Look Toward Underdogs in Stanley Cup Playoffs' First Round

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 1:50 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2017 1:50 PM UTC

Other than maybe the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, there is nothing better in sports than the initial round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with all the compelling action and potential upsets.

Here 16 hockey teams are ready to go in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the most pressure on the higher seeds to advance and, unlike the NBA postseason, several underdogs will push their opponents to the brink or engineer the upset.

When looking at the NHL odds in the first round be it for individual game betting or series wagering, come to the party prepared.


Higher Seeds Can Deplete Your Bankroll

In the last six years, only a single No. 1 seed has fallen in the first round and that was Vancouver in 2012, losing to No. 8 Los Angeles, which because of injuries was an 8 seed but realistically more like a 3.

This does not mean the top seeds are not pushed. Last season, both Washington and Dallas had nerve-wracking one goal wins on the road in Game 6, and the same was true of Anaheim in 2014. And in 2012, the New York Rangers needed seven games to oust Ottawa before advancing. That was a lot of underdog money made in those series.

In far worse shape have been the No. 2 seeds. Though we no longer have the traditional 2 vs. 7 matchup with the seeding change, here is the list of fallen 2 seeds in recent years:

  • 2015: St. Louis loses to Minnesota in six
  • 2014: Colorado loses to Minnesota in seven
  • 2013: Anaheim loses to Detroit in seven
  • 2013: Montreal loses to Ottawa in five
  • 2012: Boston loses to Washington in seven

Lastly, going one step further, the sixth seed has won eight of 11 matchups as an underdog in the past six playoffs.


Do Not Take Bait About Home-Ice Advantage

Teams fight like mad to have home ice edge in the playoffs. While having rabid fans is noteworthy, the numbers do not bear this out. In the last six Stanley Cup playoffs, home teams are 166-144, a mere 53.5 win percentage. Granted, some of these include home underdogs that lost, but still with a sample size this large the visitor is winning more than its share of games in the first round, including having a 26-21 record a year ago.

In fact, only 15 times in the 48 series has a home team swept the opening two contests (31.2 percent) against the NHL odds. Also of note, on six separate occasions the visitor has started 2-0 before heading home for Game 3.


Lastly, What To Look For

In looking over the series, the visitor in Columbus/Pittsburgh, St. Louis/Minnesota and San Jose/Edmonton would provide some excellent wagering opportunities for away clubs along with spot plays on the lower seeds.

Also keep in mind we have only seen five sweeps in six years of the first round, and Anaheim has won 25 home games in a row over Calgary.

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