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Stanley Cup odds: Bookies betting on Lightning, Flames to face off in NHL playoff final

Updated Cup odds: The smart bet is the top team in the East against the best in the West to meet in the Stanley Cup final.

Are you ready for a 15-year reunion of the 2004 Stanley Cup final? It has a certain symmetry to it, with the Lightning the top team in the East and the Flames the best in the West. Plus, it would give us another reason to look back on Martin Gelinas’ controversial no-goal in Game 6, not to mention the epic captain-on-captain Jarome Iginla vs. Vincent Lecavalier fisticuffs throwdown.

Let’s start with the obvious: Tampa Bay has been the class of the league all season, they’re loaded with star power and great depth at all positions, and anything short of a championship will be viewed as a disappointment. That’s a lot to live up to, but they’re plenty capable as well as plenty motivated after three appearances in the East final in the past four years – and a Cup final appearance in 2015 – without a ring to show for it.

The Flames, meanwhile, have gone from missing the playoffs a year ago to a conference title. And that’s impressive. But if you subscribe to the theory that a team has to experience playoff disappointment before it can achieve Stanley Cup success, then you might be leery of Calgary. The Flames can skate and score with anybody, but they’ll have to prove their playoff ruggedness. They’ve got some highlights on defense – Mark Giordano is in the running for the Norris Trophy and Calgary has some fine two-way forwards – but their blueline depth will be tested. Which brings us to the biggest question mark for the Flames: the crease. How will ‘Big Save Dave’ Rittich fare in his first NHL playoff action? And if he falters, can Mike Smith rebound from a season in which he lost the starting job and suddenly become a brick wall in the playoffs?

Of course, there are 14 other teams in the NHL, and given the parity in today’s game, everybody’s got a shot. Here are the updated team-by-team Stanley Cup odds, via online bookmaker BetOnline.ag:

THE FAVORITES
Tampa Bay Lightning 11/4
Calgary Flames 8/1

THE CONTENDERS
Boston Bruins 10/1
San Jose Sharks 10/1
Washington Capitals 10/1
Winnipeg Jets 10/1
St. Louis Blues 12/1
Nashville Predators 14/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 18/1

THE REST OF THE PACK
New York Islanders 20/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 20/1
Vegas Golden Knights 20/1
Carolina Hurricanes 25/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 25/1
Dallas Stars 33/1
Colorado Avalanche 40/1

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