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The puck will drop on the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night. Here is an overview of the first round, including a few worthy series price and futures betting recommendations for the opening round.

In the Eastern Conference, the top seed and Presidents Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals, take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a mismatch in terms of playoff experience as Washington has been to the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons while Toronto has only eight players on their entire roster with at least 10 games of playoff experience. Washington is a massive favorite north of -300 to win the series.

The Boston Bruins face the Ottawa Senators in a series where both teams are battling key injuries. Boston is likely to be without starting defensemen Torrey Krug and Brandon Carlo for the start of the series. Ottawa may be minus veteran defensemen Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson for at least Game 1 of the series on their blue line. In terms of series pricing, Boston is close to a -180 favorite despite the fact Ottawa has home ice advantage.

The Montreal Canadiens take on the NY Rangers. Montreal is a -120 favorite to win the series. Montreal is very suspect offensively but solid defensively. The N.Y. Rangers have the ability to score goals but are a lackluster defensive team. Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, the two star goalies, had uncharacteristic up and down seasons. The winner of this series will likely be the team whose goaltending is best able to put their regular season struggles behind them and regain their top form.

The Pittsburgh Penguins (defending Stanley Cup champions) face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Pittsburgh is a -170 favorite in the series. Columbus is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 in what has been a fantastic turnaround season for the Blue Jackets led by an impressive core of players like Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg, Boone Jenner and Seth Jones; and this team won’t be a pushover for Pittsburgh. It is certainly worth noting Columbus took Pittsburgh to six games in a first round playoff series back in 2014.

In the Western Conference, the 1 seed is the Chicago Blackhawks who have won three Stanley Cups since 2010. They will face the Nashville Predators. Chicago has won two playoff series against Nashville in 2010 and 2015, and they took four of the five regular season meetings this season. Chicago has the core of their team that has won multiple Stanley Cups entering this year’s playoffs with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa leading the way. Chicago is a -190 favorite to win the series.

The Pacific Division winning Anaheim Ducks take on the Calgary Flames with Anaheim a -170 favorite to win the series. Anaheim has a size edge and center ice position depth advantage over Calgary. The Flames have a solid top six forwards but there is a bit of a dropoff after that, which could be the difference. If Calgary is to win this series, they must find a way to win in Anaheim and that is something they haven’t done in a stunning 25 straight games.

The Minnesota Wild will face the St. Louis Blues. Minnesota is a -140 favorite to win this series. The Wild struggled mightily down the stretch, ending the regular season on a 4-13 slide in their last 17 games. Minnesota did not play as well defensively and goaltender Devan Dubnyk showed signs of fatigue and being worn down, resulting in Alex Stalock and Darcy Kuemper getting some starts in the last few weeks. The Blues enter in better form than their first round opponent and at an attractive plus price in the +120 to +130 range, worthy of a series price wager.

I am bullish on the Edmonton Oilers, who return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, as they face the San Jose Sharks. Edmonton is led by Connor McDavid, who put together a spectacular 100 point campaign. The Oilers combo of speed and skill is a problem for a Sharks team that has many of their key players in their 30’s and a team that has logged plenty of miles and games since the start of last season, including a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think the gas tank may be running low for San Jose based on the fact they are limping into the playoffs having won just four of their last 13 games.

The case can be made that the NHL has the best playoffs of the four major North American sports and I expect another thrilling playoff season. As always, enjoy the games and good luck!

Ian Cameron has been handicapping and betting sports year-round for over a decade. He has been with since 2012, using his knowledge and handicapping techniques to make insightful winning selections

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