Who are the early contenders for the NHL playoffs and Stanley Cup?

Richard Marsh | 11 January 2018

The post-season is rapidly approaching

The NHL is roughly halfway through its regular season. So it’s a good time to take stock and see who harbours serious ambitions for the 2018 Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh Penguins are the twice-reigning champions, after Sidney Crosby inspired them to a 4-2 victory over Nashville Predators in the finals last June.

This time around the duo both have some work to do.

The Penguins are a less-than stellar 22-19. They remain strong offensively, but their defense is one of the poorest in the Eastern Division this season.

Coral are 16/1 on Crosby’s side defending the Stanley Cup, but they’ll have to improve.

Nashville are going well again though, and stand at 25-11.

Coach Peter Laviolette has maintained the team’s momentum after reaching their first Stanley Cup last year. The Predators are 12/1 to go all the way this time around.

Lightning strikes

Leading the way though, are Tampa Bay Lightning.

Edged into fifth in the Atlantic Division last year, the 2004 champions are now the team to beat.

Their 31-9 record is by far the best in this season’s NHL. They’ve scored more goals than any other side while only three outfits have a tighter defense.

Right winger Nikita Kucherov has been in superb form. The 24-year-old’s 27 goals are only matched by Washington Capital’s skipper Alex Ovechkin.

And goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s six shutouts is an NHL-high this term too.

So it’s little wonder they’re Coral’s 6/1 favourites for the Stanley Cup.

New kids on the ice

There’s an unfamiliar name at the top of the Pacific Division – the Vegas Golden Knights.

This is their debut campaign, after years of Las Vegas trying to get a foothold in the NHL.

Led by coach Gerard Gallant, formerly of the Florida Panthers, the Golden Knights have acquired an experienced side for their first year.

They won eight of their first nine games, and have since proved that was no early-season fluke.

Their 29-10 record is only bested by Tampa, and they’re very much on course to bag their spot in the playoffs sooner rather than later.

Coral are 14/1 that the Vegas franchise cap a stunning inaugural campaign and win the Stanley Cup.

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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing