Dan Favale | Tue 10/04/2018 - 04:27 EDT

Predictions for Every NHL First-Round Playoff Series

Predictions for Every NHL First-Round Playoff Series
The postseason is a special time in every major professional sport, but to be honest, there's something about the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs that just stands out. While there is a clear pecking order entering each and every round, the generally low-scoring nature of hockey allows for razor-thin margins of error. Goliaths fall to Davis all the time. And whenever there's the potential for upsets in volume, you cannot help but be in intrigued. With this in mind, we offer our picks for each of the NHL's first-round matchups. Get ready for one of the most exciting times of the year!

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff odds for the first series come via TopBet and are accurate as of Monday, April 10. These lines won’t move much, if at all, prior to the opening face-off of Game 1, but they will shift after each and every matchup thereafter. Make sure you’re double-checking them, then, before placing your wagers.

Eastern Conference Series

East


Philadelphia Flyers (+220) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (-180)

The Pittsburgh Penguins are not heavy favorites in this series by mistake. They finished third in the Eastern Conference in total goals scored and rattled off 45 wins in non-shootout situations—fourth-most in the conference as well.

Though the Philadelphia Flyers have turned some heads with their defense, and while Claude Giroux is tied for the league lead in assists, they don’t really have the offensive firepower to hang in this one unless Pittsburgh’s own offense goes completely cold.

The Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins (-180)


Toronto Maple Leafs (+125) vs. Boston Bruins (-155)

This will be one of the most interesting matchups through the first round.

The Boston Bruins are high-octane scoring and efficiency married together. Not only are they fourth in the East in total goals scored, but they have the fourth-best points percentage—total points scored divided by maximum possible points—in the entire NHL.

Still, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a scary underdog. Their shot accuracy isn’t quite as high, but they placed second in total goals scored in the conference. They also have the third-stingiest defense in the East, which conveniently stands up to the Bruins’ conference-best stopping power between the posts.

Don’t be surprised if this one goes the distance. Also don’t be surprised if and when the Maple Leafs take it.

The Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs (+125)


New Jersey Devils (+240) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (-320)

According to Hockey-Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS)—which uses strength of schedule and point differential to assign rankings to teams—the Tampa Bay Lightning enter the playoffs as the NHL’s third-most dangerous team. 

The New Jersey Devils? Well, they barely register as playoff worthy. They’re neck and neck with the Florida Panthers, who missed out on clinching a berth by a single point.

It doesn’t take much to be swayed by the Lightning here. They led the NHL in goals by almost a 20-score margin and sport one of the eight best even-strength defenses in the entire league.

The Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning (-320)


Columbus Blue Jackets (+110) vs. Washington Capitals (-140)

While many of the numbers will suggest that this series should be a coin toss, it actually feels a little surprising that the Washington Capitals aren’t heavier favorites.

Alex Ovechkin once again led the NHL in both total goals and, equally impressive, goals per game. Washington as a whole is averaging over six scores per contest, more than one-quarter more than the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That differential can mean a lot over the course of a seven-game series. Get ready for a lot of 4-3 and 5-4 final scores, but the Capitals controlled this rivalry during the regular season, winning three of the four tilts. The outcome of this playoff set should be reflective of that performance.

The Pick: Washington Capitals (-140)


Western Conference

west


San Jose Sharks (+105) vs. Anaheim Ducks (-135)

Talk about your nearly dead-even clashes.

The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have nearly identical regular-season winning percentages and extremely similar point differentials. They rank 10th and 11th, respectively, in SRS. The Ducks won the season series 3-1, but three of the four meetups went to a shootout.

This series may last a while.

The one key difference, though? The Sharks can actually be trusted to make the most of a power play.

The Pick: San Jose Sharks (+105)


Colorado Avalanche (+350) vs. Nashville Predators (-500)

Only two teams in the NHL—Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning—notched a higher goal differential than the Nashville Predators. The idea that they might fall to a Colorado Avalanche squad that didn’t even crack the top 15 in total points during the regular season isn’t just laughable.

It’s ludicrous.

The Pick: Nashville Predators (-500)


Los Angeles Kings (+110) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (+140)

Do not underestimate the Vegas Golden Knights. Expansion teams don’t normally make playoff noise so early into their existence, but they’re set up to be an exception.

Just one team in the Western Conferences put through more goals during the regular season, and no one in the conference tallied more points while playing at even strength. The Los Angeles Kings can be scrappy; no team in the NHL kills a higher percentage of its penalties. 

And yet, their biggest concern isn’t just surviving shorthanded stints. The Knights are going to keep coming at them when playing at full strength. They have a shooting percentage of 10—a stout mark—and one of the league’s three leading scorers in Williams Karlsson. 

Despite the ostensibly close nature of this sparring, the Knights could feasibly put this best-of-seven set to bed in five games.

The Pick: Vegas Golden Knights (+140)


Minnesota Wild (+170) vs. Winnipeg Jets (-220)

Betting on the Minnesota Wild in this series holds very little appeal. The Winnipeg Jets own the second-largest goal differential in the NHL, and SRS views them as the league’s absolute best team.

If that doesn’t do it for you, the fact that they took the season series against the Wild 3-1 should.

And if that still, for some reason, doesn’t do it for you, knowing the Jets employ both the second-highest goal scorer (Patrik Laine) and second-best assist man (Blake Wheeler) in the NHL absolutely should.

The Pick: Winnipeg Jets (-220)


*All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference and are accurate leading into the start of the NHL’s first round unless otherwise cited.

Category : Sports Betting News

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