So this is for my hockey friends only…we will predict each series and provide some advice on potential bets.
As far as Stanley Cup futures, I like Washington to final get it done, but there is no value in plus 350 or plus 400 on Chicago, the other big favorite. If you want to fish for prices…Edmonton plus 1000 and Boston plus 2300 might be worth a few bucks. All prices are courtesy of mybookie.lv.
On to the first round series:
Montreal -135 vs. NY Rangers +115.
The Canadiens had a nice bounce back year, and as long as they have Carey Price, they will be a threat. But the forward play has been spotty of late, and young star Alex Galchenyuk has been awful. Both teams started the year hot and had some issues. The Rangers match up well with Montreal, and if Henrik Lundquist plays well, he will neutralize Price’s contributions. The Rangers have been the best road team in hockey this year, so home ice should not matter. Honestly think this series could go either way. In that case, take the plus number on the Rangers. Prediction: Rangers in 7.
Boston -210 vs. Ottawa +175
Boston is a sneaky good Cup contender. They have quality D men, underrated stars up front and the mercurial Tukka Rask in the pipes. If Rask gets hot, the Bruins can make a deep run. Ottawa had a nice season, but the analytics don’t match the win total, and injuries late in the season have slowed them down. No value in betting the Bruins, but will be surprised if they don’t advance. Prediction: Bruins in 6.
Washington -430 vs. Toronto +335
The Caps might be the most complete team in hockey, and adding Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline bolstered an already good defense. They have a history of choking in the playoffs, but this should be their year. The Leafs are a year ahead in a complete rebuild — much like the 2015 Astros. I love this team and am a huge Toronto fan, but they have little shot here. They do have the best coach in hockey (second best maybe behind that guy in Chicago) and he should get them a win, but the Caps are too good. No value in the Caps, unless you want to try Caps in 5 for +400. Prediction: Caps in 5.
Pittsburgh -165 vs. Columbus +140
The defending champion Penguins looked primed for another Cup run for most of the season. But injuries late slowed them down. Defensively they are still very good, but with Kris Letang injured, the Pens are lacking the go-to, No. 1 defenseman it takes to win the Cup. They still have loads of talent, but Columbus is rugged, built for the playoffs and a trendy upset pick, including here. Plus 140 is fair. Prediction: Jackets in 7.
Round 2 early predictions: Washington over Columbus; Bruins over Rangers. Conference Finals: Washington over Boston.
Chicago -170 vs. Nashville +145
While Washington is the most complete team, the Blackhawks might be the best team. They are the Spurs or Patriots of the NHL. They have star forwards, excellent depth, one of the best defensemen in hockey and are underrated in goal. That’s a recipe for winning Cups, and the ‘Hawks might get another one this year. The Predators will keep this tight, and don’t be shocked if they pull off an upset, but unless goalie Pekka Rinne has a flashback (he was not that good this year), the Hawks should advance. Minus-170 seems more than fair. Prediction: Hawks in 7.
Minnesota -190 vs. St. Louis +160
The Wild have had a nice season, but things have fallen apart late. And Bruce Boudreau coached teams are usually much better in the regular season than in the playoffs. The Blues aren’t as good as last year’s bunch that made the conference finals, but they should advance here and the price is right. Prediction: Blues in 6.
Anaheim -170 vs. Calgary +145
Against any other team, I would love to pick Calgary, because the Flames are strong on defense, have some fun, young forwards and got improved goalie play this season, which is why they made the playoffs. But Anaheim has home ice, and the Flames have not won there since 2004. That’s 13 years. We call that a trend. Unless it ends, the Ducks move on. The price is fair on a team with that kind of record against another. Prediction: Ducks in 6.
San Jose +130 vs. Edmonton -150
There is a buzz around Edmonton and superstar Connor McDavid. They are a darkhorse Cup contender and there is a reason they are favored here. The Sharks looked primed to make another run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but they staggered home and injuries have taken a serious toll. But there is still something to playoff expertise, and the Sharks have it. Predicting Edmonton, but this is a coin flip, and in a coin flip, you take the plus number if you feel the need to bet. Which I don’t. Prediction: Oilers in 7.
Early prediction, round 2: Chicago over St. Louis, Edmonton over Anaheim. Conference Finals: Blackhawks over Edmonton.
Good luck. Enjoy the playoffs.