The NHL All-Star break is in the review mirror and the playoff races are about to get cranked up a few notches.
With a little more than 30 regular seasons games left, now is the time for teams with postseason aspirations to step up and make a run or risk being labeled as the dreaded “pretender”.
With the home stretch upon us, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at some odds updates and shifts as well as the value outlook for each team in the league.
We’ve already tackled the Atlantic Division, so let’s complete the Eastern Conference by taking a look inside the Metro.
Keep in mind that this piece isn’t about a team’s chances at the division, but looking at their conference and Stanley Cup odds as well to determine if there’s value in any of those areas.
Without further adieu, let’s dive into the Metro and see if we can sniff out some value!
*All odds courtesy of BetOnline
NHL Metropolitan Division Odds Updates & Value Outlook
- Record: 34-11-5 (1st in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: -250
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +475
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +900
It makes perfect sense that the NHL-leading Capitals are heavy favorites to win the Metro as they are six points clear of second-place Pittsburgh through the first 50 games of the season for each club.
If the Penguins were to stumble, the third-place Islanders are 10 points shy of the Capitals who happen to hold a commanding lead in the regulation wins (RW) column as the first division tiebreaker.
Whether you want to lay the juice at -250 is up to you, but the value lies in the other two bets.
The Caps are three points head of the Boston Bruins – with a game in hand – for the Eastern Conference lead and home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference side of the postseason.
Whether or not they could overcome last seasons’ first-round exit at the hands of the rival Hurricanes remains to be seen, but they appear equipped to do so.
The Capitals are the NHL’s fifth-ranked offense and are a top-10 defense, but one question that remains to be answered will be what they intend to do with the goaltending position come playoff time.
A lot can change between now and then, but as it stands right now 22-year-old rookie Ilya Samsonov is greatly outplaying veteran Braden Holtby, as you can see.
Of course, Samsonov is without NHL postseason experience while Holtby owns a career 2.09 GAA and .928 Sv% across 89 postseason appearances, including a 2.16 GAA and .922 Sv% en route to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 2018.
Holtby has had a penchant for turning things around when it matters most in recent years, and in the final year of his contract he might want to accomplish that feat sooner than later.
Is There Value?
I’m not a fan of laying big-time juice on the Capitals’ divisional odds considering the high-flying Penguins are just six points behind with 32 games remaining – hardly an insurmountable task.
At +900 to win the Cup, they are the second-favorite behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (+700) and their +475 odds to win the east sit behind only the Lightning and their +400 odds.
Of the three, I see the most value in those Eastern Conference odds as this Capitals team looks like more of a force than the one that lost a seven-game first-round series to the underdog ‘Canes last spring.
If they can get good goaltending, they’re as dangerous as any team in the NHL. To me, there’s value in the +475 odds to win the east.
- Record: 31-14-5 (2nd in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +250
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +700
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +1200
The Penguins – despite a litany of injuries up and down their roster – are just six points shy of the powerhouse Caps for the top spot in the Metro.
The work this team has to to overcome mid-to-long-term injuries from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, and Dominik Kahun, among others, is nothing short of remarkable.
The offense has somehow managed to sit comfortable in the top 10 while their defense also rides in such a position, thanks in part to an unforeseen breakout from former backup Tristan Jarry.
Matt Murray entered the season as the starter and started wrong with a 2.20 GAA and .923 SV% in October, but stumbled in November and December – the latter of which being the time that Jarry wrestled the starting job away from him.
Jarry’s 2.42 GAA and .923 Sv% in November earned him more starts in December and he flat-out took off with an eye-popping 1.54 GAA and .947 Sv% in nine outings for the month, right about when the Penguins’ serious injuries hit with Crosby, Guentzel, Dumoulin and Schultz all going down at that time.
He’s come down to earth some in December, but at the same time Murray’s game has rebounded. Regardless of how you slice, the Penguins have managed to get quality goaltending for quite a while now and it’s much easier to win when that’s taking place.
Is There Value?
For a team that knows what it takes to win, you bet there’s value.
Don’t forget that the Penguins won their second Stanley cup in as many years as recent as the 2016-17 season and both Crosby and Malkin are still playing at elite levels.
They will want to add a top-six winger, as general manager Jim Rutherford has noted, due to Guentzel’s season-ending shoulder injury, but the Penguins don’t appear to need much else in order to make a serious run.
I wouldn’t mind a sprinkle on their Metropolitan odds at just six points out, but to me they’re as good as any team in the east once the puck drops for the postseason, so those +700 odds don’t look to shabby, either.
If their goaltending can hold up, don’t be surprised to see the Penguins get deep into the postseason and take a run at their fourth Cup in the Crosby era, and their +1200 odds hold value there as well.
New York Islanders
- Record: 29-15-5 (3rd in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +1600
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +1200
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +2500
The Islanders proved everyone wrong by surging through the regular season into the second spot in the Metro when it was all said and done, but the path has been rockier this time around.
Their defense is again once of the better groups in the NHL – although not as good as long season – and they’ve received quality goaltending again this season as their .916 Sv% between Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss is the fifth-best mark in the league.
That said, their slip from the top defense last season (2.33 GA/GP) to sixth at this point in this season (2.65) combined with a near bottom-10 offense has cost them a little bit in the standings.
With 63 points they remain a quality hockey club, but they’re still just two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes who hold the second Wild Card spot in the east.
They enjoyed a 17-game point streak earlier in the season to separate themselves from the pack but have gone just 13-12-3 over their last 28 games since that streak reached 17 games.
The point isn’t to cherry pick, but these are examples of performances that we just didn’t see from this team last season.
Is There Value?
If you can get quality goaltending and play sounds defense – which the Islanders certainly do for the most part – there’s always a real shot at success.
For me, however, this team doesn’t have it this season. Personally, I’ve avoiding the Islanders.
However, you can also look at a team sitting third in what could be argued as the best division in the league at +2500 to win the Cup and feel real good about those odds.
In the same breath, they’re four points away from being on the outside of the playoff picture looking in and have lost more games than they’ve won since later November.
To me, I’m looking elsewhere for my value.
Columbus Blue Jackets
- Record: 27-16-8 (4th in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +2500
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +1200
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +2500
Don’t look now but the Blue Jackets currently sit in the top Wild Card spot in the east thanks to a six-game win streak that carried them into the All-Star break and their subsequent bye week.
John Tortorella’s group was written off after being decimated by the free agent market and losing Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel on the open market.
Unsurprisingly, the losses of Panarin, Duchene and Dzingel have hurt the offense as the Blue Jackets’ offense checks in at 24th while their power play sits 23rd with a 17.7% mark.
However, the level of goaltending they’ve received despite Bobrovsky’s departure has been outright shocking.
First it was Joonas Korpisalo who shrugged off a tough start to post a 2.31 GAA and .919 Sv% in November before turning it up a couple notches with a 1.94 GAA and .932 Sv% in December.
A knee injury sidelined him until mid-February, however, leaving untested rookie Elvis Merzlikins to bear the brunt of some high-octane Eastern Conference offenses and it seemed the Jackets’ stellar work in the crease would be all for naught.
Instead, all Merzlikins has done is post a 2.39 GAA and .926 Sv% in 21 outings on the season a ridiculous 1.72 GAA and .948 Sv% across 10 starts in the month of January.
Add it up and the Blue Jackets have received a .917 Sv% from their goaltending this season, good for a share of third-best in the league. All after losing their franchise goaltender who owns a sub-.900 Sv% in his new digs.
Is There Value?
I have a real hard time with this one.
I mean, I love a good story and this is not the first time the Blue Jackets have done this to us. Despite never being picked to win anything, they’ve made the playoffs in three straight years and in four of the last six. Unfortunately, they have just one postseason series win to their name in that time, but it was a big one in the form of a form-round sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning last spring.
Still, Merzlikins’ numbers are due for some serious regression. The best of goaltenders in the world cannot maintain a 1.72 GAA and .947 Sv% – his numbers in January. Not in the NHL.
So, what happens when Merzlikins regresses? Can the 24th-ranked offense offer enough support to win?
They’ve averaged 3.33 goals per game in winning six in a row, so perhaps.
However, to me I cannot shake the feeling that regression is coming their way, and hard.
I don’t see value in Metropolitan odds and there are just too many good teams around for me to take value in their conference or Stanley Cup odds.
It’s a nice story, and they could very well march their way into the playoffs, but that’s all I’m willing to give them at the moment.
- Record: 29-18-3 (5th in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +1200
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +1000
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +2000
The Hurricanes marched their way to the Eastern Conference Final a season ago, but were swept by the Boston Bruins in short order.
They’re quite a similar team this time around. They can score with their 13th-ranked offense, they defend well with their fourth-ranked defense and they are the best possession team in the NHL has to offer.
The difference this time around is that the Hurricanes are slowly and quietly solving their own goaltending issues that have plagued them in past seasons.
Indeed, their .909 Sv% between Petr Mrazek and James Reimer is tied for 11th in the league and better than a whack of teams that currently occupy postseason spots.
Mrazek – who played well enough to get them to the final four last season – owns a 2.59 GAA and .905 Sv%, but Reimer has surged of late, posting a 1.69 GAA and .944 Sv% in January and now owns a 2.47 GAA and .921 Sv% on the season.
While the Hurricanes obviously don’t have the star power between the pipes, they’ve managed to put together a tandem that has simply gotten the job done to this point.
The biggest question mark is how this team can fare with the loss of Dougie Hamilton on the blueline.
Hamilton fractured his fibula just before the All-Star break and while he doesn’t have a timetable for a return, he’s not guaranteed to return this season.
Hamilton was enjoying a Norris-caliber season on the blueline and was a huge part of what they do on the power play. He’s going to be missed and it will be interesting to see if his injury has a significant effect on the team moving forward.
Is There Value?
To me, we have some value here and the oddsmakers are favoring the Hurricanes over teams such as the Islanders and Blue Jackets.
Overtaking the Capitals is going to be tough for anyone and forget about the Hurricanes who are 12 points back and would have to jump four teams into that spot.
I’m not hating the other two odds levels, however.
The Hurricanes own a strong +27 goal different on the season which puts them right up there with the Capitals (+35), Bruins (+34), and Penguins (+32).
For a team that defends as well as they do, their combination of offense, puck possession and goaltending is a scary proposition for playoff opponents needing to beat them four times in seven tries.
The loss of Hamilton hurts, but this should remain a sound defense and puck-possession team, and if they can get good goaltending I can see them making another run this season, giving their conference and Stanley Cup odds notable value.
- Record: 27-17-6 (6th in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +3300
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +1400
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +2800
The Flyers were one of my value plays to win the Stanley Cup before the season got started because I like what they (quietly) did in the offseason.
They bulked up their blueline with trades of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, added Kevin Hayes to solidify the center position and re-signed veteran backup Brian Elliott to support young starter Carter Hart.
To this point, it’s been a success in terms of improving as the Flyers narrowly sit outside of the playoff picture, just one point back of the second Wild Card spot, but of course these standings are changing on a nightly basis.
They’ve dominated at home, but there’s been one glaring problem with this team this season, and we’ll see if you can pinpoint what it is.
|Venue||Offense (G/GP)||Defense (GA/GP)||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
Indeed, the Flyers are a dominant 17-4-4 at home this season but a terrible (for a contender) 10-13-2 on the road. If you want to make noise in this league, 10 wins in 25 tries on the road isn’t good enough. Thankfully, this league also offers a point for an extra-time loss.
The home/road splits are just unfathomable. Carter Hart owns a 1.69 GAA and .940 Sv% at home, but a 4.01 GAA and .850 Sv% on the road. Those splits are wider than the grand canyon.
Normally, I would look for such splits to narrow as the season moves along, but I mean, we’re 50 games in.
There’s an improvement from last season to be sure, but the Flyers are certainly a different team at home than they are on the road.
Is There Value?
At this point, my answer is no. And that’s a big change of tune from where I was at before the season began.
For the record, I like the team. They have enough on offense, defense and in goal to do something this season. But I can’t see value potential in a team that is that bad on the road.
Unless you think the Flyers can surpass the Penguins – who they trail by seven points and three regulation wins – they will start their first-round playoff series on the road. Hart has shown he cannot stop pucks on the road and the Flyers are being outscored by 1.20 goals per game on the road, the fifth-worst mark in the entire NHL.
Until something turns around on the road – even if they slip at home a bit – I can’t buy into this Flyers team and I will seek value elsewhere.
New York Rangers
- Record: 23-21-4 (7th in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +25000
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +5000
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +10000
The New York Rangers have expedited their self-proclaimed rebuild in short order and at various points this season have looked the part of a fringe playoff team.
Scoring goals as not been much of an issue with their 3.29 goals per game ranking eighth, and they’ve received solid goaltending from what has become a trio of Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin.
The problem is, just about everything else.
Their defense sits 26th in the league, but it’s their possession numbers that are most troubling.
For one, the Rangers’ average shot differential of -4.2 is tied for the second-worst mark in the NHL and only better than the historically bad Red Wings. But it’s the advanced numbers that are ugly.
At 5v5 this season, the Rangers rank last with a 45.80% Corsi For%, 30th with a 45.52% Scoring Chances For% and 26th with a 47.77% High-Danger Chances For%.
Fortunately, they’ve benefited from a sixth-ranked 9.25 5v5 shooting percentage and their goaltending a 20th-ranked .916 Sv% at 5v5 despite the team allowing a 30th-ranked 34.5 shots against per game.
Is There Value?
Absolutely not this season.
The Rangers sit 11 points back of the second Wild Card spot in the east and despite owning two games in hand, the hill is too large to climb as they’d need to climb over five teams to land that spot.
The future looks bright with some young goaltenders that have performed well along with an offense that’s been able to put the puck in the net.
Structure hasn’t been a part of their game, however, and work on the blueline needs to continue to prevent high-caliber Eastern Conference offenses from pummelling their netminders with rubber on a nightly basis.
Entering the season, BetOnline was giving the Rangers +2500 odds to win the Stanley Cup. I didn’t like them then, and now we see why as those odds have quadroupled 48 games into the season.
Given the advanced numbers, this would not be my hail mary team, either.
New Jersey Devils
- Record: 18-24-7 (8th in Metropolitan)
- Odds to win the Metropolitan: +50000
- Odds to win the Eastern Conference: +12500
- Odds to win the Stanley Cup: +25000
Things went south in a hurry for the Devils this season and they just could not recover.
They can’t find ways to score with a 26th-ranked offense, they can’t defend with a 30th-ranked defense and none of the offseason acquisitions that provided a ton of hype (for some reason) haven’t worked out.
P.K. Subban is enduring by far the worst season of his career, Jack Hughes is finding out how hard the NHL is on 18-year-old centers while Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev have largely been irrelevant.
The result has been a trade of UFA-to-be Taylor Hall to the Coyotes as well as the firing of both general manager Ray Shero and head coach John Hynes.
Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood has been a lone bright spot with a 2.95 GAA and .906 Sv% behind one of the NHL’s worst defensive teams. Blackwood, at just 23 years of age, at least gives the franchise’s fans some glimmer of hope for the future.
Is There Value?
Interestingly, the Devils were also given +2500 odds by BetOnline to win the Stanley Cup, and if you read this piece, I couldn’t figure out why they deserved those odds.
It was never going to be an easy ride in Jersey this season, but a trade deadline sell-off and a lottery pick in June will help the future.