We focus on the Western Conference odds and Series odds in this column, analyze all four matchups and serve up our early NHL betting predictions and picks.
Western Conference Overview
According to the NHL odds makers, the St. Louis Blues are the team to beat in the Western Conference at +390 NHL odds (See Table 1). Edging just slightly ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, despite both sides finishing the season on identical 51-24-7 records and clinching their respective divisions.
Predictably, the Chicago Blackhawks are amongst the top favorites, third overall on the NHL odds board even though they finished two points behind the Predators in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference overall.
What may surprise some NHL bettors is the fact that Vancouver Canucks are priced behind Minnesota Wild, despite finishing a point ahead of them in theWestern Conference (fifth overall). By that same token, it's a curious twist to have both the Wild and Nashville Predators on par at +650 NHL odds to win the Western Conference.
Finally, there are no surprises at the bottom of the pile with both the Flames and Jets trading equally at +950 NHL odds, making the pair the long shot NHL picks to win the Conference title.
Table 1: Western Conference Odds To Win Outright
*Odds courtesy of Bet365.com
So with the NHL betting landscape determined, let's take a look at each of the matchups set to get the first round of the Western Conference playoffs off the mark, compete with the NHL series odds to win outright currently trading (See Table 2). Who has the edge according to the odds makers and where are the value NHL picks?
Does Playoff Betting Differ From Regular Season Betting?
You bet it does. The NHL playoffs are notoriously wide open and all 16 teams have a legitimate shot to advance into the Stanley Cup playoffs, if not win it all. This is supported by historical trends that reveal just one side in the last six years finishing top of the league and winning the Stanley Cup. This doesn't mean all regular season trends go out of the window. Rather they need to be taken with reservation. The playoffs are an entirely different game altogether and it's usually the best team in the postseason not the best team in the regular season that wins it all.
Table 2: Western Conference Series Odds
*Odds courtesy of Bet365.com
Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackawks
Consensus Betting: 61% Blackhawks to win Game 1
Analysis: No side has dominated the playoffs quite like the Chicago Blackhawks over the past six years. If they aren't winning the coveted Stanley Cup, they are making it very difficult for opponents to get past them in a series. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Blackhawks are favored to win the series at -140 and are sat amongst the top three favorites to win the Western Conference.
The Blackhawks are the lower seed according to the NHL season-ending rankings, but nobody is taking that at face value. The Predators have done well this season, but they drew the proverbial short straw in the playoffs with a clash against the Blackhawks.
NHL Picks: Blackhawks -140
Series Picks: Blackhawks to win in 5 games
Winnipeg Jets vs. Anaheim Ducks
Consensus Betting: 88% Ducks to win Game 1
Analysis: Anaheim Ducks clinched the Pacific Division and come into the playoffs behind a 6-4-0 mark in their last ten games. They are amongst the top favorites in the Western Conference to emerge into the Stanley Cup playoffs, but there are those that wonder whether they can put together a disciplined run through the playoffs and whether their goaltending is sound enough to withstand what is sure to be a barrage, beginning in the first round with the fiery Jets. In more ways than one, this series could go either way. That said, we're fading the public and going with the Ducks to get off to a strong start against the Jets.
NHL Picks: Ducks -150
Series Pick: Ducks to win in 6 games
Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames
Consensus Betting: 60% Vancouver To Win Game 1
Analysis: With the regular season tied 2-2-0 between these two sides, this Pacific Division clash is more evenly matched than the NHL odds that tip the series towards the Vancouver Canucks at -145 suggest. If the last two meetings were any indication, both of which were won by the Flames (1-0 and 3-2), the Flames will fancy their chances. They are a young, hungry side that has speed and skill and could enjoy a coming out party at the playoffs. That said, the Canucks are better with possession and have the experience. Goaltending could be the difference with Miller only recently coming off injury.
The NHL Pick: Canucks -145
Series: Canucks in 7
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
Consensus Betting: 83% Minnesota to win Game 1
Analysis: The series between the Blues and Wild is shaping up to be another hotly contested first round showdown. While the Blues are favored to clinch the series at -145 in the NHL odds board, the public is shading the Wild to get off to a stellar start. It's interesting to note, both sides are 6-3-1 in their last ten regular games, albeit the Blues are riding the momentum of a two-game winning streak while the Wild dropped their season closer. That said there is a lot to like about both teams and this series could go either way. We're backing the underdogs on our NHL picks.
NHL Picks: The Wild upset the Blues +125
Series Pick: Wild to win in 6 games