Round one of the NHL playoffs saw one major upset with Nashville taking out one of the Stanley Cup favorites in Chicago. (We went 5-3 on predictions..3-2 on actual series bets, 2-1 on max plays, 1-1 on small plays for a decent profit).
The Western Conference is now wide open. The East will likely be decided — as it was last year — in this round between Washington and Pittsburgh. That could easily decide the Stanley Cup winner as well. We are still alive on a couple small future bets to win the Cup on Edmonton and the Rangers.
Here is a look at the second round with a couple possible plays:
Nashville (-125) vs. St. Louis (+105)
We were a year ahead on our future bets on these two teams last year. Nashville destroyed Chicago in the first round. St. Louis made easy work of Minnesota. Nashville’s win was much more impressive. The Wild stumbled badly down the stretch, and as good as head coach Bruce Boudreau is in the regular season, his teams always underachieve in the playoffs, which is why we hammered the Blues to win Round 1.
Nashville has quickly become the favorites in the West. Goalie Pekka Rinne is playing like the Rinne of old, and defensively the Preds have been off the charts good.
St. Louis won in a similar fashion. Goalie Jake Allen was outstanding in round 1, and the Blues defense kept Minnesota in check. These teams are a lot alike, but the Preds are a little stronger on the back end and their forward group is superior as well. As long as Rinne keeps playing at a high level, the Preds should advance here. If her reverts to his regular season form? St. Louis can pull off the upset.
Prediction: Preds in 6. The bet: Preds -125.
Edmonton (even) vs. Anaheim (-120)
Edmonton has the most exciting young player in hockey in Connor McDavid. He will likely spend a lot of time being hounded by Anaheim center Ryan Kesler, one of the best defensive centers in the game. Edmonton knocked off a Sharks team that was dealing with injuries but still made the Cup finals last year. Goalie Cam Talbot has been a horse all year long. Defensively, they are just good enough to slow down Anaheim.
The Ducks swept through a Calgary team that was in “lucky to be here” mode. The Flames have not won in Anaheim since 2004, so this one was a mismatch from the beginning. Ryan Getzlaf was outstanding in the first series, and the Getzlaf/Corey Perry duo is still one of the most dangerous in the league. Anaheim’s defense took a big hit with the loss of Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm may not be 100 percent. That would give an edge on the back end to Edmonton. Anaheim’s goaltending is suspect as well. McDavid is due for a breakout series and this might be where he does it. Should be fun to watch. Also a very evenly matched series that could go either way, but we will take the better price.
Prediction: Edmonton in 7. The bet: Edmonton (even)
NY Rangers (-145) vs. Ottawa (+125)
The Rangers knocked off a solid Montreal team in Round 1, while Ottawa knocked off Boston in a series we were wrong about. Most experts believe Ottawa was the weakest team entering the playoffs. But defenseman Erik Karlsson is one of the most dominant players in all of hockey. He is a one man wrecking crew on the back end and a serious threat on offense. New York will have to contain him.
The Rangers are better at the forward positions, and Henrik Lundquist gives them a big edge in goal. Defensively they are solid but prone to breakdowns. Realistically, the Rangers are the better team and should roll through this series. But Karlsson is the wild card.
Prediction: Rangers in 6. The bet: Rangers -145 does not have much value, but feel pretty good about this one.
Washington -145 vs. Pittsburgh +125
The marquee series of this round. The winner of this will likely go on to win the Stanley Cup. Washington is the most complete team in the playoffs and this should really be their year. Pittsburgh is deep, fast and won the Cup last year.
Washington really should win. The Caps are loaded at the forward positions and have proven playoff performers like Justin Williams. Defensively, they were already very good before adding Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline. And Braden Holtby is a top five goaltender.
But Toronto pushed them to the limit in Round 1, using speed and youth. The Caps were able to wear them down late in games with superior size and physicality. But guess what the Penguins do well? Speed. Four productive lines. And experience. They won’t fold up late like the young Leafs did. They obliterated a very good Columbus team that many experts (and this one non-expert) picked to beat them. If they had all-world defenseman Kris Letang, they would likely be favored in this series. But they have quality depth on the back end, and while they don’t have a Letang type, they played very balanced in Round 1.
While all the attention will be on yet another Sid Crosby-Alex Ovechkin matchup, this one will likely be settled on the back end, and expect it to go the distance.
Prediction: I had Washington winning it all, so will stick with the Caps in 7 here. But think this is a tossup, and for betting purposes, take the better price. The bet: No play, but no one would fault you for taking the defending champs at +125.