Best & Worst Picks for Round 2 of the 2018 NHL Playoffs

  • Online sportsbooks have posted their series prices for round two. 
  • The Penguins, Lightning, Predators, and Knights are all favored.
  • Which teams have betting value based on their actual probability?

Before round one, we put our NHL expertise to work by comparing the 2018 Stanley Cup futures available at online betting sites to our view of each team’s probability of winning it all.

Our biggest conclusion: the Penguins were being undervalued. (We also thought the Kings’ and Devils’ odds were a little too long, but let’s gloss over that.)

After banishing the Flyers in six, the Pens now draw the Capitals in the second round for the third straight year, a team they have bounced from the playoffs each of the last two years.

Instead of breaking down the new cup futures, today we’re looking at the series prices for each of the second-round matchups, which, in addition to Pens/Caps, includes Bruins vs Lightning, Sharks vs Golden Knights, and Jets vs Predators.

Just like before, we’ll juxtapose the implied probability of the available odds with our own prognostication, thereby finding the best and worst picks for the bunch.

San Jose Sharks vs Vegas Golden Knights

Available odds: Sharks (+115) vs Knights (-135)
Implied probability of odds: Sharks (46.5%) vs Knights (57.4%)
MTS series-winner probability: Sharks (50%) vs Knights (50%)

Both the Sharks and Knights were deeply impressive in round one, earning a pair of sweeps over the Ducks and Kings, respectively. But they went about it in very different ways.

The Sharks outscored Anaheim 16-4, while Vegas won each of its games by a single goal, including a pair of 1-0 wins. Only once (Game 2) did they look like the significantly better team, and if you’ll recall, that’s the game Drew Doughty missed for LA.

This series is going to be extremely tight and the available odds overvalue Vegas. Both teams have solid possession numbers — Vegas was 7th in Corsi % (51.69%) while San Jose was 8th (51.57%) — and had similarly stingy defenses in the regular season (228 GA vs 229 GA). Those favoring Vegas will point to the sublime performance of Marc-Andre Fleury, who leads the playoffs with a .977 SV% and 0.65 GAA. But Martin Jones has been almost as good for San Jose, sitting second in SV% (.970) and GAA (1.00).

Vegas took the regular-season series 3-1, but each game was tight. Three were decided by a single goal, while the fourth was a 5-3 Vegas win that saw the Knights erase a 3-2 third-period deficit despite getting outshot 38-33 in the game.

This series is a true toss-up. The Sharks, with all their playoff experience, are the better value at the moment, and have a better chance than their current +115 odds suggest.

Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators

Available odds: Jets (+125) vs Predators (-145)
Implied probability of odds: Jets (44.4%) vs Predators (59.2%)
MTS series-winner probability: Jets (45%) vs Predators (55%)

The top two teams in the West both looked awfully good in round one and get to renew their now-heated rivalry in round two. The Jets sent the Wild home in five, outscoring them 7-0 in Games 4 and 5 to close out the series in decisive fashion.

The Preds were pushed to six by the Avalanche, but looked like the markedly better team in five of the six games. Like the Jets, they also ended things with an exclamation point.

Nashville took the season series 3-1-1 but were outshot in four of the five games. Counterintuitively, neither team was all that great at driving play in the regular season. Nashville was 13th in Corsi at 50.72% while Winnipeg was 18th and under 50% (49.89%).

The Predators were able to edge the Jets for the President’s Trophy thanks to a better road record (25-9-7 vs 20-13-8), and that’s why they deserve to be favored heading into this one. Winnipeg continued to look like a vastly better team at home than on the road in round one. After outshooting the Wild 84-37 through the first two games on home ice, Games 3 and 4 saw both teams fire 59 shots on net apiece.

Without home-ice advantage, the Jets are in trouble. Nashville’s -143 moneyline is nonetheless overstating how close this series is going to be, but this is a stay-away from a betting perspective.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals

Available odds: Penguins (-120) vs Capitals (+100)
Implied probability of odds: Penguins (54.5%) vs Capitals (50%)
MTS series-winner probability: Penguins (48%) vs Capitals (52%)

Unlike the four surviving Western Conference teams, the Pens and Caps both had some difficulty getting out of the first round. The Penguins needed a huge comeback to beat the Flyers in six, while the Capitals fell in a 2-0 hole to Columbus before reeling off four straight wins.

After beating the Caps in each of the last two playoffs, the Pens are favored here despite Washington holding home-ice advantage.

While Pittsburgh was the pick heading into the first round, they are now dealing with a significant injury concern: Evgeni Malkin will miss at least the first game of the series.

The way Braden Holtby played after relieving Philipp Grubauer in Game 2, Pittsburgh is going to need to generate a lot of scoring chances to beat the Caps for a third straight year, and doing so without their leading scorer is a tough ask.

Unless you believe in hokum like jinxes and curses, Washington is good value.

Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Available odds: Bruins (+110) vs Lightning (-130)
Implied probability of odds: Bruins (47.6%) vs Lightning (56.5%)
MTS series-winner probability: Bruins (47%) vs Lightning (53%)

The Bolts and Bruins battled to the final day of the regular season for top spot in the Atlantic, and Tampa emerged on top thanks to a Bruins no-show against Florida. Their reward was not having to face Toronto in the first round, which proved a crucible for Boston, who nearly blew a 3-1 series lead and needed a third-period comeback in Game to move on.

Tampa, meanwhile, sent New Jersey’s one-man Taylor Hall show packing in five. Nikita Kucherov picked up where he left off in the regular season with five goals and ten points in the series, proving pretty definitively that he’s blossomed into the best and most important player on this Tampa team.

While Boston had Tampa’s number in the regular season — 3-1-0 record; 126 shots-for, 108 shots-against — the Lightning have a pretty good chance of taking this best-of-seven. Boston had to play a lot more hockey in round one, and it took its toll. Patrice Bergeron missed Game 4 against Toronto due to injury, and didn’t register a point in Games 3, 5, or 7 (all Boston losses).

The Bruins need their big line (Bergeron-Pastrnak-Marchand) to be at its best, and their inconsistency in these playoffs is a concern. It’s hard to back either team at their current price.

Round 2 Picks: Best to Worst

Based on the numbers above, our hierarchy for betting value in round two is:

  1. San Jose Sharks: +3.5%
  2. Washington Capitals: +2.0%
  3. Winnipeg Jets: +0.6%
  4. Boston Bruins: -0.6%
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning: -3.5%
  6. Nashville Predators: -4.2%
  7. Pittsburgh Penguins: -6.5%
  8. Vegas Golden Knights: -7.4%

To place a wager on any of these series, head to Bovada‘s NHL futures page.

AlexanderP

Alexander is the MTS editor-in-chief. Frank, Alex, and Geoff brought him in when they realized that their betting expertise far surpassed their grammatical abilities. He loves overanalyzing college basketball trends. Talking to him during the first weekend of March Madness is like talking to a wall. A very focused wall, but a wall nonetheless.