@FastMoneyLabs’ Stanley Cup Preview & Pick

If you’re like me — you enjoy a good underdog story. You also support the idea of seeing fresh blood compete for championships. Hopefully you’re not like me — because this year’s matchup is neither.

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The Avalanche are technically fresh blood. They were also the preseason favorite to win the Cup. Feels like those things balance out.

Meanwhile, the Lightning are technically the underdog. They also won the last two Stanley Cups. Winning 3 straight would be a major accomplishment. It would also piss a lot of people off. I’m in that camp.

With that said — Successful betting requires blinders. We cannot let our biases get in the way. Let’s flush them away.

Who do I objectively think will win the Cup? That is the question.

I think Colorado is the better team. Tampa will win the cup. Here’s why:

  • The Avalanche last played on June 6th. That was 9 days ago. The Lightning were in a similar situation last series, and how did that go? They came out flat in Games 1 and 2 — and the Rangers took advantage.
  • Tampa obviously came back, rendering the slow start meaningless. I view that situation as distinctly different from this scenario, though. The Bolts started the Conference Finals on the road. They went down 2-0 in the series. Yet their glasses were still half-full with a squeeze of optimism. That’s because Games 3 & 4 were scheduled to be played in their home arena in Tampa. They woke up, capitalized and the rest is history.
  • The same cannot be said for the Avalanche. If they start sleepy and lose even 1 of the first 2 games, their home ice advantage evaporates. By the time they finally wake up, they’ll be at a hotel eating continental breakfast somewhere in Tampa.
  • Also complicating matters for Colorado is the fact that Darcy Kuemper, their starting goaltender, hasn’t played since May 31st. It’s hard enough trying to get back in game shape after 9 days off. Try doing it as a goaltender after 15, with 100+ MPH cannons firing at your face off the stick of Victor Hedman.

By now, I bet my Denver buddies are a bit riled up. Before they start texting, let me throw them a bone, because there is a good counterpoint. It relates to the idea Colorado is no stranger to long layoffs. In fact — they successfully overcame one. And it was this playoffs.

They had 8 days off after Round 1. And what did they do? They went on to win Game 1 of Round 2 vs. STL. That might sound good, but hold your applause. That win required Overtime. The team also looked sluggish out of the gate, losing the 1st period as heavy favorite and shocking the hockey world — at least temporarily — in the process. Could they do the same vs. Tampa? Of course they could. But will it be as easy? No shot.

Also supporting a futures bet on the Bolts is the fact they’re 5-1 in their last 6 visits to Denver. Their only loss came by a 1-goal margin.

To be fair, Colorado’s also had some success in recent games played in Tampa. They won their only visit this year, for example, but it required a shootout to secure it. Excluding the shootout, they were outshot in that game. And in the playoffs, the shootout safety net is no more.

Do I believe the Avalanche are the rightful favorite? I definitely do. As mentioned in my open, I feel they’re the better team. I also mentioned that successful betting requires blinders. Just because you think a team will win does not, by default, make it a good bet. To pass the test, the price must be right. And in this specific case — I feel it’s off.

I view this matchup as more of a coin flip than betting odds suggest, which makes my futures pick an easy one to make. I think ESPN’s Barry Melrose recently said it best. I’d need a really good reason to not back the 2x reigning champ. And as of now, I’m not seeing it. 

With all that said, I feel the best bet to make is one on the Bolts to win the Cup @ +155 odds (available at time of writing, Caesars or MGM).

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