There is nothing better than playoff hockey in the NHL, and starting this Wednesday night with the Game 1 action in the Conference Quarterfinals there will be eight best-of-seven series on the betting board that could go either way no matter what the regular-season records or the current betting odds say.
Bovada has set series prop bet odds for all eight matchups in this opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and my job is to find the best value in the numbers for a series in both the Eastern and Western Conference matchups.
Eastern Conference Top Pick- New York Islanders (+135) vs. Florida Panthers (-155)
The Islanders finished fourth in the Metro Division with 100 points, and they will cross over in the East to face Florida as the top team in the Atlantic Division with 103 points. The main reason why I really like New York to win this series is the tougher level of play within its division. Playing against the likes of Washington, Pittsburgh and the inter-city rival Rangers on a regular basis can go a long way towards getting a solid team like the Islanders ready for postseason play. While Florida did face some stiff competition from in-state rival Tampa Bay for the top spot in the division, the rest of the Atlantic Division was not all that tough.
Both of these teams finished the regular season on a strong note with New York going 6-3-1 in its last 10 games verses a 7-3 run for the Panthers. The Islanders went 3-1 in their last four road games, including wins against the Capitals and the Rangers, and on the year they were 20-16-5 away from home. The ability to win on the road in this series will be huge, so current form is in their favor. The Panthers come into this series with a solid 25-11-5 record at home this season, but they are just 2-7 in their last nine games against a team with a winning record.
Neither team has had much success in the postseason, with New York going a dismal 7-20 in their last 27 games in the opening round of the playoffs verses a 3-8 record for Florida in 11 previous first-round games, but I think this actually works in the Islanders' favor as underdogs in this series.
Western Conference Top Pick- San Jose Sharks (+125) vs. Los Angeles Kings (-145)
This best-of-seven Pacific Division clash gets underway on Thursday with Los Angeles listed as a -135 home favorite in Game 1. Only four points separated these two teams in the final standings, with the Kings posting 102 points on a record of 48-28-6 verses San Jose's 46-30-6 record for 98 total points. Head-to-head in a five-game regular-season series, the Sharks had the 3-2 edge with the road team winning four of the five games.
This whole series could come down to the Sharks' ability to keep winning on the road after going 28-10-3, which was the best road record in the NHL. The Kings did a great job of protecting their home ice at 26-12-3, and they come into this series with an 11-4 record in their last 15 games at the Staples Center.
Another deciding factor will be which high-powered offense can match its performance in the regular season. Behind Joe Pavelski (38 goals) and Joe Thornton (63) assists, San Jose was ranked fourth in the NHL in scoring with 2.9 goals per game. The Kings dropped to 14th in the league in scoring with 2.7 goals a game, but defensively they were third in goals allowed (2.3).
The biggest intangible would have to be each team's past performance in the postseason. The Sharks have a history of early-round exits, while Los Angeles has hoisted the Stanley Cup in two of the past four seasons.
As tempting as it may be to take the favorable moneyline on San Jose given just how closely these two division rivals do match up this year, past success in the playoffs is a huge factor, especially with a proven goalie in Johnathan Quick between the pipes for the Kings.
Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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