The first round of the playoffs were a wild ride for fans of Stanley Cup betting. We saw three Game 7’s, including an epic one on Wednesday that resulted in the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals get ushered out of the playoffs.
That was just one of many upsets NHL betting saw, as every single division winner has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. That’s the first time in any major sports – NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL – that that’s ever happened.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins
Odds To Win Series: Bruins -157, Blue Jackets +127 at 888Sport
It feels so long ago that the Blue Jackets orchestrated one of the greatest upsets in modern playoff history. They stunned the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning – the team that everyone expected to win the Stanley Cup – and swept them out of the playoffs in four games. Will that magic continue in Round 2?
It seems unlikely, as the Lightning simply weren’t geared up for a physical series. As for the Bruins, that’s right in their wheelhouse. These teams met three times and the Bruins won two of the meetings.
The biggest concern is that Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t played well against the Bruins. He has just three wins in 11 starts against them, posting a 3.90 GAA and .889 save percentage. Expect to see a very different Blue Jackets team in this series. Bet the Bruins to win in 6.
Carolina Hurricanes at New York Islanders
Odds To Win Series:Islanders -118, Hurricanes -108
Two teams that got no love from bettors in the opening round will meet in Round 2. The Islanders were the league’s best defensive team this season, as goaltender Robin Lehner led the Eastern Conference in GAA and save percentage. So far, he’s doing the same in the playoffs.
What’s interesting is that while the Islanders won the regular season series 3-1, it was Thomas Greiss who started all four games.
If the Islanders are the most underrated team in the NHL, the Canes are a close second. A blue line full of lesser-known players is among the best in the NHL. They’ve somehow gotten Petr Mrazek to look like a No. 1 goalie, similar to how no previous team could really unlock Lehner to do the same.
I’ll give a slight edge to the Islanders as they’ll have more rest, they’ll have home-ice advantage and they have Barry Trotz. This will be a back-and-forth series – one that mostly only true hockey fans will watch – but it will be entertaining. Bet the Islanders to win in 7.
Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks
Odds To Win Series:Sharks -148, Avalanche +120
The Sharks played in one of the all-time classic Game 7’s in the opening round, climbing out of a 3-0 third-period deficit to stun the Vegas Golden Knights and advance. The good news for them is the No. 8 seed is waiting for them.
The Avs are no ordinary No. 8 seed, as they’re led by Nathan MacKinnon, arguably the biggest star left in the playoffs. They ousted the No. 1-seeded Calgary Flames in just five games and will have a good shot to win this series because of one reason: Martin Jones. The Sharks netminder continues to be a mess, posting an .896 save percentage in the regular season and nearly costing the Sharks the first-round series.
If the Avs were any better on the blue line or had more depth than their one, electric line, they’d be able to pull off this upset. As it stands, the Sharks should be able to score a healthy amount – they’re the highest-ranked offense left – and turn these games into shootouts like they did in the regular season.
The Sharks won all three regular-season matchups, scoring at least four goals each time. They are far more experienced with playoff action and won’t stumble here. Bet the Sharks in 6.
Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Odds To Win Series:Blues -167, Stars +135
This will be a matchup of two of the best defensive teams in the NHL. The Dallas Stars led the Western Conference (and were second overall) in goals allowed per game this season at just 2.44. The Blues struggled with this early on but actually led the league in this category since the All-Star break at just 2.18.
The question is who is going to score enough? Dallas found its scoring tough in the opening round as they scored 12 goals in their final three games. However, they were one of the worst scoring teams in the regular season. St. Louis is 10th in goals per game since the All-Star break.
I like the Blues in this spot as they’ve been one of the best teams in the NHL in the second half of the season. Since switching goaltenders to Jordan Binnington, the Blues are 28-7-1 in games that he’s started.
This will be a close series but I like the Blues to move on. Momentum is on their side and they’re the more well-rounded team. Bet the Blues to win in 6.