The NHL has argueably the most exciting playoffs of any of the 4 major sports. Every game is close, the game is faster and the games are chippier. It will be very interesting to see how teams adjust to the neutral ice format. Teams like Nashville, Winnipeg and Vegas are going to miss their electric playoff atmospheres. This league’s playoffs are going to be a wild ride a it’s going to be mayhem. Let’s get into the matchups in the first round round robin.
East – Played in Toronto
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
This match up on paper should be a run away for Toronto but I don’t think it’s as lopsided as it should be. Toronto’s top forwards of John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner are up there as the nastiest trios in the league and they have a solid rest of the roster. Columbus had one of the most unfortunate off seasons before this year losing their two best players Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky and the team was expected to be one of the worst in the league but the Jackets ended up being one of the toughest teams to play. I think the Jackets have a much better coach in John Tortorella who has done a great job since getting to Columbus while Toronto is dealing with a new coach in Sheldon Keefe. I think the break helped Toronto more than maybe any other team because of how disappointing the Leafs record is at this point. Helping their new coach get situated with his team and Toronto not having to change locations is a big deal, sleeping in your own bed is much better than a hotel. I like the Leafs to pull this series out but it’ll be closer than people think. Leafs in 4 but they’re going to be close and very high scoring.
Betting trends to follow: Over Total, Blue Jackets Team Total over
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadians
This series is gonna be a rout. Maybe Carey Price can stand on his head and give the Canadians a chance but I cannot bet against the pens and Sidney Crosby. The pens are good top to bottom lead by Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin this series should be quick and Pittsburgh shouldn’t sweat it that much at all. Pens in 4 only because it’s the NHL playoffs and Carey Price might just mess around and get 50 saves and pull out one game. The pens are clearly better top to bottom.
Betting trends to follow: Game Goal Total under, Pittsburgh puckline (-1.5)
New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
This series could be the best and closest in the East bubble. The Islanders can put up goals lead by Andres Lee and Matt Barzal and their defese is one of the better in their divison. The Panthers haven’t had much success in thier short life span but they are one of the underrated teams in the east to me. New goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and 3 time stanley cup champion coach Joel Queenvile behind the bench makes Florida a dark horse team. A top 6 lead by Alex Barkov who is one of the smoothest players in the game. I like the coaching advantage here for Florida but I think the Islanders pull this one out in a close series. Islanders in 5 and every game is going to be be close.
Betting trends to follow: Game Goal Total under, Islanders Moneyline
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers
This is the series where you would say “well the only reason the Rangers are in is because of the expanded playoffs” and you’d be right to say that because that’s exactly what happened. I think the Rangers are going to make the most of this opportunity. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are superstars and they are my deciding factor when picking them to pull this series out. Carolina is a very good team but I don’t think they can recreate the magic that they had last year and I don’t think they have a true go to guy to get a goal when it counts which is huge in the playoffs. I think the goal tending advantage for New York is pretty sizable with 3 goalies that can all play. My pick is the Rangers upset the Canes in a close series, Rangers in 5.
Betting trends: Ranger TT Over, Ranger ML
West – played in Edmonton
Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets
I love the Jets here. I think they match up up with Calgary better than most teams in the west. The Winnipeg should be able to use their size to wear down the young guns of the Flames. The Jets top 6 is up there in the west and with Vezina Trophy nominee Connor Hellebuyck between the pipes I think the jets pull this one out in 4.
Betting trends to follow: Flames team total under, game total over
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers
This series is going to go one of two ways. Option one: Edmonton sprints laps around the Hawks and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl show the world why they are the two best players in the league playing arguably the worst defensive team in the league. The other way this could go is that Patrick Kane, Jonathon Teows and Duncan Keith show us why they have 3 rings together. This is going to be experience versus pure skill. Kane is arguably the greatest american born player ever while McDavid has been one of the best, if not the best since he’s stepped on the ice as a rookie. As much as I love the Blackhawks and as much as I want to believe that they will have a real shot at this, I just can’t pick them to win. Their defense is the worst in the league and if Corey Crawford can’t play they are in serious trouble. Edmonton has a historically good power play and if the hawks want to have any shot they need to stay out of the box but with almost zero speed and the veteran heavy lineup expect Edmonton to put up points. Oilers in 4.
Betting trends to follow: HAMMER the Total Over (Easiest bet ever), Blackhawks team
Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild
I hate the Wild in this spot. This franchise has had a history of not being able to contain young talent in the playoffs, I feel like every year the Wild get matched up early with a team they should beat but never end up doing it. Vancouver looks like one of the best young teams in the league led by Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes and veterns like J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat. If Vancouver goal tending can step up they should be able to easily beat the Wild. Canucks in 4.
Betting trend to follow: Wild team total under, Vancouver ML
Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes
This is another series can be challenging to predict because there are so many different but similar qualities about these teams. Arizona has had problems scoring all year and they are going up against one of the grittiest defenses in the league. Like wise Arizona has been much better defensively than many people thought. This series is going to rely heavily on the sticks of Taylor Hall, Phil Kessell, Conor Garland and Clayton Keller if the Yotes forwards can pick up the scoring they have a real chance. I like the Yotes here, the preds have been on the down tick for a couple of years now and Taylor Hall should step up and finally become a cornerstone piece that everyone thought he would be. Yotes in 4.
Betting trends to follow: Total under, Arizona ML
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