It’s time! The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway tomorrow and then we have two months of some of the most intense hockey we will see all year. I feel like there’s a lot of teams that could win the Cup this year, so it will be very interesting to see which team gets through the gauntlet that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I’m giving each of my first round series picks below and I’m using odds from Bet365.com.
I’m going to keep the write ups short and just give a few reasons why I like each team to get through the first round.
(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Philadelphia Flyers
The Capitals are a far better team than the Flyers this season. Ovechkin doesn’t have to carry this team like in the past thanks to Oshie, Kuznetsov and Justin Williams providing secondary scoring up front. Holtby may be the best team in the league and the Caps should be able to shut down the Flyers who are a one line team on offense.
Play: Capitals 1.33
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) New York Rangers
The Penguins are arguably the hottest team in the league right now and they are firing on all cylinders from the top line down. When Kris Letang is healthy this team is extremely hard to beat. He makes this team go by being able to move the puck quickly from defense to offense, which many other defensemen on the Penguins simply cannot do. Even if the Rangers are able to shut down Crosby, Bonino-Kessel-Hagelin have been great as a second line and if Malkin can come back in this series that will bring another dynamic to this team.
Play: Penguins 1.55
(1) Florida Panthers vs (WC1) New York Islanders
The Islanders have too much scoring depth for the Panthers to handle. Florida has a good top pairing on defense with Ekblad and Campbell, but after that their defensive depth is very suspect. The Islanders will likely spread their top scorers among their top 3 lines like they have throughout the season and at least one of these lines will catch fire in this series.
The loss of Trocheck will also be a huge factor as he was arguably the Panthers best player in the second half of the season. I just see the Islanders as a more complete team and that should show up in this series.
Play: Islanders 2.30
(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (3) Detroit Red Wings
The Wings backed into the playoffs, losing a must-win game against the Rangers. That can’t do much for your confidence. I also just don’t see this Detroit team as a very strong team and I think they are very lucky to be in the playoffs.
The Lightning aren’t as beat up as some people are making them out to be. They will likely only be without Stamkos and Stralman in this series and as long as Victor Hedman stays healthy I think the Lightning will have no trouble controlling the play. If they find any spark from Kucherov-Johnson-Palat like they did in last years playoffs this could be a short series.
Play: Lightning 1.66
(1) Dallas Stars vs (WC2) Minnesota Wild
The Stars continue to impress me. Even without Seguin they’ve not missed a beat in the last few games of this season posting an 8-2-0 record, which included some big wins over strong teams in the West. I think it’s great for the Stars to avoid playing either the Blues or Blackhawks in the first round in order to gain some playoff experience and get their feet wet before having to play the strong teams in the West.
Play: Stars 1.35
(2) St. Louis Blues vs (3) Chicago Blackhawks
I’m surprised to see that the Blackhawks are listed as the underdog in this series. They’re the defending champs for a reason, and the new additions of Panarin and Anisimov, not to mention Andrew Ladd have already payed huge dividends this year.
I feel bad for the Blues having to come up against the Blackhawks in the first round, but I have to side with the Blackhawks. They have the experience to push deep once again even though the road this year will be extremely difficult.
Play: Blackhawks 2.05
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Nashville Predators
The Ducks have been the best team in the NHL in the second half of the season. This team has a ton of talent and when they’re playing their A-game they are nearly unbeatable. They allowed the fewest goals in the league this season and they’ve now also got their offensive game going. I think the Ducks will be a very tough out this playoffs and it won’t be the Preds who pull off the upset.
Play: Ducks 1.55
(2) LA Kings vs (3) San Jose Sharks
The Kings and Sharks both missed the playoffs last year, but in the two previous years the Kings pulled out game 7 wins to eliminate the Sharks both times. I expect the Kings to have a bit of an easier time with the Sharks this year. The Sharks rely too heavily on Thornton and Pavelski for their offense and with Kopitar and Doughty on the Kings I think LA has a decent chance at shutting those guys down. Add in the fact that the Kings have big power forwards who can lay the body on Brent Burns down low and I think he makes a few mistakes that cost the Sharks a few big goals in these playoffs.
Play: Kings 1.64
How To Bet On First Round Series
After you visit Bet365.com, you need to click on ‘Hockey’ from the left sidebar menu. To find the series odds you’ll have to scroll all the way down the screen to the ‘NHL Futures’ section at the bottom.