The best time of the hockey season has arrived - The Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sixteen teams will now fight for a chance to hold The Cup in June, with the action starting this week.
Presently, the defending champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the third choice (+850) and they will be without their best and very key defenseman Kris Letang.
Washington and Chicago are the favorites at 5Dimes, both with odds of +450.
The NHL odds for each series will be out later today, but here are thoughts on some of the first round matchups.
A Look at the Western Conference
Top-seeded Chicago will handle Nashville, but the games will be close. The Blackhawks took four of five during the season.
Both Minnesota (2-2-1 record) and St. Louis changed coaches during the regular season. The Wild have the better team, but Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been lousy for over a month. Blues might have value for an upset.
Great season for Calgary to get in the playoffs, but Anaheim (4-1) has too much defense, enough offense and are an excellent choice for NHL picks.
Edmonton (3-1-1) is back in the postseason and top heavy with great young players. San Jose has lost nine of 13 but has a basic core of the team who was in the Cup Finals last year. If Sharks special teams come through, upset possible.
Eastern Conference Looks Like Washington Invitational
Washington was 2-1 against Toronto this season and should dispatch of the Maple Leafs in five. Toronto will be tougher however in the years to come.
Montreal was 3-0 versus the New York Rangers and Blueshirts goalie Henrik Lundqvist is no fan of the Bell Centre with recent 4-11 SU record and ugly 3.87 goals against average. (Lundqvist was better in 2014 playoffs, however) New York will have to win twice on the road which seems unlikely.
With arcane playoffs system, Pittsburgh (1-1-2) and Columbus will collide in the first round. (2nd and 4th best records overall) This should be best first round series, but the Pens have defensive problems and Blue Jackets defense and power play has dried up.
Ottawa was 4-0 against Boston this season and both teams have defensive injuries. Special teams and goaltending will determine the winner.