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We might get playoff hockey, after all.
The NHL took a giant leap toward completing the 2019-20 season when the NHLPA voted to approve a 24-team, conference-based tournament format. The details are still being ironed out but, essentially, the top-four seeds in each conference would get a bye to the standard 16-team playoff, with the remaining squads engaging in shorter play-in series.
Sportsbooks have updated their Stanley Cup odds to reflect the new format, with the top seeds sitting at significantly shorter prices.
|Tampa Bay Lightning||6-1|
|Vegas Golden Knights||6-1|
|St. Louis Blues||10-1|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||30-1|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||80-1|
|New York Islanders||80-1|
|New York Rangers||80-1|
The eight teams with the shortest odds are the top-four seeds in each conference, and they'll avoid the play-in series. That's been baked into their prices, sapping much of the value from their lines.
Regardless of whether they avoid the play-in, winning four best-of-seven series to capture the Stanley Cup is an incredibly tough task, so you won't find me investing in the likes of the Lightning, Bruins, or Golden Knights at the short price of 6-1. The Avalanche don't offer any value at 8-1, either.
However, these odds don't reflect the fact that teams that win the play-in series could be significantly sharper than those with byes after the long layoff, as those clubs won't have played for close to four months.
Rounding out the upper tier are the Penguins (16-1), who are the only non-top-four seed with shorter than 30-1 odds and will be considered large favorites over the Canadiens (100-1) in their play-in series. Pittsburgh will also have Jake Guentzel back from injury.
There is then a large drop-off on the oddsboard before getting to the Maple Leafs (30-1), who are the first true value play on the board should they get past the Blue Jackets (80-1). The winner of this series will see its odds slashed in half - at the very least - following the play-in round.
The same applies to every team involved in the play-in series. If you're looking for the best value, hop on board before the action returns. Waiting to see which teams win the first-round matchups to qualify for the playoffs will only result in the value being sucked out of their current prices.
Carolina and Vancouver will be fully healthy following the break, and both possess the sort of elite young players who should be least impacted by this hiatus, while the Panthers and Rangers have a healthy blend of scoring and goaltending that makes them very dangerous late seeds.
The Blackhawks (100-1) and Canadiens (100-1) are interesting if only because of Patrick Kane and Carey Price, who possess the kind of star power that can send their respective teams on a deep run should they get hot at the right time.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.