The Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins defeated the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks in seven games to capture last season’s Stanley Cup title. However, the Bruins are no better than a 10/1 third choice to repeat as champs this season according to oddsmakers at Bodog.
That honor goes to the Canucks and Washington Capitals, both 7/1 co-favorites to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup during the 2012 campaign.
The difficulty of repeating as Cup champs may have something to do with the Bruins not being installed in the favorite’s role. After all, no team has accomplished back-to-back titles since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.
In fact, since 2002, only two Stanley Cup champions have advanced past the first round of the playoffs the following year. Only the 2009 Red Wings made it back to the Finals.
Nevertheless, with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas holding down the fort between the pipes and Norris Trophy finalist Zdeno Charra leading a surly defense, the Bruins have an excellent chance of repeating.
Thomas established an NHL record last season by recording a sizzling .938 save percentage en route to a 35-11-9 ledger and a 2.00 GAA. Though Thomas is 37, he has played just 319 NHL games and should not have any problems fulfilling the final two years of his contract.
Like most NHL champs in this salary restricted age, the Bruins won’t look quite the same as they did last year.
Mark Recci retired at age 43, while forward Michael Ryder and defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Shane Hnidy left via free agency.
Boston compensated by grabbing two middle-of-the-road replacements in Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo and Montreal left winger Benoit Pouliot.
The Bruins ranked fifth offensively with a 2.98 goals per game average, but were just 26th with a meager 43 power play markers. They were second in the league with a 2.30 goals-against average and tied for first with 11 shutouts.
Boston was 22-13-3-3 at home and a sparkling 24-12-2-3 on enemy ice. The ‘under’ was 42-30.
Though Vancouver pushed the Bruins to seven games before suffering a 4-0 setback in the final match, the Canucks are the 7/1 co-favorite to capture the Cup this time around and 5/2 favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference.
Despite winning the President’s Trophy by 10 points last season, leading the NHL in scoring and goals-against, finishing first on the power play and tying for second in penalty killing, the Canucks couldn’t seal the deal against the Bruins.
Vancouver’s biggest lineup addition this season is Marco Strum, a 33-year-old winger with knee issues who managed five goals in 35 games last year before being waived by the Los Angeles Kings.
The Canucks had a 27-9-1-4 home ledger and a 27-10-3-1 road mark, both tops in the league. The ‘under’ was 44-35.
Washington is the 7/1 co-favorite to capture the Cup despite its offense and power play unit taking a huge step backward last season. The Caps were eliminated by Tampa Bay in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
However, the Caps made several alterations in the roster for the upcoming campaign that should give them a boost when the postseason roles around.
Forward Troy Brouwer joined the Caps in a draft-day trade, while forwards Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern and defenseman Roman Hamrlik were signed on July 1 when the summer free-agent market opened.
But it was the second day of free agency where the Caps might have made their best move by signing goalie Tomas Vokoun for the bargain price of $1.5 million. Vokoun will pair with fellow Czech Republic native Michal Neuvirth to give the Caps a solid goaltending tandem.
Washington was 25-8-2-6 on its home ice and 23-15-3-0 on the road. The ‘under’ was a league-leading 58-23.
Odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup, courtesy of Bodog, appear below.