The separate Divisions have started to take more concrete shape as we slowly approach the conclusion of the 2019-20 regular season, which will end on Saturday, April 4, when 30 of the League's 31 teams take to the ice.
Who will the NHL Eastern and Western Conference 2020?
With most teams nearing 60 games played, it’s time to think about who’s going to be Conference winners in 2020. Will it be the Lightning again in the East? Can the Flames claw it back against the odds in the West?
So without further adieu, let’s get down to the brass tax.
Western Conference Winner - St Louis Blues (4.33)
The reigning Stanley Cup holders got our pick to be the team to take the crown in the Western Conference. Despite the fact they’ve looked less than convincing of late and are on a 5-game losing streak, we see them bouncing back.
The St Louis Blues sit joint-first alongside the Dallas Stars on 74 points. The Blues go 32-17-10 for the season outright.
They’re led in attack by David Perron, who has been excellent all-round, picking up 23 goals and 33 assists for the season outright - team-high stats in both departments.
The Colorado Avalanche sit second-place in the bookmaker’s eyes, with odds of 4.50 to take the Conference. The Avalanche are playing very well this season and are likely their main rivals in the Western Conference. But expect the Blues to turn things around.
Take the Blues to win in the West.
Western Conference Underdog Winner - Dallas Stars (7.00)
The Stars have the third-strongest defensive unit in the NHL, letting through an average of just 2.37 per game. Though less can be said about their offensive prowess, scoring an average of only 2.7 per game.
None of the Dallas Stars offensive players have managed to break 20 goals this season, which is shocking considering where we are in the campaign. Jamie Benn leads the scoring tables with 18 goals and 14 assists outright.
The Stars season ended disappointingly in 2019, finishing with a mere 93 points. They already have 74 and are managing to string together some big wins. They are 34-19-6 for the season outright.
Expect the Stars to continue to put the pressure on the rest of the contenders in the West, and with a little improvement in the attack, they could easily take the title.
Pick the Dallas Stars to win the Conference.
Eastern Conference Winner - Tampa Bay Lightning (4.50)
The majority of sportsbooks see the Tampa Bay Lightning as joint-favourite with the Boston Bruins to take the Eastern Conference. The Bruins lead the conference at present, but the Lightning is playing in their best form this season.
Tampa is 39-15-5 for the season overall, boasting the most wins out of any team in the NHL. They have 83 points outright, just three less than the Bruins.
Defensively they’re solid, letting through the fifth-lowest average in the league, with just 2.51 goals per game. While in the attack, they have the second-best scoring average in the league, scoring 3.5 goals per game.
Given that they accumulated the highest points total in the league last season, we can see them repeating that feat again this year. They have got 128 last season, and they have 83 so far in 2020 - will they beat 128?
Take Tampa to win in the East.
Eastern Conference Underdog Winner - Washington Capitals (5.50)
It’s been a tussle between the Capitals, Bruins and Lightning at the top of the Eastern Conference throughout the 2019/20 campaign, though now the Atlantic Contingent have their noses in front.
The white-hot Russian Alex Ovechkin (42 goals, 17 assists) will continue to cause problems for his opponents into the latter stages of the season. He seems unstoppable at the moment, battling it out with Pastrnak and Matthews for the lead-scorer in the league.
Washington sits joint-second in average goals per game, putting up 3.5. Though they have been less impressive in defence, letting in an average of 2.86 per game.
The Tampa Bay Lightning sit third in the NHL power rankings this season, though for a long while they led it. They’re playing well overall and with the number of goals they’re scoring, anything is possible.
Pick Washington Capitals to win the Eastern Conference.
Our predictions from week 20
Our NHL Division leaders are currently the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks and the St Louis Blues. Not all of those teams are our picks for the 2020 Division winners, though some made the cut.
Will we see any upsets in 2020?
Central Division Winner: St Louis Blues (1.61)
The Blues are in a bit of a rut at the moment, with the Colorado Avalanche right on their tails in the Central Division.
The Blues form has meant they’ve dropped out of the top 5 in the NHL power rankings this week. Losses to the Jets and Stars has left them twiddling their thumbs - the OT loss to the Stars in their last was particularly disappointing.
However, the season is long. The Blues are the reigning Stanley Cup holders and know how to grind out a successful season. They’ve been excellent defensively, allowing an average of just 2.55ppg. While they’re scoring at an average of 3.2ppg, which is ninth in the leagues’ standings.
The Central Division will likely be fought for between the Blues, Avalanche, and Stars. We don’t think the Stars will be in the running in a month’s time, however, we do foresee a tough battle between St Louis and Colorado.
Take St Louis Blues to win the Central Division.
Pacific Division Winner: Vegas Golden Knights (3.50)
Out of the teams in the Pacific Divison, it made sense to give our NHL free pick of the week to the Vegas Golden Knights. We expect the Oilers inconsistency to cost them, while the Canucks look rocket and a little worn out going into the latter stages of the regular season.
The Golden Knights also have the immovable object that is Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes. He’s been excellent again this season, allowing an average of just 2.82gpg for the season and playing in 40 of 53 games.
Vegas has a great offensive setup too. Max Pacioretty (24g, 28a), Reilly Smith (21g, 23a), and Mark Stone (20g, 33a) have all been excellent this season, and they will need to ramp things up as the season progresses.
Though the Golden Knights will also have to worry about results. The top-of-the-table in the Pacific Division is very close. They will need to focus on grinding out results, which they are more than capable of doing.
Take the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Pacific Division.
Atlantic Division Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning (2.37)
Tampa Bay is the team in the NHL to beat in the bookmaker’s eyes. Their season ended disappointingly last season after such a good run and Jon Cooper will be keen to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The Lightning is the most in-form team in the NHL right now, as they look for a seventh win on the bounce against the Penguins in their next game. Tampa is just one win off the top spot in the NHL.
Tampa Bay join three other teams at the top of the NHL scoring tables, putting up an average of 3.6 goals per game while allowing just 2.58 per game.
The Bruins, their Atlantic Division rivals, are the only team to put up better all-around stats for the 2019/20 campaign. Though this doesn’t bode well for this wager, we believe Tampa Bay has more in the locker this year.
The Bruins may be a more solid team, but we believe the likes of Stamkos, Kucherov, Killorn, Point and Andre Vasilevskiy will come up trumps as we enter the latter stages of the season.
Take the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Atlantic Division.
Metropolitan Division Winner: Washington Capitals (1.55)
The Capitals have been atop of the NHL wins table for the duration of the season. This has been reflected in the sportsbooks NHL betting odds, which have favoured Washington to be in the running come the playoffs.
The formidable Alex Ovechkin is looking to make it 700 goals in the NHL, while this season he’s put up 40 goals and assisted 17. The man is a machine and will give a lot of confidence to fringe players and the team as a whole.
Similarly to the Lightning, Washington is putting up an average of 3.6 goals per game. Though defensively they’re a little worse than the Lightning, allowing an average of 2.85gpg.
The Washington Capitals know what they can do on their day, and so do their opponents, so it’s vital that they maintain momentum and keep Ovechkin hot going into the NHL playoffs. The young Jakub Vrana has been great alongside the Russain vet, with 23 goals and 23 assists outright.
Take the Washington Capitals to win the Metropolitan Division.