The Boston Bruins kept separation between themselves and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the race for the Presidents' Trophy throughout the regular season, but there is no gap between the two when it comes to their odds to lift the Stanley Cup.
The Atlantic Division sides enter the round-robin games in the Toronto hub as the co-favorites to hoist the trophy, and their August 5 meeting could determine the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Boston and Tampa Bay are coupled with the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in the round-robin games to determine the top four seeds after they finished first through fourth in points percentage.
The reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues will compete with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Although the Blues have championship-winning pedigree and had the most regular-season points in the West, they sit behind the Avalanche on the odds chart to win the Stanley Cup.
Stanley Cup Odds
Boston: +650 (bet $100 to win $650)
Tampa Bay: +650
St. Louis: +1100
1. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay held the regular-season advantage over Boston by winning three of the teams' four meetings.
Steven Stamkos and Co. won those contests by a combined margin of victory of four, and in their lone defeat, they held the Bruins attack to a pair of tallies.
In the last of those four clashes, Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with 35 saves in a 5-3 victory. The Vezina Trophy nominee finished the regular season with more than 30 saves in four straight games. If Vasilevskiy plays well against the deep attacks of Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, the Lightning could land the No. 1 seed. Tampa Bay was 2-0 versus Philadelphia and 0-3 against the Capitals this term.
Jon Cooper's team also carries a bit more motivation into Toronto than the other three sides as it tries to prove last year's first-round exit after a record-equalling 62-win regular season was a fluke.
Tampa Bay has the roster to win a title, but it has not achieved the same postseason success as Boston has recently.
The Bruins could be viewed as the title favorite because their top line of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is arguably the best in hockey. The trio combined for 107 goals and 131 assists. Tuukka Rask is one of the most experienced goalies of the 24 teams left, but he allowed at least three tallies in three of the four meetings with Tampa Bay.
Washington's title-winning experience from two years ago can't be discredited in the round-robin format, but goaltender Braden Holtby's form dropped off considerably in the regular season. For the first time in his career, Holtby recorded a save percentage beneath .900 and a goals-against average of more than three.
Philadelphia is the wild card of the four round-robin teams in the East. The Flyers have a young core led by Travis Konecny, but they also have some valuable experience in the form of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. They reeled off nine straight victories before losing to Boston in what turned out to be their regular-season finale March 10.
Alain Vigneault's side went 5-4 against Boston, Tampa Bay and Washington, but it has more questions in net than its three competitors with Carter Hart and Brian Elliott fighting for starts.
1. St. Louis
St. Louis should put itself in a position to contend for the Stanley Cup once again.
Five Blues players totaled more than 50 points, while seven more reached the 20-point plateau. Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron led the group with 61 and 60 points, respectively.
Defensively, the Blues have one of the best duos in Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, who could be vital in slowing down Colorado's attack.
Jordan Binnington holds an edge over most goalies in the West playoff race after he followed up his title-winning run with 30 wins, a .912 save percentage and 2.56 GAA. Binnington has made at least 25 saves in 16 of his 26 postseason contests, so he should be well equipped to win a game for the Blues if their offense struggles.
As they were for most of the regular season, the Avalanche are St. Louis' top competition to win the West.
Colorado is set up for long-term success, as four of its top five scorers are under 25. Nathan MacKinnon leads the team with 35 goals and 58 assists. But the Avalanche's toughest challenge to land the No. 1 seed may not come from the Blues—Colorado went 0-4 against Dallas, a record that will likely need to improve if it hopes to land the No. 1 seed.
Dallas went a combined 2-5 against St. Louis and Vegas, and it may not have the abundance of scoring options necessary to contend for the top position.
Vegas could match the Blues in postseason experience and goalie play, with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner splitting time between the pipes. Fleury and Lehner both have save percentages over .905 and recorded GAAs under 2.90. If both goalies get hot, the Golden Knights could play spoiler to earn top spot in the West.