Columbus Blue Jackets — 15:2
The other white-hot team of late, Columbus saw its win streak end at 16 games last week, just short of tying the league record of 17. But that crazy run propelled the BJs to the top of the Metropolitan with 58 points in just 38 games played.
A 12-3-3 road record has been key to Columbus’ success. Also key: Cam Atkinson is having a career year with 39 points. Alexander Wennberg has been incredible as a rookie with 34 points, former Blackhawk Brandon Saad is finally being used correctly with 33 points, and Nick Foligno (34) and Sam Gagner (30) are also threats.
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In net, Sergei Bobrovsky (.930/2.03) has also found his old form while finally staying healthy, and that’s been a huge deal for this team.
The big worries have to be any sort of letdown after the win streak (is Columbus really that good) and oft-crazy coach John Tortorella tanking his team through his antics. But these odds seem totally fair right now.
Chicago Blackhawks — 15:2
Well. I can’t necessarily say I agree that the Blackhawks are one of three odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup at this point in time, but I do see a team that has the potential to make such a run.
It really is in there, though the current product is far from perfect. Though 55 points and the top spot in the Central are both nice plaudits, the team’s spot atop the West is far from secure, and the past few weeks haven’t been terribly impressive.
Well, the regular skaters haven’t been terribly impressive. Corey Crawford (.925/2.34) and Scott Darling (.925/2.31) have dragged this team through many stretches. The second line of Patrick Kane (41 points), Artemi Panarin (40) and Artem Anisimov (31) is leading the top-heavy offense, while Jonathan Toews seems to be finding his form.
The Blackhawks’ defense and bottom-six offense just needs to be better. Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t seem to have a group of six on defense he can trust, and the team is consistently rolling two guys in Andrew Desjardins and Jordin Tootoo who haven’t dented the scoresheet halfway through the season.
There’s a Stanley Cup team in there, especially in a weakened West. But the Blackhawks need to be better to live up to their current odds.