The Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday (April 12) and though you might not like the way the NHL puts together the postseason bracket, it does give bettors more information than the old system, helping us to forecast one of the most unpredictable postseasons in sports.
Does it make sense, from a competition standpoint, that the three teams with the most points in the Eastern Conference (Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus) are all in the same four-team pod, meaning only one can possibly reach the conference finals? No, absolutely not. Will I use that to my advantage when picking which teams to bet on?
You better believe it.
Here are the three teams I’m sprinkling a little money on.
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Who’s the Best Value?
Those that only tune in to hockey come the playoffs will be surprised the smart money in the West’s Central pod, which features Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Nashville, is on the Wild, not the Blackhawks. Minnesota hasn’t been past the second round of the playoffs since 2003, and has won two total series since 2008. However, unlike the Hawks, who enter the playoffs having lost four straight, the Wild have won four in a row.
Apart from a bit of a let-down in the middle of the season, they have been consistently excellent. Minnesota led the Western Conference by a mile in goal differential, and is the second-highest scoring team in the league. The offense is insanely balanced with nine players posting 40-plus points. After scoring a career-low ten goals last year, Eric Staal has bounced back nicely, leading the team with 28 goals on the season. Defensively, Minnesota is as deep as they come, and goalie Devan Dubnyk has had a very good season.
The Wild get the Blues, who bounced them from the playoffs last year, in the first round, and then possibly Chicago in the second round. It’s not an easy route, but that’s why the price is tempting.
Remember last year when no Canadian team even qualified for the playoffs? Things are looking up for our neighbors to the north this year. Montreal won the Atlantic Division with 103 points and finds itself in a four-team pod absent of Washington, Pittsburgh, and Columbus, the top-three teams in the conference. The Habs will face the Rangers, the fourth place team from the Metro Division, in the first round, which is an incredibly intriguing matchup. New York had just one fewer point that Montreal during the regular season and a better goal differential while playing the tougher schedule. However, Montreal beat the Rangers in each of their three matchups. They also have home-ice advantage and are playing better down the stretch (6-3-1 in the last ten versus 3-4-3 for NY).
With the winner of Ottawa/Boston awaiting the victor, whoever comes out of this series has a great chance to be in the Eastern Conference finals and offers significant value.
The Ducks overtime win over Los Angeles on Sunday night clinched the top seed in the four-team Pacific Division pod of the Western Conference. If they beat Calgary in their first playoff series, they will have home-ice against Edmonton or San Jose in the second round. The defensively stingy Ducks have not lost in regulation in a month, and have the best home record in the West, and went 18-6-5 against the Pacific Division (including 4-1 against the Flames) in the regular season. Their 200 goals allowed are the fewest in the Western Conference.
Though anything can happen, they are the deserving chalk to be in the Western Finals, and at that point, we’ll take our chances.
Photo Credit: By Resolute (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.