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Bubble hockey fun, but what comes next?

By Andy MacNeil  () 

After being swept in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, it was Stanley Cup or bust for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year. The Lightning won the second Cup in franchise history by defeating the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night as -175 moneyline favorites. The team had the best odds (+ 650) of winning the Stanley Cup before the playoffs. 

 

Defenseman Victor Hedman was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. Hedman’s 10 goals were third most by a defenseman in playoff history, which went a long way with voters. Hedman was available at 10-1 at William Hill before the Stanley Cup Final.

 

It was definitely a legitimate tournament. But bubble hockey has come to an end. We don’t know when the next season will start, but we know one thing for sure: Players do not want to be in a bubble again. They can report to their home cities in mid-October to work out in groups of 12, but that’s voluntary. The NHL draft is set for Oct. 6-7, while free agency is to begin Oct. 9. There is talk of camps opening in December, but it’s all very fluid.

 

William Hill, among others, opened 2021 Stanley Cup futures Tuesday with the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights co-favorites at + 600. The Lightning have the next-best odds at + 650. In my opinion, even if the Lightning lose a player like Ryan McDonagh or some of their secondary scoring, they would still be favored in a seven-game series against any team in the league. That could change if a team like the Boston Bruins (12-1) makes a big splash and lands Taylor Hall, which they are rumored interested in doing. The Dallas Stars come in at 18-1, indicating that oddsmakers believe their run was of the Cinderella variety.

 

Here’s the full list:

Golden Knights 6-1

Avalanche 6-1

Lightning 13-2

Bruins 12-1

Flyers 15-1

Stars 18-1

Maple Leafs 20-1

Islanders 20-1

Rangers 22-1

Capitals 22-1

Blues 22-1

Canucks 25-1

Oilers 28-1

Penguins 28-1

Hurricanes 28-1

Flames 30-1

Predators 30-1

Blue Jackets 40-1

Coyotes 50-1

Jets 50-1

Canadiens 50-1

Sharks 50-1

Blackhawks 50-1

Panthers 60-1

Wild 60-1

Devils 60-1

Sabres 60-1

Ducks 75-1

Kings 75-1

Senators 150-1

Red Wings 250-1

 

At first blush, the Montreal Canadiens are my favorite long shot at 50-1. They graded out as the third-best team in terms of expected goal differential at 5-on-5 in 2019-20 and put on quite a show inside the bubble. They eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins and outplayed the Philadelphia Flyers, though in a losing effort. The team lost its best forward, Brendan Gallagher, to injury, but Nick Suzuki, 21, took a big step forward in his development. It also helps that management seems committed to building on this performance. GM Marc Bergevin recently acquired goaltender Jake Allen to back up Carey Price and then locked up defenseman Jeff Petry with a new contract. The team looks to be moving on from Max Domi, but a deal could be worked out. Either way, the Canadiens have quite a bit of space between them and the salary cap, and we should expect to see a few forwards added to the mix.

 

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