The NHL Playoff picture is starting to come more into focus, and while betting lines have not been established yet, there are definitely some early trends for gamblers to pay attention to.
The regular season ends on May 1 when the Seattle Kraken take on the Winnipeg Jets. Both of those teams are already eliminated from the postseason, so for playoff purposes, the season will determine who’s in and who’s out the day before.
Stanley Cup Odds*
- Colorado Avalanche +350
- Florida Panthers +550
- Calgary Flames +900
- Toronto Maple Leafs +1000
- Tampa Bay Lightning +1100
- Carolina Hurricanes +1100
- Boston Bruins +1600
- New York Rangers +1600
- Pittsburgh Penguins +1800
- Minnesota Wild +1800
- Vegas Golden Knights +3000
- Edmonton Oilers +2200
- Louis Blues +2500
- Washington Capitals +3000
- Dallas Stars +4000
- Nashville Predators +4000
- Los Angeles Kings +5000
*Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
The eight teams who will represent the Eastern Conference are already decided, with those squads battling for seeding.
The real intrigue is in the Western Conference. It appears the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars will grab the wild card spots, but the Vegas Golden Knights are just four points out of a wild-card spot as of Wednesday.
A more realistic chance for Vegas to get to the postseason would be to bump the Los Angeles Kings out of third place in the Pacific Division and take the last guaranteed spot. The Golden Knights blew a great opportunity on Monday to pick up two easy points, but lost to the lowly New Jersey Devils. They are now five points behind the Kings.
While all those scenarios play themselves out, let’s take a look at some possible first-round playoff matchups.
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Boston, Washington Looking to Avoid Florida
Boston split its meetings with the Panthers, but Washington won two of three against Florida. Still, if either the Bruins or Capitals can avoid one of the best teams in hockey they would like to. That can be achieved by claiming third place in their respective divisions.
The Capitals seem the more likely of the two. They are a point behind third-place Pittsburgh Penguins, while the Bruins are also a point behind the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.
Washington has an easier schedule down the stretch. The Capitals will play three of its last five against non-playoff teams. Boston has to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, Florida and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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Ride Red-Hot Rangers
The New York Rangers were tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for first in the Metropolitan Division, but even if the Rangers drop to second at the end of the season, they are the team no one wants to play.
Right now, they’re scheduled to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they beat three times out of four during the regular season. When those series odds are posted, New York should be favored, but it would still be wise to get them as early as you can, because the line will probably go up.
If the Rangers take first place, they could see Boston or Washington. They won both games against the Bruins and went 2-2 against the Capitals.
Also, New York has one of the hottest goalies in the league in Igor Shesterkin. The leading candidate to win the Vezina Trophy has a goals against average of 2.05, tops in the NHL, and a league-leading save percentage of .935.
Edmonton Offense Tested by Kings
If the Kings hang on to third-place in the Pacific, their opponent in the first-round would be the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have two huge offensive weapons in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid leads the NHL in points as of Tuesday with 110. He has 42 goals and 68 assists. Draisaitl is fourth in points with 105, scoring 54 goals and 51 assists.
The Kings’ defense has been hampered with injuries all year. Drew Doughty and Sean Walker are out for the year. Mikey Anderson is expected to return and that will help bolster the blueline.
While playoff games are notoriously low-scoring contests, the over would be a very attractive wager in these games, especially the first two in Edmonton.
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Minnesota Scaring Teams
The Minnesota Wild is another team no one wants to play. The Wild are third in the Central Division, but are just a point behind the St. Louis Blues. Whoever finishes second would have home-ice advantage in the first round.
That would make the Wild even more dangerous. They might enter this matchup as the underdog, and if they do, jump on it.
Minnesota has faced the Blues three times this year. They lost the first game in January, but too the last two in the first and second week of April.
Getting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline was huge. Along with Cam Talbot, the tandem will make it rough on any team they face. They are poised for deep run the playoffs.