Gary | Tue 11/04/2017 - 21:52 EDT

Who Will Win The Eastern Conference

Who Will Win The Eastern Conference
Like a bridesmaid that never gets to be a bride, the Washington Capitals have been the NHL's next great team in waiting for several seasons. They've never gotten out of the East, let alone play for a Cup. Will this finally be their year?

NHL Eastern Conference Betting Predictions

By Bob Duff

Here we go again. The Washington Capitals enter the Stanley Cup playoffs as the Presidents’ Trophy winner. All eyes will be on them to win it all.

eastCan they get over the hump and come out of the NHL’ s Eastern Conference and play in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1998?

A look at the Eastern Conference contenders, with odds courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Washington Capitals (+225)

caps

Ever since he came into the NHL in 2005-06, the hockey world has awaited Alex Ovechkin’s coronation as the sport’s next great champion. It hasn’t happened yet. In fact, the Capitals haven’t moved past the second round of the playoffs with Ovechkin in their lineup.

This spring, they once again look to be the team to beat in the East. There’s little that this team can’t do. During the regular season, Washington was second in the NHL in goals per game, and first in goals allowed per game. The Capitals power play was No. 3 in the league, and their penalty killers ranked sixth overall.

They have a pure finisher in Ovechkin, a slick playmaker in Nicklas Backstrom, and a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie in Braden Holtby. To an already deep group they added the best player available at the trade deadline in defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. 

The time is now for Washington. Or it might be never. 

Pittsburgh Penguins (+400)

pens

It’s not like the Penguins didn’t know that it was difficult to defend a title. Much of the core of this team was part of Pittsburgh’s 2008-09 Cup winner that didn’t get past the second round the following spring.

Regardless, fate is opting to slap the Penguins with some reality. Defenseman Kris Letang is done for the season with a back injury. Forward Carl Hagelin is out for at least part of the first round of the playoffs with a foot issue. Forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Trevor Daley are just back from ailments, and there’s some concern about goalie Matt Murray’s health.

It’s hard to win the Stanley Cup. It’s much harder to retain the Stanley Cup.

Columbus Blue Jackets (+525)

cbj

They put together a league-high 16-game winning streak this season and the Blue Jackets, who’d been stockpiling young talent for years, finally broke through into the NHL elite. The next step for them in the growing process is going to be to win in the playoffs, because the franchise has never won a postseason series.

In John Tortorella, they have a coach that has won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2003-04, and a coach who knows how to win and how to get the most from his players. They also suit up this season’s likely Vezina Trophy winner in goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Blue Jackets are headed in the right direction but now is not their time.

Montreal Canadiens (+700)

habs

As long as Carey Price is between the posts, you can never count out the Canadiens. But can your count them is as a legitimate contender?  

You probably can, thanks to the way the playoff brackets fall in the NHL’s absurd divisional format. While three of the league’s top four teams – Columbus, Pittsburgh and Washington – beat up on each other in the first two rounds, Montreal has relatively clear sailing to the other Eastern Conference final berth.

The Canadiens are loaded with gritty playoff-type performers such as Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw, Shea Weber and Steve Ott. If they can get enough goals from the likes of Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov, Price will made them stand up.

Pick: Washington Capitals (+225) over Montreal Canadiens (+700)

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