It’s both easy and hard to be the L.A. Kings. On the one hand, the team is starting to make the NHL Playoffs—that grueling, devastating sojourn that teams crumble within every year—look easy, like something you can go deep in any year you like. On the other, 29 teams around the league have spent millions this offseason attempting the difficult task of building a deep, hard-edged unit like the Kings.
The reality is the league has lately become a pretty stable place for the top teams, and odds-makers once again have the usual suspects installed as favorites to win it all: sportsbook Topbet.eu has delivered lines on favorites to win the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup, and they’re names you’ll recognize: the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and the defending champion Kings are alone at the top.
All four have won the Cup at least once in the last six years, and there’s a compelling case to be made for each one to do so again this year.
The Blackhawks came oh-so-close to making back-to-back Stanley Cup appearances last season, but they agonizingly fell in Game 7 at home against the Kings. This year, despite playing in the cut-throat Western Conference, the Blackhawks are the overall favorites at +700 to claim a third title in six years.
Chicago had the second most-prolific attack in the NHL last season with 3.2 goals per game. That has the potential to get even stronger with the addition of veteran Brad Richards, who scored 20 goals for the beaten Stanley Cup finalist New York Rangers, and signed with the Blackhawks July 1st.
Chicago’s most likely Stanley Cup opponents from the East, at least as far as the odds are concerned, are the Bruins, who are +750 to win the Cup. Boston won the President’s Trophy last season thanks to a great defense (2.1 goals against, 2nd in NHL) combined with an equally great offense (3.1 goals per game, 3rd in NHL).
The Bruins’ closest (and perhaps only) competition from within the conference will once again come from the Penguins, who made some significant changes both in their management and their roster this offseason. Aside from replacing their G.M. and their head coach, they traded away James Neal and opted not to resign Matt Niskanen after they contributed a total of 107 points last season.
And then there are those Kings. L.A. returns virtually their entire Cup-winning roster, one that is priced at +850 to do what no team in 15 years has done: successfully defend the Stanley Cup. The Kings already made history by winning three Game 7’s on the road in one postseason, and with their deep and talented roster, they could just make another bit of history this season.
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