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SportsLine NHL postseason simulations: Lightning vs. Avalanche for Stanley Cup

The SportsLine projection model forecasts a bit of an unexpected matchup in the Stanley Cup Final.
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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled a 24-team playoff field on Tuesday if – and it is if, not when – the league is able to stage a postseason in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the slightly unusual format, the moneyline futures odds at William Hill sportsbook to win the Stanley Cup didn't really change much. The Boston Bruins are +550 favorites followed by the Vegas Golden Knights at +600.

The Bruins are +280 favorites to win the Eastern Conference and the Golden Knights +260 in the West. Boston has slightly longer odds despite being a better team because the East is much deeper than the West.

However, the SportsLine Projection Model doesn't favor either the Bruins or Golden Knights to even reach the Stanley Cup Final. It likes the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Colorado Avalanche. The Model used a bracket format after the qualifying round and no reseeding. The NHL still hasn't decided what it will do there, but it usually does not reseed.

Boston has a 15.6 percentage of winning the East, behind the Lightning (25.4) and Washington Capitals (17.8). The Model loves Tampa Bay as before the coronavirus shutdown it had a league-best 23.7 percent chance of winning the second Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Bolts still have the top number in the league, but it's down to 17.9 percent.

One interesting note in the East: The 11th-seeded New York Rangers have the fourth-best percentage to win the conference at 8.4. New York wouldn't have made the playoffs under the typical 16-team format. The Rangers were 13-7-1 in their final 21 games before the shutdown.

Out West, the Golden Knights have the third-most points in the conference and the third-best percentage of winning it at 13.4. They have just a 4.9 percent chance of winning the Cup. Colorado, meanwhile, has a 23.3 percent chance of winning the West and a 10.4 percent shot at the Cup. The Avs do have the West's best goal differential of plus-46. 

Tampa Bay and Colorado split two regular-season meetings, each winning on the road. The Bolts ranked No. 1 in the NHL in scoring during the regular season and the Avalanche fourth.  

EAST                                            SEED               CONF              CHAMP             PRE-COVID
Tampa Bay Lightning 2 25.36% 17.90% 23.70%
Washington Capitals 3 17.76% 10.79% 10.30%
Boston Bruins 1 15.58% 9.82% 14.90%
New York Rangers 11 12.00% 8.40% 2.20%
Philadelphia Flyers 4 10.10% 5.80% 6.80%
Toronto Maple Leafs 8 8.06% 4.46% 2.00%
Florida Panthers 10 4.49% 2.40% 1.60%
Pittsburgh Penguins 5 3.39% 1.74% 2.00%
Carolina Hurricanes 6 2.16% 1.09% 1.80%
Montreal Canadiens 12 0.65% 0.19% 0.00%
New York Islanders 7 0.35% 0.12% 0.10%
Columbus Blue Jackets 9 0.10% 0.02% 0.10%





WEST   SEED CONF CHAMP PRE-COVID
Colorado Avalanche   2 23.31% 10.40% 8.30%
St. Louis Blues 1 17.29% 6.90% 8.10%
Vegas Golden Knights 3 13.44% 4.87% 4.50%
Edmonton Oilers 5 11.55% 3.99% 5.10%
Vancouver Canucks 7 7.88% 2.93% 3.70%
Nashville Predators 6 7.63% 2.90% 1.10%
Minnesota Wild 10 7.74% 2.85% 1.60%
Winnipeg Jets 9 3.74% 0.98% 0.30%
Arizona Coyotes 11 1.90% 0.48% 0.30%
Dallas Stars 4 2.38% 0.42% 0.40%
Calgary Flames 8 1.94% 0.33% 1.10%
Chicago Blackhawks 12 1.20% 0.22% 0.00%
SportsLine Staff
SportsLine Staff