For the first time in seven years, the Imperial Palace sports book will not host a weekly hockey party. But that doesn’t mean the popular book won’t offer its customers just as many hockey wagering options as it has in the past.
The IP remains the lone Las Vegas outlet that posts a future book on ”˜over/under’ NHL team point totals.
"We won’t be hosting Hockey Wednesday parties at the book anymore," reported IP race and sports director Jay Kornegay. "But it really was more of ESPN continually changing the days of its broadcast more than it was us wanting to drop the promotion.
"We will still try and put as many NHL games on the big screen televisions as we can, and will again offer many hockey bets that other sports books don’t."
The Ottawa Senators top the list with an ”˜over/under’ of 108Â½ points. That shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, considering the club led the league last year with a sparkling 113 points. However, it may be a surprise that the posted point total is 4Â½ points less than the previous campaign.
"If you study the five-year history of teams that lead the league in points, you will notice it is very rare to duplicate outstanding years," commented Kornegay. "And there’s no doubt that Ottawa had an outstanding 2002-03 campaign."
Though the Senators top the point total list, their 8-1 odds to win the Stanley cup are not the best in the league. That honor goes to the Detroit Red Wings at 4-1, with an opening point total of 106Â½.
"The Red Wings certainly lost a powerful offensive force in Sergei Fedorov," said Kornegay. "But they also got Dominik Hasek back from retirement and acquired a top defenseman in Derian Hatcher."
The Colorado Avalanche are second in both point total (107Â½) and odds to win the Cup (5-1) despite the retirement of goalie Patrick Roy. However, the club added a bunch of offense by acquiring free agent forwards Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.
"The Avs will probably win a lot of games by a 7-5 score, added Kornegay. "That’s of course if Kariya and Selanne don’t start complaining about getting enough ice time. That team has so much offense there may not be enough ice time to go around. I am also not convinced that David Aebischer can carry the load in net for an entire season."
The defending champion New Jersey Devils were assigned an opening point total of 103Â½. The Devils are also 6-1 to capture their fourth Cup in the last 10 years.
"Anytime you have someone like Martin Brodeur between the pipes, you have a good chance to win a championship," offered Kornegay.
Brodeur had a sizzling 41-23-9 record last year with a miniscule 2.02 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. It was Brodeur’s fourth straight season with 40 wins or more.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks, last year’s Western Conference representative in the Cup Finals, are an 18-1 long shot this season. In addition, the squad’s opening point total of 91Â½ is 3Â½ points less than last year’s 95 points.
"The addition of free agent forward Sergei Fedorov from the Red Wings will surely help an offense that had trouble scoring in last year’s playoffs," stated Kornegay. "But don’t forget they lost Selanne, and you have to wonder if goalie J.S. Giguere will suffer a sophomore slump."
The Pittsburgh Penguins have the lowest opening point total (68Â½) and the highest odds to win the Cup (100-1). Despite having Mario Lemieux on their team, the Penguins were shut out 10 times last year. In addition, only four teams finished with fewer goals.
The ”˜over-under’ NHL team point totals ”” along with the final point totals from last year ”” appear below. Odds to win this year’s Stanley Cup are in parenthesis.