NHL Playoffs Betting: Handicapping the Most Dangerous Lower Seeds
by George Monroy - 4/10/2014
The new NHL playoff format , beginning for the first time this postseason, is set to complicate things in both conferences and set up a slate of tougher matchups from the very first round of the playoffs. Teams will now play a mini tournament within their own division before moving on to the conference finals, and those squads in tougher divisions-the Atlantic or Central-will now have to face a stiffer set of opponents earlier in the playoffs than usual.
The changes might be a refreshing new take on the old playoff format, and they will have Western Conference powerhouses matching up during the very first round. There are only a few games left in the season, so now is the time to take a closer at a few of the lower-seeded teams and figure out which squads have the most potential for an upset. All odds come from Sportsbook.ag.
Los Angeles Kings; Western Conference Odds: +600
In the old playoff formant the Kings would probably end up a six seed, but they are now in the third position in the Pacific Division and face a potential first-round matchup against the San Jose Sharks. Los Angeles is an elite defensive squad and has been ranked first in goals allowed for the majority of the season. The Sharks are a solid offensive team, but the Kings should be able to slow them down.
The Kings also have made a championship run from the lower seeds and will be a very dangerous matchup for any squad they face. If Los Angeles pulls off the upset, it will face a potential showdown against a cross-town rival in the Anaheim Ducks. The good new for Los Angeles is that it would only have to play one of the three-headed monsters that is the Central Division as Chicago, Colorado and St. Louis would all have to battle each other first.
Chicago Blackhawks; Title Odds: +350
The defending Stanley Cup Champions would have been a five seed in the old format and will be a three seed in the Central Division playoff bracket. It's a testament to how talented the Western Conference is this season that a very good Blackhawks team could end the year with over 108 points and still be only the fifth-ranked squad in the conference.
Chicago is scheduled for a first-round matchup against the Colorado Avalanche and would have to take the best scoring offense in the NHL on the road for the series. Chicago is solid defensively and allowed only 2.5 goals per game this season, but its strength has been on the offensive end all year. If the squad manages to pull off the upset, it would then face the St. Louis Blues and its third-ranked defense in the second round.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Eastern Conference Odds: +800
Tampa Bay is another one of those squads that is getting shafted with the new playoff format. In the old format, the Lightning would be a fourth seed and have home-ice during the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they are currently in the third spot in the Atlantic Division and will have to go on the road against tough Montreal squad.
Tampa Bay managed to win the season series against the Canadiens 3-1 and is in a prime position to pull of the first-round upset. The squad is ranked ninth in goals scored with an average of 2.8 and has been solid on power plays all season.
Columbus Blue Jackets : EC Odds: +2500
The Blue Jackets are one of the few teams that lucked out with the new playoff format. The squad has the fewest playoff points and would normally have played the top-ranked team in the East, but in the new format it will play the second-seeded team, the Pittsburgh Penguins-which, to be honest, is not much of an improved situation.
Columbus did not match up well against Pittsburgh this season, but it continues to be an excellent team and may be able to catch fire during the postseason. The Blue Jackets have won four of their last five matchups and allowed only seven goals during that span. Columbus only has two games left on its schedule and may be heading into the playoffs with a world of momentum.
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