Top 4 NHL Division Rivalries to Watch in 2020

1. San Jose Sharks vs Vegas Golden Knights – Pacific Division

We begin with the newest rivalry on our list. Born within the past two years, once the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league, the Knights and the San Jose Sharks have been intertwined – meeting in the playoffs in both of Vegas’ seasons and going 1-for-1 against each other in those series. Both of those first-round matchups could be considered as the most exciting series of their respective playoff years.

In 2017-18, the teams faced each other for the first time in the Western Conference semifinals. Game one of the series saw the Golden Knights rout the Sharks 7-0. Vegas would go on to defeat the Sharks in six games and would go on to make the Cup finals in their first year as an NHL team. The two teams then battled during the off-season trying to convince elite defenseman Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators to make a trade. Eventually, it was the San Jose Sharks that won the Karlsson sweepstakes. The Knights did not forget.

After a 2019 season that saw the two teams split the regular-season series at two games a piece, Vegas and San Jose would once again meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose would win game one but then drop three games in a row to their opponents – going down in the series 3-1. And then things really went nuts. The Sharks would win game five. They would go on to win game six as well – this time in double overtime and with a 58 save performance by goaltender Martin Jones. Game seven then turned into something you could only write about in a movie. When down 3-0, the Sharks received a controversial major penalty in their favour as captain Joe Pavelski was cross checked in the face. Vegas argued the call but to no avail and the Sharks would go on to score four goals on the powerplay, going up 4-3. With 47 seconds left, however, the Vegas Golden Knights would tie the game and the teams were headed to overtime in game seven. Less than two minutes into the extra frame, fourth-liner Barclay Woodrow would score the game-winner, giving San Jose the 5-4 win and the 4-3 series victory. But Vegas has not forgotten about that penalty call either.

2020 Stanley Cup: Odds

Both teams head in 2020 mostly intact as the same teams they were last season. Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel will play their first full seasons in Vegas after being traded from Ottawa last year. Erik Karlsson will play the first season of his new eight-year contract extension with San Jose. The current odds to win the Stanley Cup 2020 have the San Jose Sharks at +1700 and the Vegas Golden Knights having the second-highest chance after the Tampa Bay Lightning at +1000.

If you reside in New Jersey, you can bet on NHL futures here:

TeamStanley Cup 2020 Championship WinnerLink
VGS Golden Knights+1000Bet Now
SJ Sharks+1700Bet Now

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2. New Jersey Devils vs New York Rangers – Metropolitan Division

Arguably the two NHL clubs that have seen the most changes this off-season have been the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. All in all, those changes have been for the better for both teams. Although both teams finished in the league basement last season, there are no teams better poised to put up spectacular comeback seasons in 2020. Finishing in the bottom allowed these teams to select first- and second overall in this year’s entry-level draft – a draft that was one of the most talent-rich drafts in recent years. With those two picks, the New Jersey Devils selected American-born Jack Hughes first-overall and the Rangers followed suit by selecting Finnish-born player Kaapo Kakko.

To go along with the addition of Jack Hughes to their roster, the New Jersey Devils also managed to add all-star forward Wayne Simmonds, exciting prospect Nikita Gusev, and Norris-winning defenseman P.K. Subban. Adding players of that caliber to the existing roster made up of talent such as Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, and 2017 first-overall pick Nico Hischier is going to pose problems all over the ice for any team the Devils face.

One team that may be better prepared for the new-and-improved Devils, however, could be the new-and-improved New York Rangers. As mentioned earlier, the Rangers selected Kaapo Kakko second-overall this year and in Kakko, the Rangers gained a large-bodied, speedy forward who will absolutely be NHL ready for the start of the 2020 season.

But Kakko was hardly the only new addition to the team that will bring an immediate impact with him. The Rangers traded for elite defenseman Jacob Trouba at the trade deadline last season. He was then signed to a multi-year extension by the team and will play his first full season as a Ranger in 2019-20. The Rangers also managed to land the largest fish in the free agency pool this past July. Former Columbus Blue Jacket Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year deal with the Rangers. Panarin had 87 points in 79 games last season and has 320 career points in 322 games played.

Odds

These two teams first met on October 8, 1982. In 1994, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. In 1995, the Devils did. The teams have been butting heads all the way up to their meeting in the Eastern Conference finals in 2012. Since then, the fierceness between the two teams seemed to have leveled off. Now the stage has been set for the Hudson River rivalry to be more relevant than ever before. At the time of writing, oddsmakers have given the slight edge to the New Jersey Devils this season as +2000 to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers are listed just behind them at +3000.

TeamStanley Cup 2020 Championship WinnerLink
NJ Devils+2000Bet Now
NY Rangers+3000Bet Now

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3. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins – Atlantic Division

The most storied rivalry on our list began on December 3, 1924. Over the span of their Original Six existences, the two teams have met on NHL ice 757 times with Boston having a winning record of 341-317-99 over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have met in the playoffs 16 times – including facing off against each other for the 1939 Stanley Cup which the Bruins took in a 4-1 series. It’s due to these playoff matchups (and maybe that pesky 2005 Tuuka Rask trade) that the rivalry between these two teams has heated up in recent years and makes these two teams exciting to watch even during the regular season.

Since the 2013 playoffs, the Boston Bruins have been the thorn in Toronto’s side – much like how Toronto is the thorn in the side of Ottawa when it comes to playoff games in the Battle of Ontario. Over the last six years, Toronto and Boston have gone head-to-head three times. In 2013, 2018, and 2019 they met in the first round of the playoffs. All three series went to a game seven and Boston won all of them. The most heart-breaking of these Toronto defeats came in 2013 when Toronto had a 4-1 lead over the Bruins with just ten minutes left to play in game seven. However, the Bruins would tie the game in stunning fashion and eventually score the game-winner in overtime. The year 2018 would bring much of the same, as the Leafs were once again defeated in game seven of the first-round – this time by a blowout score of 7-4. The immediate rematch was set last season as Toronto and Boston were once again poised to meet in the first round. Leafs’ fans were hungry for revenge. After going up 3-2 in the series, the Leafs then lost the final two games in a row to Boston – including a crushing 5-1 loss in game seven. Boston went on the make it to the Stanley Cup finals.

According to the most recent odds, a first-round meeting between these two teams in the 2020 playoffs seems entirely plausible. It’s safe to say that the Maple Leafs will bring fire and fury to each of their four regular-season games next season but all eyes will be on the playoffs. For the third year in a row, oddsmakers have the Bruins and the Leafs finishing in the standings at seeds 2 and 3 respectively in the Atlantic division. Should that happen, they will meet in the first round for the fourth time in seven years.

Odds

Both teams are evenly matched heading into the 2020 season. Both are expected to break the 100-point marker and both teams are listed within the top-six (at the time of writing) teams with the best odds of winning the Stanley Cup next year. 888sport.com has the Boston Bruins listed as +1150 and the Toronto Maple Leafs at +1500.

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BOS Bruins+1150Bet Now
TOR Maple Leafs+1500Bet Now

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4. St. Louis Blues vs the entire Central Division – Central Division

The defending Stanley Cup champions will have their hands full as every single team in the Central division will be coming in guns blazing to take that title away from the Blues. Arguably the division that has seen the most off-season change (so far), teams such as the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, and the Colorado Avalanche have made significant roster changes that should give the defending Cup champs trouble all season long. Whoever turns out to be the winner of the Central division title in 2020 should be considered the favorite to represent the Western Conference in next year’s Stanley Cup final. The St. Louis Blues’ roster will look mostly the same as it did in 2019 and you can’t blame them for that. They won it all. But in 2020 they are not going up against the same teams. If the Blues started slowly last season, they could be in for an even bumpier ride next year.

The Nashville Predators finished the last two seasons ahead of the Blues in the standings. Although they lost defenseman P.K. Subban, the Preds landed all-star forward Matt Duchene during this year’s free agency period. They also reached new deals with up-and-coming stars such as Colton Sissons. Their younger roster also comes into the 2020 season with another year of the regular season and playoff experience and those players continue to develop at an incredible pace. Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Roman Josi continue to shine and impress playing alongside NHL vets such as Ryan Johansson, Mikael Granlund, and Kyle Turris. It also never hurts to have Pekka Rinne in your net.

The Dallas Stars are another team that saw a lot of change and they are another young roster that is about to be reinvigorated by some all-star quality experience. During the free agency period this off-season, the Stars signed not one, but two NHL veterans: Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. They lost Jason Spezza, but that leadership role was definitely filled – especially by Pavelski who is a former team captain of the San Jose Sharks. These players just add to the Stars’ already incredibly dangerous offense that includes Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov as well as young star John Klingberg on defense. Ben Bishop isn’t too bad of a goaltender either.

Other division rivals also made significant roster changes. The Minnesota Wild signed Mats Zuccarello last month as a free agent. The Chicago Blackhawks landed last year’s Vezina trophy finalist goaltender Robin Lehner. The Arizona Coyotes added offensive powerhouse Phil Kessel to their team. And the Winnipeg Jets, who took the Blues to six games in last year’s first-round, added defenseman Neal Pionk.

Odds

But the most dangerous rival for the Blues in 2020 will be the Colorado Avalanche. At the time of writing, the Avalanche are ranked three spots ahead of the Blues in the odds to win the Stanley Cup. Oddsmakers also have Colorado listed as the favorites to take the Central division title. Already sporting one of the best offensive lines in the league, made up of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche added plenty more to worry about – not just for the Blues but for the entire NHL. Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky were added to Colorado’s offensive core during the off-season and, defensively, the Avs have one of the best young groups in the league, boasting talent such as Cale Makar, Eric Johnson, and 2019 first-round draft pick Bowen Byram. The Avalanche are listed at +1400.

Respectively, the Nashville Predators also sit at +1400. The Dallas Stars are +1700. The Arizona Coyotes sit at +3000 and the Blackhawks at +4000. The Minnesota Wild are +4500. The defending champs, the Blues, are sitting at +1600.

TeamStanley Cup 2020 Championship WinnerLink
NSH Predators+1400Bet Now
DAL Stars+1700Bet Now
ARI Coyotes+3000Bet Now
CHI Blackhawks+4000Bet Now

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