Edmonton Oilers — 18:1
One of the big improving teams from last season, the Oilers have ridden a 12-6-5 road record and a hot start to the season to the Pacific’s third spot, just a point behind the Sharks and Ducks.
League MVP candidate will be carrying the Oilers through any playoff run, as his 46 points pace the entire league. Leon Draisaitl is also a key young piece, and the Oilers are definitely looking for more from guys like Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Da Windy City
Cam Talbot (.920/2.44) hasn’t necessarily proven he can carry a team through the playoffs in net, and he’s facing a ton of rubber, being one of only two goaltenders in the league to see more than 1,000 shots already this season (a league-leading 1,120 in 37 games).
Ultimately, the defense not being able to stop pucks from getting to Talbot could be the Oilers’ undoing during any sort of playoff run.
Washington Capitals — 14:1
This is where we start getting to the contenders, in my opinion. The Capitals are the other team, along with Philly, that is in the wrong division this season. But that’s probably for the best.
The Capitals have been bogged down by big expectations and division-/conference-/league-leading results. While the expectations are still there this season, Washington is able to stay under the radar as a result of hot play from other teams in the Metropolitan.
So the Caps are the first wild card team in the East with 55 points in 39 games — the same number of points the Central-leading Blackhawks have in 42 games. Washington also has a really comfortable plus-28 goal differential and has yet to hit double-digit losses in regulation.
The offense hasn’t been that amazing, in actuality, but it’s balanced. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin are the only two guys with 30 or more points this season, but there are 10 other guys with double-digit points. Braden Holtby is following his Vezina Trophy campaign with another stellar year (.931/1.93) to carry the Caps.
Washington’s playoff odds should be better, honestly, but the team’s current standings spot weakens them. I’d feel comfortable making a bet on the Caps with these odds right now, despite the team’s choking issues in the postseason.