Our team odds for the Stanley Cup
The odds are out from the various legal sports books and online sites, and they generally quote the Red Wings and Sharks as co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup, at around 7-2.
Perhaps there are already yells from fans of other teams about the oddsmakers' showing them "no respect." But the oddsmakers don't worry about "predicting" anything other than the wagering patterns of the public, and then adjusting their odds if it turns out their initial guesses were wrong.
Plus, any cursory crunching of the numbers will show that if the odds are converted to percentages, they'll add up to considerably more than 100. Among other things, it usually means bettors aren't getting long enough odds on the true long shots.
Cases in point: In pure mathematical terms, 7-2 should translate into a 22 percent chance of winning.
So you want true odds? Even that will point out one of the NHL's strengths. In the NBA, for example, true odds would have the Celtics, Cavaliers and Lakers all at something along the lines of 5-2 and everyone else at 80-1. In the NHL, at least 10 teams have a legitimate shot this season, and there are many reminders -- as when eighth-seeded Edmonton pushed Carolina to a seventh game in the 2006 Cup finals -- that the unlikely is possible.
This isn't about advancing, or making the finals, but about winning the Cup. And the percentages add up to 100. There will be no giving it 110 percent in this rundown.
Boston Bruins: 4-1, or 20.0 percent
Part of this is based on the assumption that if the Sharks and Red Wings make the Western Conference finals, the winner will be more drained -- at least marginally so, and every little bit helps in the testing postseason -- than the team coming out of the East. If that's the tremendously balanced Bruins, I like their chances ... and their chances of holding up their end of Boston's attempt to become the first market ever to have NBA and NHL champions in the same season.
And after it's over, Zdeno Chara -- who should be a lock for the Norris Trophy, by the way -- could be a power forward in the NBA Finals and make Kobe Bryant pay for going to the net a few times.
Detroit Red Wings: 5-1, or 16.7 percent
The defending champs still are the best team. Hands down. Masterfully constructed, with all the complementary elements from breathtaking talent to the dues-payers.
With that goaltending?
Well, as shaky as Chris Osgood has been much of the season, the man has been good enough to be the No. 1 guy on two Cup champions, and that still says something. It involves resiliency, shaking off the bad nights and coming through in prime time. Osgood was strong a year ago, and I wouldn't rule it out happening again. But by not making the Wings at least a co-favorite, I'm acknowledging Osgood and/or Ty Conklin have to be a lot better than they were in the regular season.
San Jose Sharks: 6-1, or 14.3 percent
Coach Todd McLellan came over from the Wings and did a great job, but it will fade into irrelevancy if the Sharks don't erase the image of playoff underachievers they had during Ron Wilson's reign. Banged up down the stretch, they got Patrick Marleau, Mike Grier, Claude Lemieux (!) and Rob Blake back in the lineup late and seem ready to go, but the first-round test against the Anaheim Ducks will be a potential minefield.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 11-1, or 8.3 percent
For all the attrition they suffered in the offseason and all their early-season struggles, they've got their act together and are capable of knocking off the Bruins somewhere along the line to make a repeat trip to the finals.
Calgary Flames: 13-1, or 7.1 percent
No, they didn't win the division after the Canucks overtook them, but Jarome Iginla's leadership -- on multiple levels -- and Miikka Kiprusoff's potential reawakening are among the reasons the Flames are the prime candidates to be able to pounce if the Red Wings and Sharks falter.
New Jersey Devils: 14-1, or 6.7 percent
They not only survived, but also thrived, during Martin Brodeur's absence, and the difference-maker is back. Zach Parise deserves more of the league spotlight than he has gotten.
Washington Capitals: 17-1, or 5.6 percent
If Alex Ovechkin's exuberance after scoring regular-season goals sets off some folks, it will be interesting to see what he would have in store for the Stanley Cup. The big question is whether Jose Theodore will be the so-so goalie he was in the regular season or the brick wall he was in the first round for Colorado against Minnesota last season.
Vancouver Canucks: 19-1, or 5.0 percent
They were a 53-point team in the second half, which included a stretch without Roberto Luongo and a temporary rut in the first week of April. Luongo can steal a series or two, but now we're getting into lightning-striking (not Lightning) territory.
Anaheim Ducks: 24-1, or 4.0 percent
If they get past the Sharks in the first-round, the picture changes considerably. This will be a sleeping giant awakened.
Carolina Hurricanes: 27-1, or 3.6 percent
The blazing finish makes them a tempting long shot.
Philadelphia Flyers: 35-1, or 2.8 percent
They blew the opportunity for home-ice advantage and didn't look good down the stretch.
Chicago Blackhawks: 49-1, or 2.0 percent
Wait 'til next year ... and then look out.
New York Rangers: 51-1, or 1.9 percent
One thing we know: Chris Drury will score some clutch goals.
Montreal Canadiens: 99-1, or 1.0 percent
Bob Gainey shouldn't have yanked the rug out from under Guy Carbonneau.
St. Louis Blues: 199-1, or 0.5 percent
Andy Murray should be coach of the year for keeping this team from falling completely apart during the injury run, using it to discover which of the kids could play, and then guiding them through a stirring rally to make the postseason.
Columbus Blue Jackets: 199-1, or 0.5 percent
The Ohio capital gets a look at the playoffs, but a short-lived one.
Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His books include "Third Down and a War to Go" and the upcoming "The Witch's Season." He can be reached at email@example.com.
2009 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
The Stanley Cup playoffs kick off Wednesday. Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and the rest of our NHL team preview the first round: