I went 5-3 for -0.05 units with my round 1 series predictions. The Leafs were leading their game 7 game with the Bruins heading into the third period last night, and a win there would have secured me a very profitable 6-2 for +2.35 unit first round, but we’re back to square one heading into round 2. That said, I still felt strong about my plays so I’m confident I will get into the profit here in round 2.
All of the odds below are taken from BetOnline.ag, one of my favourite sites for betting on the NHL Playoffs.
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
The Caps and Pens once again renew acquaintances in the Metropolitan Division Finals. This will be the third year in a row that the Pens and Caps meet in the second round with the Penguins winning the last two years and going on to win the Cup in both seasons. The Capitals have now lost in the second round three years in a row.
The Caps had their backs against the wall in round one after losing the first two games of the series to the Blue Jackets, both in OT. Washington showed a lot of resilience continuing to battle and they went into Columbus in game 3 and pulled off a double OT victory that turned the series around. From there the Caps were the better team winning four straight (including another OT game) and finishing the Jackets off in style with a 6-3 win in game 6.
Pittsburgh had a strange series of their own against the Flyers. It was a barn burner of a series, but it ended up being the Flyers turnovers in the defensive end and average at best goaltending that allowed the Pens to advance in 6 games.
In this series you’d think the Penguins have the edge based on having the Caps number in series past, but I think there are a few differences this year that could result in the Caps finally beat Pittsburgh in a 7 game series.
First of all, Matt Murray looked very human in the series with the Flyers. Yes, he had a couple huge shutouts in games 1 and 4, but he gave up 3 goals in the game 5 loss and was actually lit up for 5 goals in game 6 even though his scorers bailed him out in the 8-5 win. Murray has looked nearly unbeatable in the Penguins runs the last couple of years and I just don’t see that from him this year. He struggled in the season and although he had flashes of brilliance in the first round I’m not convinced he will be able to keep the Caps high powered offense off the scoreboard.
The injury to Evgeni Malkin is also a huge story heading into this series. The Penguins need their star center to match up with the 1-2 punch of Backstrom and Kuznetsov that the Caps have down the middle.
I also much prefer the Caps powerplay this year with John Carlson at the helm rather than Kevin Shattenkirk. Carlson is a terrific all around D-man and has looked terrific on the powerplay.
This Caps team has less expectations than years past and I think they are really coming together at this point in the playoffs. I think this series could go either way, but based on the betting odds the sharp money has to be on the Caps.
Play: Capitals +101
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Boston Bruins
The Bruins won a huge game 7 last night after heading into the third period down to the Maple Leafs, but it’s right back to action this Saturday in Tampa Bay.
Tuuka Rask did not look great in the series with the Maple Leafs and I definitely give the Bolts the advantage between the pipes in this series. I also found the play of the Bruins very sloppy at times in the Leafs series and I think guys like Kucherov, Stamkos, Point and Johnson to be able to capitalize on lackluster play from the Bruins D.
I also like how the Point line matches up with the Bergeron line for the Bolts. Point, Johnson and Palat bring a lot of speed to the table and I think they will be able to stay fairly even with the Bergeron line throughout the series. If that line can play the Bergeron line even over the course of the series I love the Bolts chances.
I think Tampa Bay is slightly better everywhere in this series and fully expect them to take advantage of the Bruins D. If Boston is going to have a chance Rask is going to have to find his A-game quickly.
Play: Lightning -134
Nashville Predators vs Winnipeg Jets
The Preds and Jets each got through their first round series with relative ease, as expected.
The Wild were simply unable to generate high quality scoring chances against the Jets star studded defensive corps. Connor Hellebuyck continued his stellar play from the season and the Jets big, speedy forwards got the better of the Wild back end as the series went on.
The Preds put themselves in some tough spots in the series with Avs, giving up the first goal on several occasions and dropping a couple games to an obviously weaker team, but they were able to put the hammer down with a big 5-0 win in game 6.
The Preds have the best top 4 at the defenseman position in the league, while the Jets have a big 4 of their own and tremendous depth at the back end. Up front both teams have superstars, some of the best top lines in the league, tremendous depth and goaltenders nominated for the Vezina. The winner of this series will be the Stanley Cup favourite moving forward.
I honestly think this series is just too hard to call. In my opinion these are the two best teams in the playoffs. I’m going to lean towards the Preds based on their experience and home ice advantage, but I really think these teams are evenly matched and it could come down to a couple bounces as to which group advances.
Lean: Predators -145
Vegas Golden Knights vs San Jose Sharks
I faded Vegas in round 1 and was quickly proven wrong with their 4 game sweep of the Kings. That said, I’m still not sold on Vegas. The Kings struggled to generate offense, but that’s a normal occurrence for LA and Fleury stood on his head. The Golden Knights still only won each game by 1 goal and were gifted a game against the Kings without their best defender after Doughty was suspended for something I did not believe deserved a suspension. Vegas earned some of my respect with their team defensive effort, but not enough for me to not try a second fade here in the second round.
San Jose really only looked ok against Anaheim. It was Martin Jones who absolutely stole the show in the series only allowing 4 goals against in the series, only 1 more than Fleury. I really like the defensive corps for the Sharks. The top four especially are very strong defensively and the shut down unit of Vlasic and Braun should be able to really slow down the Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line from the Knights.
Joe Thornton will not start the series for the Sharks, but I don’t think they need him. Evander Kane has been a great addition and that line of Kane-Pavelski-Donskoi has really clicked so far, while Couture-Hertl-Boedker is basically another top line.
I don’t think Vegas will be able to contain either of the top 2 Sharks lines, like they were able to contain Kopitar with a couple scrubs as linemates. On the flip side Vlasic is one of the top defensive d-men in the league and I expect him to slow down the Vegas top line. I’m also big on the Sharks top PP unit which was clicking at a 30% rate in round 1, compared to the Golden Knights top PP which only converted at an 8% rate.
The ride for the Golden Knights ends in round 2.
Play: Sharks +115
The Bruins vs Lightning odds aren’t up yet. I will try to update this page once they become live.