Stanley Cup Playoff Picture: Pittsburgh Penguins Battling Back
There are just over two months left of the NHL season (Apr. 8), so teams are starting to rally their troops for the big push. Teams are playing some of their best hockey right now to better see what they need at the upcoming trade deadline (Feb. 26).
Top of the Playoff Picture
There’s no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning have been phenomenal this season, and still sit comfortably atop the Atlantic Division. The Bolts are favourites to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup this year at +550 with the top NHL bookmakers. The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs also sit very comfortably in Atlantic playoff places.
The Washington Capitals rule the Metropolitan roost for now and are at +650 to win in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins have hit a fine run of form when all others have been mediocre, so it may not be long before they’re on top.
The Vegas Golden Knights have been the story of the season and are already the best expansion team of all time. Sitting pretty in the Pacific Division, they’re +450 to win the Western Conference Finals, and +1150 to complete their fairytale start and win the Stanley Cup.
The Central Division is witnessing an all-out dogfight for the division lead. The recent play of the Nashville Predators has seen them claw their way to the top spot and become the top rated Western team to win the Cup at +1150. But, the Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, and Dallas Stars are in close pursuit.
In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Rangers are all still in the fight to claim a wild-card spot. Poor form has struck all Eastern teams in and around the wild card zone, so a small win streak could completely change the wild card standings.
Over in the West, the second wild card place, as well as a Pacific place, is up for grabs from the playoff pushers. All of the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, and Calgary Flames are still in the fight.
Trade Deadline Rumours
On February 26, the trade window closes.
The Penguins are expected to be buyers and desperately need a bottom-six centre. Mark Letestu of the Edmonton Oilers looks to be the best rental option. Calgary is said to have been scouting the Ottawa Senators for some reinforcements at forward.
Other trade rumour links that have gained some pace this week include: Mike Green going back to the Washington Capitals; the Blues trying to trade for Alex Galchenyuk; and Tomas Vanek going to the Penguins.