Penguins Chase Third Straight Title
The NHL playoffs are different this year.
Can the Pittsburgh Penguins win a third straight Stanley Cup and their fourth in the last 10 years?
Does the fairy tale expansion season for the Vegas Golden Knights have a happy ending?
Can the Nashville Predators become only the third club in the 13-year salary cap era to capture both the regular season and postseason titles?
These questions and more will be answered in the next six weeks or so as the playoffs get underway with eight best-of-seven series set to start this week.
Let’s take a look at all eight first-round matchups and try to pick a winner in each series (odds provided by TopBet).
Devils Swept Season Series
The Eastern Conference champions were among the preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They’re ranked No. 2 right now. Both teams missed the playoffs last year. The Devils swept the season series against the Lightning, winning three one-goal games.
VGB’s pick — New Jersey (+220)
Two Of League’s Top Six Teams
This promises to be a close series, with the Leafs winning three of four games in the season series against their division rivals. Toronto had the sixth-best record in the NHL this season, while Boston was fourth. Both teams were among the league leaders on the power play.
VGB’s pick — Toronto (+125)
Metro Champs Should Oust Jackets
The Capitals are notorious for piling up wins in the regular season and then underachieving in the playoffs. This might happen again this season for the Metro Division champions, but not against Columbus. The Blue Jackets lost three-of-four to the Capitals during the regular season.
VGB’s pick — Washington (-175)
Flyers Winless Against Penguins
These two longtime rivals were only separated by two points in the standings, and yet the Penguins swept all four games in the season series. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel finished in the top 10 in league scoring for Pittsburgh, while Claude Giroux was second overall for Philadelphia.
VGB’s pick — Pittsburgh (-220)
Predators Huge Series Favorites
The Predators are the biggest favorites to win their first-round series. The Avalanche may have the best player in the series in Nathan McKinnon, but the Preds have everything else. Nashville lost the Stanley Cup final last season 4-2, but won all four games against Colorado this season.
VGB’s pick — Nashville (-320)
Wild Limp Into Postseason
The Wild, who limp into the playoffs with some key injuries, lost three-of-four to the Jets in the season series. Thirteen Jets have played in four postseason games or less, but Winnipeg finished second overall in the league standings. Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine will be tough to stop for the Jets.
VGB’s pick — Winnipeg (-200)
First Playoffs For Golden Knights
No team allowed fewer goals in the Western Conference this season than the Kings (203) — 25 less than the Golden Knights. The teams tied 2-2 in the season series with five or six total goals scored in each game. This promises to be a close series, but the Golden Knights have the edge on home ice.
VGB’s pick — Vegas (-145)
Ducks Winless Against Sharks
The Ducks have reached two of the past three Western Conference finals, while the Sharks played for the Stanley Cup just two years ago. Both teams have surged into the playoffs since the NHL trade deadline, but both are also missing key players with injuries. The Sharks won the season series 3-0-1.
VGB’s pick — San Jose (+110)
Format For NHL Playoffs
The NHL realigned into a four-division, two-conference system for the 2013-14 season. The top three teams in each division and two wild card teams from each conference make the postseason for a total of 16 playoff teams.
The Stanley Cup playoffs consist of four rounds of best-of-seven series with the team with the best record having home-ice advantage.
In the first round, the eight teams in each conference are split into two separate brackets by division. Each bracket consists of the top three divisional qualifiers and one of the wild cards.
The lower seeded wild card plays against the division winner with the best record while the other wild card plays against the other division winner, and both wild cards are No. 4 seeds. The other two series match the second- and third-place teams from each division.
Alternative Bets For NHL Playoffs
For each and every playoff game, online sites like Bovada offer alternative betting options from the standard money line, puck line and over/under totals.
There are betting lines on the first period, whether the game will end in a tie in regulation, which team will be the first to score? You can even predict the exact margin of victory and whether the total goals scored will be odd or even.
There are dozens of options with huge favorites and gigantic long shots. Hopefully, goaltender interference won’t spoil your ticket.
VGB’s Top 10 NHL Teams
(Current odds to win the Stanley Cup listed after team record. Odds provided by Bovada.)
- Nashville (53-18-11) +375 — Phenomenal record on the road (25-9-7).
- Tampa Bay (54-23-5) +600 — Finish with highest goal differential (+60).
- Boston (50-20-12) +550 — Miss conference title with loss in last game.
- Winnipeg (52-20-10) +800 — Won five straight, hottest team in West.
- Toronto (49-26-7) +1100 — Second in league on the power play (24.9%).
- Vegas (51-24-7) +750 — Karlsson, Marchessault top two in plus-minus.
- Washington (49-26-7) +1100 — Ovechkin leads NHL with most goals (49).
- Pittsburgh (47-29-6) +1000 — Pens have three of league’s top 10 scorers.
- Anaheim (44-25-13) +2000 — Won five straight to finish second in Pacific.
- Minnesota (45-26-11) +3000 — Wild great at home, mediocre on the road.