Heading into the final weekend of February, the NHL is gearing up for the month of March and the final push towards this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Three of the four division races remain extremely tight and the battle for one of the eight available postseason spots in each conference should go right down to the wire.

To reflect the current standings across the entire league, Intertops online sportsbook has recently updated its NHL futures odds to win this year’s Stanley Cup Championship.

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Going back a few months, to late December, the Atlantic Division’s Tampa Bay Lightning were listed as +400 favorites to win. Since then, they have ramped things up even higher to open a 16-point lead in their division with 96 points in 61 games. The next highest point total in the entire league is Calgary’s 81 points in its first 60 games.

Tampa Bay is now listed as a +275 favorite on the latest board. This is the type of future bets that you have to make now before even more value is drained from those odds. The Lightning continues to pick up momentum for a deep playoff run at 8-0-2 over their last 10 games. They are almost just as good on the road as they are at home. 

With a goal scoring average of 3.90 complementing a goals-against average of 2.64, Tampa Bay is going to win far more games than it loses. During a recent seven-game winning streak, the Lightning outscored their opponents by a combined score of 35-12.

If you still feel the need to go against Tampa Bay in search of a better return, you do not even have to leave the Atlantic Division. While the Toronto Maple Leafs are way back in the division title race with 76 points in 59 games, they remain second on the list to win the Stanley Cup at +700.

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The key to cashing in on this bet is Toronto getting past Tampa Bay early in the playoffs. If the Maple Leafs can find some way to beat the Lightning four times in seven games, they would have a clear path to a championship run. The four-game season series between the two is split with both games played in Tampa Bay. The two will meet again on March 11 and April 4 in Toronto.

With 3.53 goals per game and a GAA of 2.83, the Leafs do match up well against the Lightning and they actually have a better record on the road than they do at home. However, over the course of a best-of-seven playoff series with the home-ice advantage, the Lightning still has the clear edge in my book.

Next on the list at +800 is the surprising Calgary Flames. This is a team that finished fifth in the Pacific Division last season with a total of 84 points. They are close to exceeding that total this season with 22 games to play. The Flames have missed the postseason in seven of their last nine seasons, so the lack of experience in the NHL’s second season could be an issue. 

Calgary is another team that knows how to light the lamp with the second-highest scoring average in the NHL (3.68). It is also solid on defense with a 2.90 GAA. Just like Vegas stunned the hockey world last season with its Western Conference title, the Flames are in line to do the same this season.

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The betting odds for the ‘best of the rest’ starts with Nashville, San Jose, and Winnipeg as a trio of Western Conference teams at +1000. Pittsburgh is next on the list at +1400 followed by Boston at +1600. The Bruins have gotten hot to move into second place in the Atlantic Division with 80 points in 61 games. Stock in the Washington Capitals repeating as league champs continue to fall with their odds now listed at +2000.

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