How to Bet the Stanley Cup Final

Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates with the puck against the New York Rangers. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

The Stanley Cup Final is set, with the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to win its third straight championship. The Lightning will face the Colorado Avalanche for the 2021-22 title. This is Tampa’s fifth appearance in the final overall, and the Lightning will be looking to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup for the fourth time. 

Colorado is making its third trip to the championship series but first since 2001. The Avalanche have never lost in the Stanley Cup Final. All of Tampa Bay’s appearances in the championship series have come since the last time Colorado advanced that far. 

Opportunities to bet the NHL this season are down to at most seven games. Here’s a look at what to know to bet the Stanley Cup Final

No Sweeps, no Sevens

If you’re looking to try to predict the length of the series, you should probably go with six games. Similar to the recent history of the NBA Finals, it’s tough for one conference champion to sweep the other for the title. 

Each team in the Stanley Cup Final has won at least one game for the last 22 years. The last sweep was back in 1998, when the Detroit Red Wings went 4-0 against the Washington Capitals. That capped a streak of four straight years with a Stanley Cup sweep, including one by the Avalanche, in 1996.

Going five games is also unlikely. In the 21 Stanley Cup Final since the year 2000, that’s happened just five times, the second-least likely occurrence, behind a sweep. 

If recent history is any guide, both teams are buckled in for the long haul in the championship series. 

Going the full length isn’t quite as rare, but a seven-game final is far from the norm. It occurred most recently in 2019, when the Blues won game seven over the Bruins. That’s the only time it has happened in the last 10 years, however. In the 21 Finals since the turn of the millennium, it’s happened just seven times. 

By comparison, there have been nine series that have gone six games. 

May the Best(?) Team Win

The Avalanche won their division, finishing with 119 points, good for the Central Division title and top seed in the Western Conference. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, put up 110 points and finished third in the Atlantic Division. 

Advantage Colorado, right? Not so fast. 

First of all, thanks to the uncertainty in the prior rounds of the NHL playoffs, Colorado is just the fourth division winner to make it to the Stanley Cup Final in the last 10 years. Division winners have gone 2-1 in the previous three trips (although two winners played each other in 2018). 

A total of four teams that finished third in their division have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, including the Lightning last season. Two of those four third-place teams beat a higher finisher in the Final. The third-place 2015 Chicago Blackhawks and 2014 Los Angeles Kings both topped second-place teams. 

In general, however, the Avalanche seem to have the edge based on their divisional finish, those two third-place triumphs are the only times in the last 10 years that a lower-finishing team has beaten a higher one in the Stanley Cup Final. The team that finished better in its division is 6-2 (with two series matching teams that finished in the same place).

The points differential is less cut and dry, however. In the last four championship rounds, the team with the higher regular season points total is just 2-2. The Lightning beat a team with fewer points in both of their appearances and will now try to spring an upset as the team with fewer points themselves. 

Over the past 10 years, the team with more points has gone 6-4 with the Cup on the line. 

Conference Advantage

The Western Conference dominated the Stanley Cup Final at the start of the last decade, winning four cups in a row from 2012 to 2015. Since then, it’s been almost all East. Teams from the Eastern Conference have won five of the last six cups, leaving the two conferences at a 5-5 deadlock over the last 10 years, but with the East having all the momentum.