Even though there’s always the possibility of it in the playoffs, very few expected the Columbus Blue Jackets, who only managed to sneak into the postseason after going all-in at the trade deadline, to overcome the highly-touted Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, let alone with a 4-0 sweep.

A crazy run to the finish in the Eastern Conference

As it stands, the Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the highest-rated teams left in the playoffs purely because they obliterated what it saw as the strongest team in the league so emphatically. Equally, as surprising as their rise to relevance has been this season, the New York Islanders defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games will have also come as a surprise to many.

As a result, the odds for the winner of the Stanley Cup have been blown wide open, with experts and bookmakers unsure of who will come out on top in the Eastern Conference, and which team will meet them in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now, with these two through, many are starting to back these former underdogs through the use of bonus hockey betting cash. With the recent champions boasting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang gone, as well as the almighty Lightning, the odds for their conquerors, sitting at +550 for the Isles and +600 for Columbus, are starting to look more appealing.

Despite their struggles in the playoffs last season and the strength of the Boston, the young Toronto Maple Leafs have been holding their own against the big, bad Bruins, moving them to +800 odds in the betting to win it all, ahead of the +1300 Bruins three games into the series. The reigning champions, the Washington Capitals, looked to have the Hurricanes under control, but a 5-0 win for the upstart Carolina has pushed the Caps out to +600 with sportsbooks to win the Cup.

Some long series in store in the Western Conference

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Not a single team in the Western Conference will achieve what the Blue Jackets and Islanders have: complete a 4-0 first-round sweep. This has left the odds is disarray, opening many opportunities for those who foresee a comeback or an underdog win.

After some spectacular showings from Marc-Andre Fleury and the team evidently missing Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the San Jose Sharks are on the brink of elimination at 3-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights. The Sharks – a pre-playoffs Western Conference favorite – will need to win at home, in Sin City, and then at the Shark Tank again to pull off the big comeback. If they do, San Jose will have shown the grit of champions, potentially making their current +3500 odds to win the Stanley Cup appealing. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are the joint-favorites at +550.

The ever-surging St. Louis Blues have been going toe-to-toe with the Winnipeg Jets, who were heavily backed pre-playoffs: the two are now at +1300 to win the Cup with the series at 2-2. After a slow start, the Nashville Predators have started to show their class through solid performances defensively, and from Pekka Rinne in net, they lead the series 2-1 but are at surprisingly long odds of +900 to win the Cup. Despite going 2-1 down, the Calgary Flames are believed to be strong enough to overcome the Colorado Avalanche, with the Flames at +1000 and the Avs at +1400.

The elimination of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Pittsburgh Penguins to a lesser extent, has opened up the NHL playoffs in a big way. Now, it’s anyone’s game in the Eastern Conference, and those in the Western Conference will fancy their chances even more now that the main threat has been extinguished. While the first round plays out, the outright odds remain up in the air, creating long-odds opportunities for shrewd bettors.

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