By this time you’ve heard all the analysis and read all the previews, so let’s cut through the fat and get to the meat of these matchups. Let’s take a closer look at where the NHL betting value and risk lie in each series.
Ottawa Senators (8)
vs New York Rangers (1)
Need to know
New York Rangers:
There is a lot of talk out there that the NYR don’t have enough offensive depth
to make a deep run in the playoffs. We
all know the likes of Richards, Gaborik, and Callahan can light the lamp, but
what most people don’t know is that the emergence of Carl Hagelin has given the
top line a new dynamic. His two-way
ability is only matched by his unbelievable speed and he will be able to take
advantage of a less than stellar OTT defense. Stepan, Anisimov, and Dubinksy can all pitch in on the scoresheet, and
Boyle can wreak havoc in front of Anderson.
Ottawa Senators: And
speaking of Anderson, this is a goalie that was on a hot run before he sliced
his hand in some sort of kitchen accident. He has not been the same guy since his return from injury and should be
OTT’s weakest link in this series. Even
if he was on his game he would have a hard time matching the MVP level of play
of King Henrik Lundqvist.
Bottom line: OTT is young and just happy to be
here. Even their own management didn’t
think they would be anywhere close to a playoff spot this season. NY is more disciplined, better in the faceoff
dot, and hold home ice. I’d be surprised
if this went more than 6 games.
Prediction: Bank NYR -1.5 (-120)
(7) vs Boston Bruins (2)
Need to know
Boston Bruins: The Boston Bruins have gone through two significant
lulls this year. First they had a
Stanley Cup hangover to start the year, then again after the White House conspiracy. Yet, both times they managed to pull out of it to regain their dominant
championship form. This is inspiring
news to those who wondered if they still had the motivation to make another run
for the Cup. With the likes of coach
Julian, Chara, Thomas, Bergeron, Lucic, and Marchand, rest assured this team
will have the proper mindset once the series begins on Thursday.
Washington Capitals: Most NHL odds makers are focusing their attention on
Holtby in this matchup, but that is a big waste of time. Holtby has been nothing short of excellent in
his short time in the big leagues and certainly isn’t any more of a risk than
Neuvirth or Vokoun. The key to the Caps
fortunes rests on the back of Niklas
Backstrom. Ovechkin gets the
headlines, but Backstrom was far and away WSH’s best player until he had a
concussion midway through the year. Now
he’s back, but could he be facing a worse opponent? Backstrom was largely invisible in last
layoffs when he was healthy, so I don’t like his chances to lead the
team against a very physical and intimidating Boston team.
Bottom line: The B’s have too much offensive depth up
front to worry too much about WSH. WSH
has never lived up to the hype, so what is different this time around? Their defense is a mess and they have a
handful of playoff underachievers up front. The outcome of this matchup is a no-brainer.
Prediction: Bank BOS -1.5 (-115)
New Jersey Devils (6)
vs Florida Panthers (3)
Need to know
Florida Panthers: There are two key questions regarding the
Panthers. 1) Who will start in
goal? 2) Where will the goals come
from? I’d be shocked if they didn’t go
with Theodore to start the season because he’s been a rock between the pipes up
until the final week or two of the regular season. Second, they will be relying heavily on guys
like Bergenheim and Samuelsson for some secondary scoring. These questions seem troubling on the
surface, but let’s not forget what Florida has been able to accomplish this
year. Their success was no fluke. Guys like Goc, Kopecky, Smithson, Garrison,
and Kulikov might not be household names, but collectively they are a solid
supporting cast that should keep them in every game.
New Jersey Devils: Early money is pouring in on NJ. They finished the year strong with six
straight wins and finished with more regular season points than FLA. However, this is a club that lost in the
first round three consecutive years before missing the playoffs last
season. Martin Brodeur is a huge
question mark despite his resume and reputation. On
defense, they won’t have the services of Taillnder due to injury, and their
star rookie phenom Adam Larsson was a healthy scratch for much of the final
weeks of the season. I don’t remember
ever saying this before, but NJ will have to rely largely on their offensive
depth to win this series.
Bottom Line: NJ is a good club with the potential of flying under the radar, but I
believe FLA is being undervalued in this spot. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years and they have a
veteran-laden squad. They will be hungry
to win and, with home ice advantage, I like them to win at least three games.
Prediction: Bank FLA +1.5 (-150)
(5) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
Need to know
Pittsburgh Penguins: We all know the firepower that PIT bring to
the table and Crosby’s return has elevated them to clear-cut Stanley Cup
favorites, but do they have any weaknesses?
Marc-Andre Fleury gets a lot of hype for his playoff pedigree, and many
are now making comparisons to the likes of Grant Fuhr due to his ability to
come up with the big save at the right time.
I don’t see it this way at all. Fleury has not been good in the last month of the season despite playing
behind what should be a top-notch defense on paper. The truth is PIT has been a lot more erratic
defensively in favor of an all-out attack style offense since Crosby came
back. All but one game has gone over the
total post-Crosby and it’s anyone’s guess whether they will tighten things up
once the puck drops on Wednesday.
PHI would be a great underdog pick if they were fully healthy. In order to go toe-to-toe with PIT, you
either need a great goalie and solid defense, or an offense that can match them
goal for goal. PHI has neither at the
moment. Up front they are missing Briere
and Van Reimsdyk and Grossman and Meszaros on the back end. In one or two games, this might not be a
problem, but in a seven game series in which PIT hold home ice advantage—this
is an issue. PHI still have 3 good lines
to make it a series—especially with the emergence of rookies Read, Couturier,
and Schenn, but at the end of the day they will have too much trouble keeping
the puck out of their net. The big
question for Bryzgalov is what will be the tougher test—exorcising the goalie
ghosts of PHI’s past or PIT’s potent offense?
Bottom Line: This series will be must-see TV, but will it live up to the competitive
hype and go the distance? I would love
to say yes, but PIT has too many weapons up and down the lineup. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
Prediction: Bank PIT -1.5 (-115)