First Five Teams to Clinch NHL Playoff

As we come towards the end of the season, teams have started to punch their tickets into the postseason. Read on as we look deeper into the first five teams to clinch playoff berths this season and what they did to get there and stay tuned for our full odds and playoff predictions later this season once all 16 playoff spots have been determined.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning brass just signed head coach Jon Cooper to a multi-year contract extension and it’s easy to see why. Cooper is the team’s longest tenured coach, is the all-time leader for wins, and has gone 301-157-44 with the team. This season was yet another successful campaign for Cooper and his Bolts.

At the time of writing, the Tampa Bay Lightning have gone 59-14-4 this season - good enough for 122 points and the President’s trophy with five games still to play. The Bolts also tied an NHL record held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings as the fastest team to 50 wins, doing so in only 66 games.

Offensively, Tampa is basically unstoppable. Russian superstar Nikita Kucherov surpassed Vincent Lecavalier’s franchise record (108 - and in 17 less games) for most points in a season. He is on pace to have the highest-scoring season of any player since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 (161 points). Kucherov currently has 38 goals, 83 assists and 121 points - all but a lock for this season’s Art Ross trophy.

Let’s not forget that the Tampa Bay Lightning boasts an offensive roster that also includes Steven Stamkos (41 goals, 93 points) and Brayden Point (90 points). And Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, etc.

They never slouched on defense either. A core led by Victor Hedman and Dan Girardi held things down in front of star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasileskiy himself is a ridiculous 37-9-0 on the season with six shutouts.

As of five days ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning were listed as a +180 favourite to win the Stanley Cup in 2019.

2. Boston Bruins

At the time of writing, the Boston Bruins are one of only two other NHL teams to have more than 100 points, having 101 across 76 games. In that span, their record is 46-21-9. They are 6-4-0 in their last ten games and, ironically, lost their last outing which was against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

On the topic of contract extension, star defenseman and team captain Zdeno Chara was signed to a one-year extension. Chara will continue to help develop the Bruins of the future for another season - a defense core that includes Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, and Charlie McAvoy.

The Bruins elite have been on their mark as well season which is why they find themselves ranked second behind the Lightning. This season’s Bruins offensive roster boasted Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, David Backes, and Brad Marchand.

The Boston Bruins sit with +800 odds to win the Stanley Cup this season.

3. Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are the favourite to win the Cup this year out of all seven Canadian teams. Their young roster, coached by Bill Peters, is currently ranked first in the Pacific division and are currently the only team in the Western conference with over 100 points this season. Their record at the time of writing is 47-22-7.

After years of hardships and minimal playoff appearances, the Flames have managed to right the ship from the roster all the way up to management. Their drafting over the past few seasons has been noteworthy as they are a team that has created their own superstars via hard work and patience rather than trading big with that “win now” mentality. The Flames have drafted and cultivated such stars as Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, and Sam Bennett.

That being said, the team management must also be lauded for the few trades they did pull together, mostly in the off season. Calgary was able to bolster their blue line with the acquisition of defenseman Noah Hanifin from the Carolina Hurricanes. The addition of James Neal from the Vegas Golden Knights also turned into a big success story for the team that only continues to grow and create a magnificent on-ice chemistry.

The Calgary Flames are currently +750 to win this season’s ultimate prize.

4. San Jose Sharks

Right behind the Calgary Flames, sitting in second place in the Pacific division, are the San Jose Sharks. While still on the topic of trades, it was the Sharks that pulled of what is most likely considered the biggest move of the off-season - and it paid off in dividends considering where they find themselves in the standings right now. Before the start of the season, the Sharks - already boasting a tremendous defensive core that includes Brent Burns, managed to add former Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson to the team. And, although a few nagging injuries have kept him off the ice for a short time, he has still managed 45 points in 52 games.

Karlsson gets added to a roster that would have (arguably) made the playoffs without him. He joins Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the blue line. And the offense - Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and two more new acquisitions in Evander Kane and Gustav Nyquist. Put Martin Jones in net and it was a guarantee that the San Jose Sharks were going to the playoffs this year.

Although currently riding a six game losing streak, the Sharks are expected to bounce back and finish the season strong. The Sharks’ odds to win the Stanley Cup currently sit at a clean +1000.

5. Winnipeg Jets

Canadian fans won’t have to put all their eggs in one basket (the Flames) this year either as the Winnipeg Jets have also secured their playoff ticket. And, like the Flames, suffered and persevered to do so.

The Jets are in first place in the Central division with 94 points and a season record of 45-27-4. After a few seasons of hardship, it all started to click for head coach Paul Maurice and his squad. Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, and Patrik Laine led the charge on offense this season while Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, and Dustin Byufglien held things down on the back end. Add Connor Hellebuyck in between the pipes and a successful trade deadline that saw the addition of Nathan Beaulieu and Kevin Hayes and it’s not hard to see why the Jets are where they are right now.

The Winnipeg Jets finish off this list with +1200 odds at winning Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2019.

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