2022-23 Stanley Cup odds, picks: Capitals, Blues are flying under the radar
Are Washington and St. Louis being overlooked ahead of the new NHL season?
With under two weeks to go until the 2022-23 NHL season gets underway, the betting market is starting to take shape.
The Colorado Avalanche opened as, and remain, the clear Stanley Cup favorite at +425 on BetMGM and then there’s a bit of a jump to the chasing pack. Toronto (+800), Florida (+900), Carolina (+1000) and Tampa Bay (+1200) round out the top-five, while Edmonton (+1400), Calgary (+1800), Minnesota (+1800), Pittsburgh (+1800) and the Rangers (+1800) all sit under +2000.
But, as always in the NHL, there are a few contenders lurking deeper on the board.
Here are a couple of sleepers worth a bet before the season gets rolling:
Washington Capitals (+4000, Caesars)
It’s very rare that the Caps enter a season flying under the radar. Washington has finished first or second in its respective division in 14 of the last 16 seasons, but since the Capitals came in fourth last year and then bowed out in the first round for the fourth season on the spin, the market has soured on them. Probably too much.
The narrative surrounding the team is that the core — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom — has aged out of its contending window, but the Caps are a deeper team than people realize. The additions of Dylan Strome and Connor Brown to the top-six should soften the blow of losing Wilson (out until December) and Backstrom (out indefinitely), while youngsters Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael both seem primed to play impactful roles to provide secondary production.
A team with Alex Ovechkin will always be known for its offense, but the defense in D.C. looks an underrated bunch. Carlson and Dmitry Orlov are the key men on the blueline, but Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Martin Fehervary all play their roles quite effectively, as well. The Caps finished 11th in 5-on-5 goals against, 10th in expected goals allowed and 12th in high-danger chances conceded last season and they carried that form into the playoffs where they put forth a great defensive effort in their unlucky Round 1 loss to the Presidents’ Trophy Panthers. A couple of saves would have changed that series.
To address their inconsistent goaltending, the Caps went out and signed Darcy Kuemper, fresh off his Stanley Cup win with the Avalanche.
A lot was made of Kuemper’s struggles in the playoffs, but he was one of the league’s most reliable goaltenders during the regular season, posting a .920 save percentage and ranking fifth overall with a +15.9 Goals Saved Aboved Expected (GSAx) in 57 games. If Kuemper can even play to half of that level, the Caps will take it after the inconsistent performances they got from Samsonov and Vanecek over the past two seasons.
The Caps are a steady group with a coach who excels at keeping his teams on pace throughout the marathon regular season. This is a great number on a sleeping giant.
St. Louis Blues (+3000, BetMGM)
There’s a bit of a price discrepancy when it comes to the St. Louis Blues. As low as +2200 and as high as +4000, the market seems a bit split on what to expect out of Craig Berube’s side.
That isn’t really anything new for this team, though. Last season, the betting market had a bit of a hard time catching up with the Blues since their underlying metrics lagged behind their actual results and they morphed into an offensive dynamo after years of playing a stalwart defensive game.
There are concerns that the offense could regress after losing David Perron, but that shouldn’t be a huge blow because St. Louis still has one of the deepest forward groups in the NHL, and there’s a chance it could actually get better this season. That may sound like a tall ask for a team that finished third in goals per game, but Robert Thomas (77 points) and Jordan Kyrou (75 points) are just entering their prime while Pavel Buchnevich (76 points) is squarely in the middle of his.
With a top-nine that will consist of those three playing alongside Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brandon Saad, Ivan Barbashev and, perhaps, Jake Neighbours, it’s easy to see a path for St. Louis to remain a top-five offensive team in the league.
The offense will be what determines how far this team goes, but the defense should hold its own as well. Colton Parayko is the heartbeat of the blueline, but he’s got a solid supporting cast with Justin Faulk, Torey Krug, Robert Bortuzzo, Nick Leddy, Niko Mikkola and the highly-touted Scott Perunovich.
There are certainly better defense groups out there, but it’s not like this is a weak unit. Plus, with the forwards they have, it’s not like the Blues need to grind out 3-2 wins every night. There’s some margin for error here.
That’s also a good thing for the goaltenders because the Blues will need Jordan Binnington to bounce back after posting a .901 save percentage and -10.4 GSAx in 37 games during the regular season. The polarizing netminder did seem to find something in the playoffs, though, as he skated to a .950 SV% and +5.4 GSAx in six appearances.
Of course, you’re going to put more weight in the 37-game sample than the six-gamer, but it’s also worth noting that 2021-22 was the first season in Binnington’s career that he finished with a negative GSAx. In his first three campaigns, the Ontario native posted a .915 save percentage and +16.8 GSAx in 124 contests.
It seems like everyone is counting out Binnington, which has provided a buy-low opportunity on the goaltender and the team.
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