England 37-0 Italy: Eddie Jones’ side rack up St James’ Park win ahead of World Cup
Anyone else, aside from me and Ray Shero, feel like they just awoke to Christmas morning?
Playoffs begin this day, it is the most wonderful time of year, and we are about as jacked up as Mitchell Marner after chugging his second-intermission Red Bull.
Drop the puck already.
Only a sweet 16 teams are relevant, thus we present our NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Odds Edition.
Teams are ranked based on my (highly questionable) judgment on their strength heading to the post-season. The Vegas line in their odds of keg-standing out of Lord Stanley are labeled below every write-up.
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1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Has there been a larger favourite for prom king? The Lightning strut to the dance like they own the place. Just the second team to collect 62 wins, the Bolts completed with a ridiculous plus-103 target differential, just 41 goals better compared to Calgary. Tampa dresses three 40 goal scorers. Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross in a walk, and the Bolts have powerful contenders for the Hart, Vezina and Jack Adams. Brayden Point might find a few Selke votes, also I have two Lightning defencemen in my Norris ballot. The tournament’s deepest entry by a mile.
Stanley Cup chances: 2/1
2. Calgary Flames
You have no doubt heard the term”there is no easy first-round match-ups” during the lead-up into Game 1, but the Flames did themselves thus many favour by clinching the abandoned summit. Not only do they draw a Colorado squad that really lost more games (44) than it won (38) — yay for the drop point! — but when they can take care of business quickly, the Flames can kick their feet up and observe Vegas and San Jose pummel each other. For all the hand-wringing over Calgary’s goaltending, remember this: No Pacific playoff group gave up fewer targets than the Flames (227).
Stanley Cup chances: 8/1
3. Boston Bruins
Give the big, poor Bruins home-ice advantage as well the edge in grit and direction edge over the Maple Leafs, sure. And Bruce Cassidy is one of the best coaches nobody talks about. But Toronto has got the upper hand in speed and offensive thickness, no matter how high your view of Charlie Coyle. The big question here is, which Tuukka Rask do we get? If it’s the person who submitted seven sub-.900 save percentages in his previous 10 looks, Cassidy needs to recognize it fast and provide Jaroslav Halak that the crease.
Stanley Cup odds: 9/1
4. Washington Capitals
Anyone else feel as the hockey world is sleeping about the reigning champs? Suretheir hardworking Round 1 opponent ought to be loose and has nothing to lose, however, the Hurricanes should also be emptied from their standings climb, feeling like they have already played two weeks of playoffs. Led by a guy who has won the Rocket Richard so frequently they might think about renaming the trophy, the Caps dodged the Penguins and Islanders, have the bulk of their Cup roster in tact, and now know exactly what it takes to move all of the way.
Stanley Cup chances: 12/1
5. St. Louis Blues
Hotter than a pistol, the Blues’ remarkable post-Christmas ascent should strike fear throughout the state of Manitoba. Believe Ryan O’Reilly was happy to not attend Sabres locker clean-out moment? The Selke threat has watched everybody around him pick up the slack over the previous three months. The defence looks mean, Vladimir Tarasenko rediscovered his signature, and when rookie Jordan Binnington will maintain his .927 save percentage, seem out.
Stanley Cup chances: 14/1
6. Nashville Predators
Great on the Predators to get out-pacing the Jets down the stretch. Now the Central Division kings can hang another banner and dodge the bullet that is the third-seed Blues. It is the same old story in Nashville: The defence is elite, the goaltending should be strong enough to win a round or 2, but the offence — ranked 19th general — is suspect. Incredibly, Nashville rolls in with the absolute worst power play in the NHL (12.9 percent ), and fresh men Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund (one goal apiece) haven’t provided an antidote. Serious ambitions have been tempered by even more serious issues.
Stanley Cup odds: 12/1
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
I’ve learned long ago: Never bet against a Sidney Crosby team. Evgeni Malkin is healthy, Matt Murray hit his stride in the second half, along with the Penguins’ power play and expertise are enough to make them a danger in any set. Yes, the Islanders carry more momentum to the tournament, but the Penguins’ standing as a mini dynasty and continuing contender earns them an advantage in power.
Stanley Cup odds: 16/1
8. New York Islanders
The Islanders are the perfect case of a sum exceeding its parts. Aims are hard to discover (228 total, putting them 21st overall), and Barry Trotz’s group has bought into the idea that all they need to do is find the web once more compared to their opponent. As great of an advantage Nassau Coliseum may feel to be, the Isles actually enrolled the same amount of wins home and off (24). Nobody has studied Mike Sullivan’s match programs as closely as Trotz, so if his Jennings-winning goaltenders can keep it rolling up, that knows just how many chapters are abandoned in this Cinderella story?
Stanley Cup odds: 20/1
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