We weigh in on the Eastern Conference Odds and Series Odds in this column, analyse all the matchups and serve up our NHL betting verdict and picks for the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Eastern Conference Overview:
Ahead of the first round of the NHL playoffs, the New York Rangers emerge as the team to beat; they have the Eastern Conference betting market to win outright cornered on +225 NHL odds, a good distance ahead of the second favourites Tampa Bay Lightning at +435 NHL odds. Montreal Canadiens, last season's Eastern Conference finalists, are a close third favourites at +500 while the Ovechkin-inspired Washington Capitals come is the fourth favourites overall at +700.
The bottom half of the field is tightly packed with New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins on par at +900 NHL odds and Detroit Red Wings close out of the field as the long shot NHL pick at +1200.
Table 1: Eastern Conference Odds To Win Outright
*Odds courtesy of Bet365.com
So with the Eastern Conference landscape lined up so, let's dive into each matchup with an eye towards the overarching odds to win the Eastern Conference and Series odds. (See Table 2). According to the odds makers, the Canadiens, Capitals, Rangers and Lightning have the overwhelming edge against their respective opponents. Do the bookies have it right or might there be an upset brewing on the horizon?
Does Playoff Betting Differ From Regular Season Betting?
In a word, yes. The NHL playoffs are a different beast altogether. Although the regular season provides a handy reference that hockey bettors can defer to when making their NHL picks, it's not an absolute indication of what's to come in the post season. More often than not, it's the best team in the playoffs rather than the best team in the regular season that emerges victorious.
Table 2: Eastern Conference Series Odds
*Odds courtesy of Bet365.com
Here's a series-by-series analysis, complete with our audacious NHL picks.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators
Consensus Betting: 59% Senators to Win Game 1
Analysis: The all-Canadian clash between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens is split down the middle in consensus betting, with a good chunk of public money flooding towards the underdogs at +130 to win outright. The Canadiens will go into this clash brimming with confidence; they also have last season's experience from which to draw inspiration. However, the Ottawa Senators have been lighting up hockey betting markets this season, particularly down the stretch. They know that nobody expects them to win, which could be an intangible that leads them to doing exactly just that. This has the potential of becoming one of the most thrilling showdowns in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
NHL Picks: Senators +130
Series Picks: Senators to win the series in 7 games
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
Consensus Betting: 59% Capitals to win Game 1
Analysis: This series is shaping up to be another exhilarating contest between two offensive-minded sides in the Eastern Conference, prompting public betting to split almost evenly between the pair. There's a lot to recommend both sides to the win, particularly the scoring prowess of both camps. That said the Capitals have the slight edge on the defensive side of the puck. To all intents and purposes, it's a close betting affair on the NHL odds board with the Capitals favoured at -150 NHL odds and the Islanders matched at tempting +130 NHL odds. Expect the Islanders to give the Capitals a run for their money and push the series to seven games, but the Capitals will eventually get it done.
NHL Picks: Capitals -150
Series Picks: Capitals to win series in 7 games
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers
Consensus Betting: 95% Rangers to win Game 1
Analysis: According to the NHL odds, the New York Rangers have this series in the bag as the -250 favourites to advance into the next round. Indeed, of all the series trading on the Eastern Conference odds board, this one is the most lopsided. Of course, it's impossible to predict with any certainty how this series will unfold. It's quite possible the salient odds makers have it spot on. Consensus betting reveals a whopping 95% of the public shading the Rangers on their NHL picks to win the opening game of the series.
History though suggests it might not be as lopsided as they would have it: since 2008, the Rangers have only once won a series in fewer than seven games. Take from that what you will. It's also worth mentioning , the Penguins have Sydney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, only two of the best players in the NHL League. They also have a pretty good man between the posts: Marc Andre Fleury. That said, for the Penguins to take this from the Rangers, they'll have to play a whole lot better than they did during the regular season and somehow overcome their injury woes.
NHL Picks: Rangers -250
Series Picks: Rangers to win series in 6 games
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings
Consensus Betting:99% Lightning to win Game 1
Analysis: Of all the series, in both Conferences, the clash between the Lightning and Red Wings reveals the most revealing consensus bets: 99% of the public is backing the Lightning to win the opening game of the series. A telling indication perhaps of the overriding expectation of how this series is going to go down: in a flash (no pun intended).
The Lightning are the hottest offensive team going into the playoffs and the Red Wings will have all to do stave off the onslaught in order to mastermind the upset at +175 NHL odds. As one of the most popular hockey teams in America, there's a sentimental pull towards the Red Wings. Based on the regular season, the Lightning are the real deal.
NHL Picks: Lightning -210
Series Picks: Lightning to win series in 4 games