Bovada: Blackhawks' updated odds to win Stanley Cup


Bovada: Blackhawks' updated odds to win Stanley Cup

The Blackhawks still own the second-best odds at winning the Stanley Cup, but their chances have, obviously, increased with only four teams left.

Bovada released its updated 2015 Stanley Cup odds prior to the Eastern and Western Conference Final, and only the New York Rangers rank ahead of Chicago.

Teams Odds to win 2015 Stanley Cup
New York Rangers 2/1
Anaheim Ducks 12/5
Tampa Bay Lightning 19/4

The Blackhawks are used to playing as favorites in the postseason, but the league's parity and unpredictability shows it's anybody's championship to win with Anaheim a very-close third, and Tampa Bay not far behind.

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And because we're one series away from the Stanley Cup Final, let's take a look at which players have the best chance at winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP.

Player Odds to win 2015 Conn Smythe
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) 4/1
Corey Perry (ANA) 9/1
Frederick Andersen (ANA) 12/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) 12/1
Rick Nash (NYR) 12/1
Tyler Johnson (TB) 12/1
Ben Bishop (TB) 12/1

Patrick Kane (17/2) and Jonathan Toews (19/2), both recipients of the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010 (Toews) and 2013 (Kane), lead the way for the Blackhawks at No. 2 and No. 4 with Duncan Keith tied for the fifth-best odds.

Corey Crawford (25/1), Patrick Sharp (30/1), and Marian Hossa (30/1) round out the list.

How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

Goalies are creatures of habit. Their daily routines are more sacred than those of the players at other positions. They prepare more extensively and they have to be the most dialed-in on the ice. 

Throw in a global pandemic that's greatly diminished their reps and thrown off their rhythm ahead of the NHL's 24-team playoff format set to begin August 1 and what happens?

NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes is here to tell us.

"As a goalie, the challenge of that is it's such a feel-intuitive sport and it's almost like golf: you have to play and play often, even your practice rounds, just to be able to have your touch, your timing, your reads, your spacing, your positioning, your instincts, all those things," Weekes told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone on Wednesday. 

"So the challenge with being a tender is when that's limited or when that's compromised, it certainly impacts you. But right now, I think for those guys, pending their bodies and what they can handle, I think at least one way to counteract that is see as many pucks as possible right now."

The league's netminders will at least have the opportunity to see pucks for two weeks with their team starting on Monday when formal training camps leading up to the postseason at hub cities Edmonton and Toronto begin.

Weekes — who tended goal in the show for 11 years and helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 — says a number of goalies, depending on where they've been on the grid, have been able to keep some of their skills sharp during the NHL pause that began on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He mentioned goalies like Henrik Lundqvist, who went back home to Europe, have been able to skate almost the entire duration of the pause.

"Then, there are other guys who, let's say are in Florida, I know (Sergei) Bobrovsky started skating a while back, Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa has been skating for quite some time," Weekes added. "So, depending on where you're situated, where you're located geographically, that kind of had a big impact on whether or not you were able to get to a rink."

But what about goalies who weren't able to get on the ice or see shots?

According to Kevin, they've had to come up with ways to stay fresh and ready at home beyond throwing a tennis ball against the wall like you see them do in the tunnel before games.

A lot of goalies had already upgraded from ball-on-the-wall to tennis ball machine prior to the pause. Others have been doing online vision training and vision exercises according to Weekes

"It's literally been all over the map," he said. "Some guys have been able to play tennis and feel like that's helped them with their footwork and their conditioning and just tracking, having something directed at them. 

"So it's literally been all over the map for different guys that I've spoken with but nothing can fully simulate it, guys are just trying to do the best that they could. What was challenging for some guys is some guys were stuck in situations where that's all that they had available to them and then they go on Instagram and for example see Henrik skating, which he should be, which is awesome."

Come the start of the tournament, it may be obvious who was able to keep their last line of defense weapons sharp. You can only cram so much into two weeks.

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NHL, NHLPA set new dates for start of 2020-21 season, draft and free agency

NHL, NHLPA set new dates for start of 2020-21 season, draft and free agency

The NHL and NHL Players' Association have reached a tentative agreement on the Return to Play plan and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement deal, but nothing is official until the full NHLPA membership ratifies the package. The voting process is ongoing, and a final decision is expected to come Friday.

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If or when the deal is signed off on, here are the new critical dates for the rest of the 2019-20 season and looking ahead to the 2020-21 calendar, according to TSN's Frank Seravalli:

  • July 13 — Formal training camps open
  • July 26 — Teams travel to hub cities
  • Aug. 1 — Start of qualifying round
  • Aug. 10-12 — Phase 2 of draft lottery (TBD)
  • Sept. 20 — Stanley Cup Final begins
  • Oct. 2 — Last possible date for Stanley Cup Final
  • Oct. 6 — NHL Draft
  • Oct. 9 (or seven days after Stanley Cup Final ends) — Free agency opens
  • Nov. 17 — Opening of training camps for 2020-21 season
  • Dec. 1 — Opening Day of 2020-21 regular season

*All dates are subject to change, but these were the dates listed in the Memorandum of Understanding.

It should also be pointed out that, in the new CBA deal, there will no longer be a negotiation window for pending unrestricted free agents. Previously, teams were given six days to interview potential UFA candidates before they could officially sign players. Now, it will be a free-for-all once the clock hits 11 a.m. CT like the old days.