Eastern Conference Qualification Round Series Odds and Best Bets

  • The Penguins (-195) are heavy favorites to win their best-of-five Qualifying Round series against the Habs (+175)
  • The physical Blue Jackets (+140) could give a soft Maple Leafs (-160) team some problems 
  • Artemi Panarin will look to continue his impressive debut year on Broadway by scoring an upset over the Hurricanes (-140)

If you believe the winner of this year’s Stanley Cup should have an asterisk beside its name, you might just deserve a cross-check to the teeth from any of the players competing in the NHL’s best-of-five Qualifying Round.

To sip from Lord Stanley, these warriors will have to win 19 games (up from the usual 16) against five different clubs (rather than four).

While the actual start date and location of the hub cities are still largely up in the air, let’s break down the odds on all four Eastern Conference Qualifying Round series.


Team Current Odds
Montreal Canadiens +175
Pittsburgh Penguins -195
Team Current Odds
New York Rangers +120
Carolina Hurricanes -140
Team Current Odds
Florida Panthers -105
New York Islanders -115
Team Current Odds
Columbus Blue Jackets +140
Toronto Maple Leafs -160


Pittsburgh’s odds to make the postseason were at 96 percent at the time of the shutdown, but here they competing in the play-in-round against the lowly Canadiens, a team that sat ten points back of a playoff spot.

You could say the Penguins (-195) are getting screwed, but at least the time off gave Jake Guentzel a chance to recover from what should have been season-ending shoulder surgery. With the young sniper back in the fold, the Pens will be fully healthy after enduring miserable injury luck all season, including a Sidney Crosby sports-hernia surgery that feels like it happened sometime in 2015 at this point.

If Carey Price gets hot and wins this series for Montreal (+175), everyone will blame the layoff even though the result would be nowhere near as absurd as the Jackets sweep of the Lightning last season.

Still, don’t count on that happening. The one-two punch of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who enjoyed a big bounceback year with 74 points in 55 games, will be more than enough to dispatch of the low-scoring Habs. Pittsburgh in 3. 


While Leafs fans should be glad to have any opponent other than Boston at this point, John Tortorella’s tight-checking Blue Jackets (+140) will be a tough out.

After losing Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene in free agency, Columbus lost All-Star defenseman Seth Jones, top goal scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand and forward Cam Atkinson to ankle injuries during the season. Still, they somehow remained in the playoff mix.

Now healthy, the league’s fourth-best defensive club will try to lock down the NHL’s third-best offense. If the Jackets can quickly ratchet up the physicality after a long layoff, they’ll have an excellent opportunity to upset a tissue-soft Toronto team that’s looking to win its first playoff series in more than 16 years.

Containing Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner won’t be easy, but I like CBJ in 5. For similar reasons, expect Barry Trotz’s defensive-minded Islanders (-115) to prevail over a Panthers (-105) team they went 3-0 against in the regular season. Islanders in 4.

Finally, let’s go with the upstart Rangers (+120) to upset the Hurricanes (-140) in a turn-back-the-clock series for King Henrik Lundqvist. New York in 5.

Steve Starr

Steve is one of the many Americans who spends Sunday watching football on the couch and gorging on heart-clogging eats. He describes himself as a good father, great dog owner, and mediocre gambler and husband.

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