In the world of pro sports, success in the regular season is important. But the truth is, if you’re looking for immortality, then the playoffs is when you must really shine. Throughout NHL history, plenty of players have come up big in the postseason. And now that we’re on the precipice of the 2016 playoffs, it’s time to see if other individuals have what it takes to add their names to the list.
The quest for the Stanley Cup is no joke. Only the strong will survive. And now that we known which clubs have made it to the knockout stages, earning themselves a chance at glory, we can truly separate the contenders from the pretenders. While we have our own opinions on which teams will make the biggest splash, those crazy oddsmakers in Vegas tend to see things a bit differently. So if you want to see which three teams —entering the first round of the this year’s playoffs — have the best chances to win the 2016 Stanley Cup, you’ve come to the right place. Although, full disclosure, we can’t promise you’ll like what you see.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the playoffs as the the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan division, finishing the regular season with a record of 48-26-8 (104 points). While this group will face a tough matchup against the New York Rangers in the first round, by going 8-2 in its last 10 games, Pittsburgh enters the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Plus, when you have the luxury of a player like Sidney Crosby — 36 goals, 49 assists, 85 points (third in the league) — leading the way, it’s not hard to like your chances.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
The champs are officially ready to defend their crown. Not only do the Chicago Blackhawks enter their first-round matchup against the St. Louis Blues as the No. 3 seed in the Central division (47-26-9, 103 points), but after finishing the regular season with 46 goals, 60 assists, and a career-best 106 points, superstar forward Patrick Kane heads into the postseason as the first American in history to lead the NHL in scoring. If Kane can carry this momentum into the playoffs, and the rest of the Blackhawks can feed off his energy, then there’s no reason why Chicago can’t go back-to-back.
1. Washington Capitals
Despite consistently succeeding in regular season, the Washington Capitals are best known for falling apart under the bright lights of the playoffs. Perhaps this is the year they finally get over the hump. Alex Ovechkin is a goal-scoring machine who finished the year with a league-leading 50, netminder Braden Holtby topped the NHL in wins with 48, and the Capitals finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL at 56-18-8 (120 points). With the 2015-16 regular season in the books and the postseason set to get underway, Vegas believes Washington stands the best chance to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup. We’ll find out soon enough if that prediction holds up.
Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.