NHL Playoffs Betting: Some Hot Props Predictions
by Matt Severance - 04/14/2009
The National Hockey League drops the puck on the Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday night, and the beauty of the NHL playoffs, as opposed to the NBA, is that the bottom teams can often upset the top teams.
For example, No. 8 seeds are just 3-47 in NBA playoff series since 1984. But a No. 8 upsetting a No. 1 in the NHL is no big deal whatsoever - the last being the 2005-06 Red Wings losing to the Oilers; a No. 8 has beaten a No. 1 seven times in the past 15 years. Last year, the Bruins stretched the No. 1 Canadiens to seven games in the East, and the No. 8 Predators pushed the mighty Red Wings to six games in the West.
Thus you can make some good money on Bodog as to what highest seed will be the first to be ousted. But the oddsmakers at Bodog are wise, as they list the No. 1 seeds as just 2/1 to be upset first. Maybe that's because the Canadiens get the Bruins again, only with the seeds switched from last year. Or because San Jose, No. 1 out West, is a notorious playoff fader (at least once the second round arrives) and faces a very dangerous Ducks squad in Round 1.
Bodog lists the No. 4 seed also at 2/1 to be upset first, while the Nos. 2, 3 and 5 are all at 5/2. That tells you all you need to know about how prevalent upsets are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
I would argue then the two best value upsets might be the No. 7 Rangers over the No. 2 Capitals in the first round in the East and the No. 6 Blues over the No. 3 Canucks out West.
The Rangers and Caps meet in the playoffs for the first time since 1994, and New York won just once in four games against the Capitals this regular season.
But the Blueshirts seemed to turn things around at the end of the season and enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. And they have the major edge in goal. Caps goalie Jose Theodore finished the regular season with a 2.87 goals against average and .900 save percentage, which ranked 36th and 40th in the league, respectively. Meanwhile, New York's Henrik Lundqvist is a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist who posted a 2.43 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. Lundqvist also won a career-high 38 games.
If New York can shadow Alex Ovechkin everywhere he goes, that's a definite upset possibility.
The Blues, meanwhile, are by far the most unlikely playoff participant. Many expected them to be the worst team in the league, and they were the worst out West as late as Feb. 15. St. Louis went 25-9-7 the second half of the season and finished 9-1-1. And the Blues might get back Paul Kariya, who has been out since November, in this series.
For what it's worth, both No. 3 seeds lost in the first round last year and one the year before.
Here are a few other Bodog prop bets, and how the numbers compare to last two Stanley Cup playoffs.
--Over/under four Game 7s in the playoffs: Take the under. There were three Game 7s last year and just one the year before. I would say that the East looks poised to have more potential Game 7s than the West, as the West looks a bit more top-heavy.
--Over/under 24.5 overtime periods in the playoffs: I'd go under here as well. There were 22 overtime periods in last year's playoffs but 26 the year before.
--How many overtime periods will there be in the longest game of the playoffs? Believe it or not, there has been a four-overtime game in each of the past two playoffs. That's a statistical fluke. The majority of multiple-overtime games the past two playoffs have been double-overtime games. That's probably why Two OTs is "favored" along with Three and Four OTs at 2/1. One overtime is at 5/1, but there's a multiple-OT game practically every season, so don't fall into that trap.
Enjoy the start of the NHL playoffs and check back with Doc's all during the Cup run for new odds and stories.