There are four teams still in the running to win the Stanley Cup in ice hockey and the bookmakers cannot split the first three in the betting. At the semi-final stage the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks are all about 5/2 with Tampa Bay Lightning a slightly bigger price ahead of two round one matches over the weekend with all four teams involved. These series will determine the winner of each Conference and thus the finalists for the Stanley Cup. A maximum of 14 matches will be played over the next two weeks followed by the final series at the start of June.
Ice hockey is big betting business in America and parts of Europe. The season runs from September to June and the play-offs are now taking place and culminate in the Stanley Cup which is the sport’s equivalent of the World Series in baseball. The Stanley Cup is the trophy awarded to the play-off winners. The National Hockey League (NHL) is the top professional league in North America with 30 teams in cities across the US and Canada. There are players from about 20 countries in the NHL with more from Europe and America and relatively fewer from Canada than in the past.
Eastern and Western Conference
The current 30 team structure involves the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Each conference is divided into divisions with the Eastern having two divisions of eight teams and the Western having two divisions of seven teams. Sixteen teams qualified for the Stanley Cup play-offs, three from positions in the league and four wildcards. The winners of the Conference finals progress to the Stanley Cup series of seven matches which identifies the NHL champions. Once one team has won four matches the outcome is decided and the dead rubbers are not played.
Please click here for the Conference standings.
Conference Form Guide
The Eastern Conference final is between New York and Tampa with the former hosting the first match in the series this evening. The winners of the Western Conference will be either Chicago or Anaheim and that final begins on Sunday night with the opening meeting taking place in Anaheim. The two home teams are slight favourites to start the schedule of final elimination matches with a win.
The Rangers won the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference with a win record of 53 matches from 82 fixtures plus 7 decided in overtime. Tampa Bay were second in Atlantic Division and won three fewer matches in regular time but got one more decision in added time. Chicago were third in the Central Division of the Western Conference losing 28 matches while Anaheim won the Pacific Division, recording 58 wins from their schedule of matches.
Stanley Cup Histories
The New York Rangers have won the Stanley Cup four times but not since the 1993-94 season and before then not since 1940. They played in the Stanley Cup final last season but were beaten 4-1 by the Los Angeles Kings despite leading the first two games by two goals. Three of the defeats came in overtime and they led at some stage in three of the five matches played to settle the series and winners of the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, the only season in which they won the most prestigious title in the sport. They had the first 100 point season in the history of the franchise, thanks partly to only losing 20 man-games due to injury. The final round against the Calgary Flames went to seven matches and Tampa won the decider 2-1. They could not defend their title due to a player’s strike the following season and barely made the play-offs when the league resumed a year later.
The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup five times since being formed in 1926. They are one of the six original members of the first NHL and since 1994 have played home matches at the United Center in Chicago. Although regular qualifiers for the play-offs the team did not win the Stanley Cup between 1961 and 2010 as fan interest waned and they were an uncompetitive outfit. Chicago won the Stanley Cup again in 2012-13 and are contenders to win a sixth NHL championship this season.
Anaheim are based in California and were founded by the Walt Disney Company with a name based on the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks. Disney sold the franchise in 2005 and the name was changed to its current title. They have qualified for the play-offs eleven times, won four divisional titles, the Western Conference in two seasons and their only Stanley Cup in 2006-07. Since inception the team have played home matches at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
New York and Tampa have met 37 times in the NHL since 2005 and New York have won just one more of these meetings than their opponents. The average number of goals in the recent history of the fixture is 5.6. Tampa have won the last four matches by an aggregate of 17 goals to nine. Over the last decade Anaheim have beaten Chicago in 22 of the 37 fixtures they have played which averaged 4.9 goals. Chicago have won the last two meetings by four goals to one. The overall statistics suggest two close semi-finals and a potential Stanley Cup final between New York and Chicago.
European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill
For a full range of ice hockey odds please visit 888Sport