A little over a month ago prior to the beginning of the 2019-20 NHL season, most NHL betting predictions went all-in on the Tampa Bay Lightning. With defending NHL scoring champ Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point and coming off a 62-win season; who could blame the pundits. Roughly 15 games or so into the new season, Tampa Bay is not exactly off to a good start. The Lightning are in sixth place … in the Atlantic Division!
Tampa Bay still has a winning record, 6-5-2, after 13 games. While not the start the Lightning were hoping for, it does prove one thing – the strength of the Atlantic Division. Is it the NHL’s strongest? Will the Stanley Cup winner come from the Atlantic or is there another division that is stronger?
Numbers Don’t Lie The NHL realigned divisions prior to the 2013-14 season. Using the current divisions and going back to 1990 to increase the sample size, it is clear that one division has dominated the Stanley Cup. In the 29 seasons since 1990, 11 Stanley Cup champions have come from the Metropolitan Conference. That includes three winners in the six seasons since realignment.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won five of those 11 titles, most recently in 2016 and 2017. Washington, which won the Cup in 2018, is off to the NHL’s best start with an 11-2-3 record for an NHL-best 25 points. The top five teams in the division, which includes Pittsburgh (8-6-1, 17 PTs), all have winning records. The New York Islanders have won 10 straight games and are currently second to the Capitals in the division with an 11-3 record and 22 points. Even seventh-place Columbus (5-7-3) was a playoff team last year.
Atlantic & Central Both the Atlantic and Central Divisions have produced seven Stanley Cup winners since 1990. St. Louis, the most recent Stanley Cup champion, hails from the Central. The Blues lead the division once again with an 11-3-3 record. Nashville, which has been to the Stanley Cup finals, is 9-4-2 and Colorado (8-5-2) and Winnipeg (8-7-1) are surely playoff contenders.
The Atlantic holds the team many belief is the best in the NHL – Boston. The Bruins are loaded with talent. David Pastrnak leads the league in goals and points, for example, and goalie Tuuka Rask ranks among the best in goals against and save percentage. Boston is 11-2-2 after 15 games and is just a point behind Washington in the President’s Trophy race.
The rest of the Atlantic Division is featuring Toronto (8-5-3) with stars Auston Matthews and John Tavares among others and the up-and-coming Buffalo Sabres (9-4-2). The Florida Panthers (7-3-4) hired Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville and brought in G Sergei Bobrovsky before this season. Bettors can’t forget the Lightning either. They have struggled early, but the talent is still there.
Trends? The Bruins are now the favorite to win this year’s Stanley Cup. At America’s Bookie, one of our online bookies where you can be at, Boston is given +700 odds to win it all. As mentioned previously, three of the last four Cups were won by teams from the Metropolitan Division. Washington checks in at +900 to win the Cup.
The Atlantic Division hasn’t won a Cup since Boston captured it in 2011. Last year’s winner, St. Louis, did not hail from what was considered the NHL’s strongest division. The Blues are given +1350 odds to win the Cup this year. It is probably safe to say there is no trend or correlation between the NHL’s strongest division and the eventual Stanley Cup champion.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.