NHL Playoffs: Round 1 Odds
The puck drops on the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night, with the Vancouver Canucks favored by the books to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
In the Western Conference the top-seeded Canucks begin the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver and Chicago met up in the second round of the postseason last year, with the Blackhawks eliminating the Canucks in six games.
During the regular season they split their series at two wins apiece, but the last time they faced off in Vancouver in February the Canucks escaped with a 4-3 win. The Canucks begin the postseason as a +300 Cup favorite at Sportsbook.ag and they're also a -230 favorite in their series against Chicago.
The rest of the West matchups are San Jose vs. Los Angeles, Detroit vs. Phoenix, and Anaheim vs. Nashville.
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As divisional foes the Sharks and Kings met six times during the regular season, and each team picked up three wins. They last clashed just over a week ago on April 4 when the Sharks blasted Los Angeles 6-1.
The Kings were dealt a heavy blow late in the season when leading scorer Anze Kopitar was lost for the year, and it could be their downfall against a Sharks squad that made it to the conference finals last season. The Sharks are heavily favored in the series at -240
Red Wings versus Coyotes sounds like it should favor Detroit, but during the regular season they also split their series with two wins each. They last met on March 5 when Phoenix edged the Wings 5-4 in a shootout. Detroit is expected to open the series without Henrik Zetterberg, who is doubtful with a knee injury that forced him to miss the Wings' last two games.
The Wings and Coyotes also met in the opening round of the playoffs last season, and Detroit needed seven games to knock out Phoenix. Detroit is a -240 series favorite in the rematch.
With their potent top line the Ducks are many people's darkhorse pick in the postseason, but first they have to get past Nashville as a -165 series favorite. The Predators were 3-1 against the Ducks during the regular season, including a 5-4 win the last time they clashed on March 24.
The Ducks are expected to start the playoffs without starting goalie Jonas Hiller, who's still out with vertigo.
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In the Eastern Conference the top-seeded Washington Capitals have drawn the New York Rangers in the first round, and that could be trouble. The Rangers were 3-1 against the Capitals this season, with a pair of shutout victories.
In the four games New York outscored Washington 18-6, and if netminder Henrik Lundqvist is on his game the Rangers could deal the Capitals their second straight early playoff exit despite being a -240 series favorite.
Other first-round matchups in the East are Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, Boston vs. Montreal, and Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay.
The Flyers stumbled into the postseason with one win in their last six games and they split the season series against Buffalo 2-2. The Sabres did win their last two versus Philadelphia, including a 4-3 overtime victory on April 8. The Flyers are still a -150 series favorite.
Boston versus Montreal could be a hard-hitting series after the way these two longtime foes battled during the regular season. Montreal won the season series 4-2 but Boston got the upper hand the last time they met on March 24 with a 7-0 blowout win, and they're a -210 series favorite.
Don't forget about the Max Pacioretty/Zdeno Chara firestorm either. One other important note is that during the regular season when the Habs and Bruins played the home team won five of the six games.
Finally, there's Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay. The Penguins still managed to finish fourth in the East without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for most of the second half of the season. Crosby is still a work in progress and isn't expected back for the series opener.
The Pens and Lightning split the season series 2-2, with Tampa Bay taking the last matchup on March 31 by a score of 2-1. Even with Crosby possibly missing the entire series Pittsburgh is still a -185 favorite.