Hockey picksMay 15, 2021

NHL Playoffs Betting Tips: Round 1

NHL Playoffs betting tips, trends and previews as the top 16 teams in the league look to take that first step towards Lord Stanley’s Cup.

NHL Playoffs betting preview round 1

Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer posted a 18-3-1 record in his last 22 decisions, and an unbelievable 1.86 goals against average


The NHL Playoffs this season have an old-school look to them, with the top four teams from division squaring off in a 1-seed vs. 4, 2-seed vs. 3 format. Props to anyone that remembers the Smythe, Adams, Patrick and Norris divisions from back in the day!

Saturday marks the first day of NHL Playoffs betting with the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals at 7:15 pm ET from Capital One Arena in D.C. The real fun begins on Sunday when the Islanders-Penguins, Wild-Golden Knights and Lightning vs. Florida tangle in a triple header that goes from noon until the lights go down in the Sunshine State.

Canadians, living up to their stereotypical politeness, are waiting until Wednesday to drop the gloves in the North Division playoffs because the Canucks and Flames are still playing out the string. Those two clubs will wrap things up at 7 pm ET and literally two hours later, the Jets and Oilers will get down to business.

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East Division Elite

Washington Capitals (2) vs. Boston Bruins (3)
Game 1: Saturday, May 15, 7:15 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Capitals +140, Bruins -160

Two teams with a storied history, the Capitals winners of the Cup in 2018 and Bruins’ most-recent championship coming in 2011. Boston also made it to the Cup Finals in 2013 and 2019, losing to the Blackhawks and Golden Knights respectively.

– Boston’s playoff record since winning the Cup in 2011 is 50-46 SU with 34 OVERS, 53 UNDERS and 9 pushes (61% UNDER).

Boston is on a 12-5 run since the NHL trade deadline on April 12. They’ve outscored opponents 3.5-1.9, losing just once at home (8-1). Oddsmakers are listing the B’s at 9-to-1 odds to win it all and Boston ranked second overall with a 86% kill rate against the power play.

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Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. New York Islanders (4)
Game 1: Sunday, May 16, 12:00 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Penguins -145, Islanders +125

The Islanders (32-24) posted an impressive record against the East this year, except for games against Washington (2-6) and Pittsburgh (2-6). The Isles allowed just 2.23 goals per game (GPG) this season, second only to Vegas, but the Pens averaged 3.8 GPG in those six wins over New York.

– The Islanders were 10-4 at home against teams with a winning record this year but only 3-11 on the road.

Each of these teams made significant moves in the second half, Pittsburgh adding Jeff Carter and the Islanders trading for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac just before the deadline. Expect a hard fought series that will go to six or seven games.

Central Division Shakeup

Carolina Hurricanes (1) vs. Nashville Predators (4)
Game 1: Monday, May 17, 8 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Hurricanes -255, Predators +210

It was a renaissance year for Carolina, taking the division title for the first time since 2006 when they went onto win the Cup over Edmonton. The Predators were just 7-17 (.292) this year against teams with a winning record, worst of all playoff teams, but there’s is really a story of two seasons.

– Nashville was 11-17 (.393) in the first half of 2021, and 20-8 (.714) in the second half.

The Preds averaged 3.2 GPG in the second half of 2021, including two recent home wins over the Canes where they scored 3 and 5 goals. It will be a challenge for them to keep pace now that the stakes have been raised, though. Carolina was third overall in net penalty kill (89.2%), just behind the Bruins (91%) and Knights (89.6%).

Florida Panthers (2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (3)
Game 1: Sunday, May 16, 7:30 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Panthers +135, Lightning -155

Online sportsbooks are favoring the Lightning to win the division at +170, and they are +740 to win the Cup. They were +900 when the season began back in January and possess a proven playoff track record, but struggled with injuries this season. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are the not-so-secret weapons, though, and both are expected to be in the lineup Sunday.

Kucherov tallied seven goals and 27 assists during Tampa’s Stanley Cup run a year ago, and didn’t play a single game this year while recovering from hip surgery. Coach Jon Cooper said he’s ready to go and so is Stamkos, out since April 8 (lower body). Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Palat also missed time down the stretch, but this isn’t the Bolts’ first rodeo. They know what it takes to go the distance and Cooper was managing his unit for playoff performance.

Best in the West

Colorado Avalanche (1) vs. St. Louis Blues (4)
Game 1: Monday, May 17, 10 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Avalanche -405, Blues +320

The Avs are the priciest of all first round teams in NHL Playoffs betting. Like Tampa, Colorado sustained a few injuries to key players in the second half but Mikko Rantanen returned April 30 and has four goals and 10 assists in nine games since. Colorado won its past five in a row to secure the Presidents’ Trophy and Phillipp Grubauer (30-9-1) finished with a .922 save percentage.

– Colorado was second overall in shots on goal (34.4) and led the league in shots against (25.5).

Nathan McKinnon (20 goals, 45 assists) missed the final two games and his health is a concern. The Blues have also proven themselves with a Stanley Cup run just two years ago and Jordan Binnington was stellar. His playoff record last year was 0-5 with a 4.72 GAA and .851 save percentage, but he was back in form this year. Given the Avs’ firepower, Binnington will need to be at his absolute best if St. Louis has any hope of an upset.

Vegas Golden Knights (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (3)
Game 1: Sunday, May 16, 3 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Knights -245, Wild +205

Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov was a thrill to watch this season, leading all rookies with 27 goals and 25 assists. The Wild were eighth in scoring (3.21 GPG) and 11-5 OVER in games against teams with a winning record, but just 4-4 O/U in eight games against Vegas.

– The Wild averaged just 28.3 shots on goal this season, T-4th fewest in the league.

Between Marc-Andre Fleury and Robyn Lehner, the Knights allowed the fewest goals throughout the season (124). Vegas went 32-4 (.889) when allowing fewer than three goals but just 2-6 if the opponent scored three and 8-12 if they allowed three or more. They’ll try to play a shutdown game and are capable of exploding at any time, so the Wild will be hard pressed to replicate this season’s success against the Knights.

NHL Playoffs Betting: North Division Preview

Toronto Maple Leafs (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (4)
Game 1: Thursday, May 20, 7:30 PM ET
Odds to Win Series: Leafs -310, Canadiens +250

Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and they missed the postseason altogether last year, but there are reasons for optimism. First of all, they don’t have to play Boston in the opening round. Secondly, Toronto scored 3.34 GPG this year, tied for its second-highest production since 2006. Auston Matthews led the NHL in scoring with 41 goals and he’ll be a lot to contain in this Original Six rivalry.

– This is the first time the Leafs and Canadiens have met in a playoff series since 1979.

Toronto sailed to its top seed in the North with a strong start to the season. They were only 7-7 SU since the trade deadline but the Habs were 6-11. Montreal finished the year with a 10-16 record against winning teams and they went 3-7 vs. Toronto. Only three of 10 meetings this year finished OVER the total.

Edmonton Oilers (2) vs. Winnipeg Jets (3)
Game 1: Wednesday, May 19, 9 p.m
Odds to Win Series: Oilers -205, Jets +170

Last but not least, the Jets were stumbling towards the playoffs on a seven-game losing streak and rumors swirled that coach Paul Maurice had lost the team. They shutout Calgary 4-0 to end the streak and won back-to-back games to wrap the season, 5-0 over Vancouver and 4-2 last night vs. Toronto. Winnipeg will need stellar goaltending to subdue Connor McDavid and while Connor Hellebuyck is a proven talent, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner was 2-5 vs. the Oilers this year with a dreadful .877 save percentage.

– McDavid (104) and teammate Leon Draisaitl (83) ranked first and second overall in scoring this season and last.

The Oilers scoring has increased each of the past three years, from 2.83 GPG in 2018 to 3.2 in 2019 and 3.31 this year. Winnipeg’s record since March 18 against teams that scored more than 3.25 GPG is 2-7 and that includes three losses to Edmonton. The scores were 3-1, 4-2 and 2-1. Mike Smith has played well for the Oilers but he is beatable. Winnipeg needs production from its top two lines and they should get Nick Ehlers back, but it’s unrealistic to expect success against the Oilers without scoring a minimum of three goals.

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