NHL Playoffs Picks: First-Round Series Odds and Predictions
by George Monroy - 4/15/2014
The NHL has just finished up what might be one of its most competitive seasons in recent memory. Heading into the playoffs, which begin on Wednesday, there are no less than eight teams will legitimate hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup in June, and there are a few others that have the talent to make a deep postseason run. The most intriguing part of the 2014 NHL Playoffs, however, will be how the division realignments and new playoff formant will affect each team.
The NHL decided to shake its structure up quite a bit by employing a mini division tournament to open up the playoffs. The top three teams from each division plus a wild card entrant will compete against each other for the first two rounds of the playoffs, before the winners move on to the conference finals. In some instances the new format ensures tougher first-round matchups for certain teams. Let's take a closer look at the series odds and Game 1 lines for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All odds come from BetOnline.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Series Price : Lightning -118; Canadiens -102
Game 1 Lines : Lightning -130; Canadiens +118; Total: 5 goals
Start Time : April 16, 7:05 p.m. EST
This is one of those matchups where the new format hurts a team that would have hosted a first-round series in the old structure. In the traditional format Montreal would be a four seed and host a first-round series against Philadelphia. However, the team is a third seed in its division and will now travel to Tampa Bay in a series against the Lightning. The Canadiens struggled against Tampa Bay all season, and that trend will probably continue.
Prediction : Tampa Bay in six
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Series Price : Penguins -280; Blue Jackets +235
Game 1 Lines : Penguins -184; Blue Jackets +167; Total: 5.5 goals
Start Time : April 16, 7:35 PM, EST
The Penguins swept the season series against Columbus and won three of the games by multiple goals. Sidney Crosby and company are the fifth-highest scoring team in the league, while Columbus is the 13th-ranked defensive squad for goals allowed. Pittsburgh will be looking to get redemption for last year's disappointing playoff exit in the conference finals, and nothing short of a Stanley Cup title appearance will be enough for the team.
Prediction : Pittsburgh in four
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Series Price : Ducks -195; Stars +170
Game 1 Lines : Ducks -190; Stars +172; Total: 5.5 goals
Start Time : April 16, 10:05 p.m., EST
Anaheim was a monster all season, and through certain stretches it looked absolutely unbeatable. The team ended up with the second most points in the league-a point behind Boston-and ended the season ranked in the top nine in both goals scored (first) and goals allowed (ninth).
Prediction : Anaheim in five
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Series Price : Rangers -145; +125
Game 1 Lines : Rangers -143; Flyers +130; Total: 5 goals
Start Time : April 17, 7:05 p.m., EST
New York spent the year playing inconsistent hockey while struggling to score goals on the offensive end. This is a matchup that Philadelphia can win. The Flyers scored the eight-most goals in the league this season, while New York was ranked 18th. If Rangers' goaltender Henrik Lundqvist struggles at any point in this series, New York will be in huge trouble.
Prediction : Philadelphia in 6
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Series Price : Blues -115; Blackhawks -105
Game 1 Lines : Blues -125; Blackhawks +114; Total: 5.5 goals
Start Time : April 17, 8:05 p.m., EST
This matchup is probably the reason why the NHL decided to change playoff format and have division powerhouses clash in the first round. St. Louis versus Chicago will be a must-watch matchup as two excellent title contenders face off in the opening round. Chicago struggled a bit during the final months of the season, while St. Louis remained one of the most consistent teams on both offense and defensive in the entire NHL. The Blues also made a huge trade late in the season to pick up former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller-which will probably be the difference in this series.
Predictions : St. Louis in seven
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
Series Price : Avalanche -135; Wild +115
Game 1 Lines : Avalanche -144; Wild +131; Total: 5 goals
Start Time : April 17, 9:35 p.m., EST
Colorado ended the season with the second-most points in the Western Conference-right behind Anaheim-but are still only a small favorite over wild card entrant Minnesota. Colorado's lack of experience and rookie head coach may be the reason why the team is not getting much respect from the oddsmakers. The Avalanche, however, are an excellent offensive squad and dropped only one game in the season series against Minnesota.
Prediction : Colorado in five
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Series Price : Sharks -145; Kings +125
Game 1 Lines : Sharks -152; Kings +138; Total: 5 goals
Start Time : April 17, 10:35 p.m., EST
This matchup is another huge first-round series between two 100-point teams. Los Angeles has been extremely inconsistent all season and fluctuated from looking like a championship team to losing 16 of 21 games in January. The series will pit the first- and fifth-ranked defensive teams in the NHL and will probably be a grind-out war between the squads. The difference in this series will be on offense, where San Jose is ranked sixth in goals scored, while Los Angeles is ranked 26th.
Predictions : San Jose in five
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
Series Price : Bruins -305; Red Wings +255
Game 1 Lines : Bruins -195; Red Wings +177; Total: 5 goals
Start Time : April 18, 7:35 p.m., EST
Boston is currently receiving the best Stanley Cup title odds at BetOnline and is the best team in the NHL in the eyes of the oddsmakers. The squad finished the year ranked third in goals scored, second in goals allowed, third in power-play percentage and eighth in penalty kill percentage. The Bruins are a powerhouse and will not be challenged until a potential Eastern Conference Finals series against Pittsburgh.
Prediction : Bruins in five
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