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Roman Josi #59 and Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Nashville Predators celebrate a goal against the Ottawa Senators as we look at the most likely upsets in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Roman Josi #59 and Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Nashville Predators celebrate a goal against the Ottawa Senators at Bridgestone Arena on February 27, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Predators won 4-1. Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images/AFP via AFP

The first round of the NHL playoffs is always full of intrigue, excitement, emotional highs and lows, and most compellingly, upsets. Based on the Stanley Cup odds, here are the favorites most likely to fall and the NHL playoffs upset picks we're backing in Round 1.

It's common for babies to get upset, as they have difficulty regulating their emotions. Sounds like every NHL sports bettor during the playoffs.

Upsets are a part of the NHL playoffs' fabric, with at least two favorites, according to our Stanley Cup betting guide, usually falling in the first round. 

Let's get straight into it, as we don't want anyone getting too upset before diving into the most probable upsets. The probability of an upset is based on a 1-to-5-star scale, with five stars basically condemning the favorite to a premature exit. 

Stanley Cup Playoffs upset predictions: Round 1

Predators (WC1) vs. Canucks (2)

The below chart lists the series winning probability, via our odds converter. Before delving into my personal feelings on the likelihood of a favorite falling like Victor Wembanyama would on skates, here's what our best sports betting sites reckon. 

DraftKings FanDuelCaesarsbet365
Predators odds +130+125+125+125
Predators winning probability 43.48%44.44%44.44%44.44%

Our probability of a Predators' upset: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sound the upset alarm, with the Nashville Predators heading into their first-round series against the No. 2 Vancouver Canucks as one of the most likely underdogs to advance. It looked as though the Predators were sedated for the first four months of the season. Through the first 55 games, they were level with three other teams (Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Seattle Kraken) for the 10th-worst points percentage (.519).  

And then Valentine's Day came and went, waking the Preds from their extended winter slumber. Since Feb. 16, the Predators boast the NHL's best record (20-5-3). That outrageously proficient run included a stretch of 18 wins in 20 games, with the two defeats in overtime. Admittedly, they have lost six of their last 10 games, seemingly cooling at an inopportune time.

The Canucks have been trending in the opposite direction, sliding from mid-February onward. While most people will point to Thatcher Demko's five-week absence as the primary reason for their slide, the Canucks' struggles started about a month beforehand. Vancouver was 5-5-1 from Feb. 17 to when Demko was injured on March 9. 

Demko's injury obviously didn't help, as the Canucks won just eight of 14 games without their ace netminder. Demko returned to action against the Calgary Flames on April 16, joyous news for Canucks fans. The looming question, though, is whether he can return to his Vezina Trophy-like form with just two games under his belt in the last six weeks.

Talk about throwing him into the fire. It's a lot to ask, especially from a netminder with just four career games of playoff experience.

Best bet: Predators to win series (+130 via DraftKings)

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Avalanche (C3) vs. Jets (C2)

Jets odds +115+115+115+100+110
Jets winning probability 46.51%46.51%46.51%50%47.62%

Our probability of a Jets' upset: ⭐⭐⭐

If the Jets pull off this upset, their name should be changed to the Rockets. Things looked bleak during a recent six-game losing streak, during which everything that could go wrong did. Since then, Winnipeg has ascended to imperious heights, winning seven games in a row, including a 7-0 battering of the Avalanche on April 13.

According to our best sports betting apps, the Avalanche are among the five favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup despite enduring a rough patch which has seen their record and confidence snowball.

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The Avs lost seven of their last 10 games, relinquishing their once clenched-fist grasp on home-ice advantage, which could be a decisive blow. Colorado is the NHL's best home team but the 12th-ranked road outfit. One of the Conn Smythe Trophy odds favorites, Nathan MacKinnon scored almost a point per game more at home than he did on the road. I'm not suggesting MacKinnon won't terrorize the Jets, because he will. However, he might not be quite as lethal at Canada Life Centre.

If something goes awry and one of the Jets' engines craps out, they can rely on Connor Hellebuyck, the probable Vezina Trophy winner, to bail them out. On the other hand, the Avs have Alexandar Georgiev, who is 3-5 in the playoffs. The 28-year-old, in his second season as a starter, has endured a topsy-turvy season. While that's true, Avs' fans will point to another middling goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, leading them to ultimate glory in 2021-22.

Still, the Jets are a solid upset pick, reinforced by their 3-0 record versus the Avs this season.

Best bet: Jets to win series (+115 via FanDuel)

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Maple Leafs (A3) vs. Bruins (A2)

Maple Leafs odds +105+100+100+100+105
Maple Leafs winning probability 48.78%50%50%50%48.78%

Our probability of a Maple Leafs' upset: ⭐⭐⭐

As you can see, our best sports betting sites won't perceive a Maple Leafs victory as a major upset. In fact, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars give Toronto a 50% chance of prevailing. If you consider the historical context, Maple Leafs fans would bite the sportsbook's AI-generated arms off for a 50% chance of finally overcoming the Bruins in the postseason.

The Maple Leafs will hope the fourth time is a charm. Three previous first-round series against the Bruins in the past 11 years ended in soul-ruinous disillusionment, two of which came under the watch of the current corps.

But it will be different this time, right? Statistically speaking, the Maple Leafs hold their own, as shown in our Eastern Conference matchups and predictions. While still big, bad, and brash, the Bruins aren't as menacing as they once were.

But make no mistake - the Bruins will be razor-focused on avenging last season's shocking first-round loss to the Panthers.

However, if this group of players, led by Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Morgan Rielly, all of whom are in their prime, can't beat the Bruins on the third time of asking, all remaining hope will seep from Toronto like water into the soil after a torrential downpour. 

Best bet: Maple Leafs to win series (+105 via bet365)

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2024 Stanley Cup playoffs betting previews: Round 1

Here is our collection of first-round preview content to get you ready for the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.

How to bet on NHL playoffs upsets

Betting on NHL playoffs upsets can be thrilling, especially when you're rooting for the underdog. One strategy is to look for teams that have strong goaltending and defensive play, as these can often be key factors in causing upsets. Teams with hot goaltenders who can steal games, combined with a stifling defense that can shut down high-scoring opponents, are prime candidates for causing upsets in the playoffs.

Another thing to consider is the momentum and confidence of the teams heading into the playoffs. Sometimes, a lower-seeded team with momentum from a late-season surge or a strong finish might have the mental edge over a higher-seeded team that's been struggling or dealing with injuries. These teams can often ride that momentum to surprising victories, especially in the early rounds of the playoffs when anything can happen.

When betting on NHL playoffs upsets, it's essential to do your research and look beyond just the regular-season standings. Consider factors like recent form, head-to-head matchups, injuries, and playoff experience. By analyzing these factors and identifying teams with the potential to cause upsets, you can make informed bets that add an extra level of excitement to the playoff experience.

How to read NHL odds

In NHL betting, underdog odds represent the likelihood of a team winning a game or series when they are considered the less likely team to win. These odds are expressed as positive numbers, indicating the potential profit you can make on a winning bet. For example, if a team has odds of +200 to win a game, it means that if you bet $10 on that team and they win, you would profit $20, plus get your original $10 bet back.

Let's say the Tampa Bay Lightning are facing the Florida Panthers in a playoff series, and the Lightning are considered the underdogs with odds of +150 to win the series. This means that if you bet $10 on the Rangers and they win the series, you would profit $15, plus get your original $10 bet back.

Underdog odds can vary depending on factors like the teams' performances, injuries, and recent form, so it's essential to monitor these factors when betting on NHL underdogs.

Here are our best NHL betting sites:

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