Below are my thoughts on each first round series along with their NHL Eastern Conference betting odds. At the beginning of the year, the best team was Pittsburgh. Since then Boston has leapt ahead. Is this really a two horse race or are there other ponies worth backing on the ice? Let’s start breaking this down without dumb horse racing/ice hockey analogies, shall we?
NHL Eastern Conference Betting Odds
BOSTON BRUINS (+167 to win East) vs. DETROIT RED WINGS (+1300)
The Detroit Red Wings have been struggling with injuries and chemistry issues all season, and they’ve always been a worthy team to bet on in terms of NHL Eastern Conference Betting odds because – well – it’s Detroit and the playoffs are basically their wheelhouse. Detroit’s injury problems are resolving themselves at the right time as Henrik Zetterberg returns from injury and Jimmy Howard shakes the rust between the pipes. Against any other team in the east they’d have a fighting chance.
It’s just difficult to see them getting past Boston. The Bruins won 15-of-16 games (that one loss was ironically against Toronto) in March, terrorized everyone in their path and established themselves as the team to beat in the conference and league wide. I wouldn’t invest in Boston to win the east because the value isn’t there unless you’re going to swing heavily at them, but they’re a synch to win this series.
Detroit’s Rob Babcock is the best coach in the NHL as far as I’m concerned and he’ll find a way to masterfully win two games in this series. Unfortunately that’ll be it.
Boston isn’t unbeatable…but they look damn close to it.
Series Prediction: Boston in 6
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (+310) vs. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (+2200)
The Penguins are always going to be one of the best bets to win the Stanley Cup, and currently own the second-best Eastern Conference betting odds, because they have two of the best players in the world. The problem is that their third best player, Marc-Andre Fleury, has never ever been a reliable post-season goalie.
It’s hard to ever get a handle on Columbus, and while they’re a pretty good team, they’re not better than Pittsburgh and it really isn’t even close. Pittsburgh destroyed them this season with a total score of 16-7 in five games. This should be a cake walk for the Penguins. After that, however, I’m not sure Pittsburgh will be worth the take. They’re still not physical enough to survive the playoffs for my liking and Fleury could be the goat yet again for his star studded team.
Series Prediction: Pittsburgh in 4
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (+1025) vs. MONTREAL CANADIENS (+925)
There’s an overriding sentiment that this is Carey Price’s season. He’s had a rough go in the league because Montreal has never put a truly great team in front of him, dealt with an agonizing (and agonized) fan base that never cuts him any slack and is coming off an Olympic gold medal. Plus there’s always that thing where a goalie stands on his head and carries an unworthy bunch through the post season. Price feels like he’s due, right?
The problem is that he’s the obvious choice, and the goalie that stands on his head usually comes from out of nowhere to bolster some longshot NHL Eastern Conference betting odds. So why couldn’t it be Anders Lindback, the backup goalie in Tampa who will have to take over for the suddenly injured Ben Bishop? The truth is that it could be…it’s just no likely.
The problem with Montreal in the playoffs is that their fans can turn on their own team in a heartbeat and that Chicken Little mindset is always present around the Bell Centre. Tampa’s offence is capable of putting Montreal on its heels at any given moment.
Overall the Canadiens have more firepower but there’s always a series in the first round that turns out strangely. This one has that feeling. Tampa’s has survived too much to roll over, and when the sky starts falling in Montreal, Canada’s lone team will find themselves on the fairways along with the rest of the clubs.
Series Prediction: Tampa Bay in 6
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (+1225) vs. NEW YORK RANGERS (+925)
When it comes to post-season hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers always bring a lot of tangible assets to the table. They have one of the best scoring offenses, Vincent Lecavlier and a ton of skaters who show up in the playoffs and a goalie in Steve Mason who can do enough to give his team a chance.
However, Philadelphia’s biggest strength is their aggression…which also happens to be their biggest weakness. Philadelphia is one of the most penalized teams in the league and that usually halts any chance they have of seizing the momentum. The Rangers are a stacked roster but Philadelphia’s physicality always gets them through the first round. Part of me wants to push this series through to seven games, but I’d rather grab it at six. And in terms of NHL Eastern Conference betting odds, the Flyers are my favorite longshot on the board.
Series Prediction: Philadelphia in 6