaltender. Bettors should really consider adding the Blues to win the Stanley Cup at 30-1 or better.

Darryl Sutter has taken over as the Calgary Flames’ coach, and it appears to have had an impact. However, the Flames have been playing some tired teams, and that should be taken into account. A bigger sample size is required to find out if this team is really capable of making a push. As of right now, I have the Flames projected to miss the playoffs more than 50% of the time. If they are to turn that projection on its head and beat out one of the four teams currently occupying playoff spots, their odds of winning the Stanley Cup will surely shift as well. At 40-1, bettors ought to look at the Flames and decide whether Sutter will make a difference in the long term. If so, the Flames are worth a look.

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