The puck will drop on the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night. There are plenty of interesting stories that will be forthcoming during this spring playoff run.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will attempt to become the first three-peat champion since the New York Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups 1980-1983. The Nashville Predators will attempt to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for a second straight season in spite of the fact they won the Presidents Trophy, which since 1985-1986 has annually been awarded to the team that amasses the most points during the regular season.
A Presidents Trophy winner has not won the Stanley Cup since the Chicago Blackhawks won it in 2013 and no Presidents Trophy winner has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals since that 2013 Stanley Cup winning season for the Blackhawks. The Vegas Golden Knights in their very first season as an NHL franchise, in miraculous and incredible fashion, qualified for the playoffs and did so by winning the Pacific Division title thanks to an outstanding 51 win regular season.
I’ve selected a few of the opening round playoff matchups that have some good betting value in terms of current series price wagers that are available at most sportsbooks offshore and in Las Vegas.
The Washington Capitals have been a perennial playoff team in the Alex Ovechkin era since 2008 as the Capitals have made the playoffs in 9 of their last 10 seasons but they have not advanced beyond the second round in their previous nine playoff appearances during that span. Regular season success has not equated to playoff success for this team and that is despite multiple coaches being behind the bench.
Washington will look to finally shake those playoff demons this time around but I think they will be in tough to even advance past the very opening round matched up against a Columbus Blue Jackets squad that played its best hockey in the final month of the season, winning 13 of their last 16 regular season games, excluding their final game against Nashville in which head coach John Tortorella opted to rest most of his best players in a meaningless season finale.
Washington is not saying much about who will start the playoffs as their #1 goaltender with head coach Barry Trotz deciding between the better goalie late in the season Philipp Grubauer, although he has no playoff starting experience to his name, or veteran Braden Holtby who has started many playoff games in his career but is in the midst of one of his most uneven and inconsistent seasons in between the pipes for Washington.
Columbus has a lot more offensive depth up front among their four forward lines than in past seasons. Their blue line is young but getting better and better with each game and they might own the goalie edge here with Sergei Bobrovsky.
I think Bobrovsky is ready to take that next step forward and play at a high level in this year’s playoffs.
The window is closing on Washington and it might just be opening for Columbus. Washington is a -130 and Columbus is +110 as the current series prices for this Eastern Conference first round series. The Blue Jackets, currently listed as a small underdog on the series price to take down the Capitals, is a bet I’m certainly interested in here in the first round.
In the West, we have to talk about the postseason debut for the Vegas Golden Knights who have enjoyed a magical season winning the Pacific Division in their first season in existence, which in the process gives the Sin City residing club home ice advantage at T-Mobile Arena for at least the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They will be facing the Los Angeles Kings who are a team chock full of playoff experience as 11 of the current players on LA’s team, including captain Anze Kopitar and goalie Jonathan Quick, were part of the 2014 Stanley Cup winning team for the Kings.
However, most of the core is a bit older and do not have the type of team speed you need to possess in order to handle the blazing fast four lines the Golden Knights can throw at you.
Vegas was a lot more inconsistent after the All-Star Break and they coasted into the end of the regular season after clinching the Pacific Division with a very lackluster showing in the final week of the season.
I believe the Golden Knights coaching staff, though anchored by head coach Gerard Gallant, can help ensure this team is able to turn up their level of play once again this spring.
Based on the fellow hockey bettors and handicappers I have talked to in the last 24 hours or so, there is a solid LA Kings sentiment in the betting markets saying they are a tough matchup for Vegas who does not have a plethora of playoff experience in their group outside of their outstanding veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and forward James Neal. But there have been doubters all season long about Vegas and whether they would sustain their strong start going all the way back to before the calendar turned to 2018.
I was not one of the doubters and I am not about to doubt the Golden Knights here in a matchup where I believe their team speed and depth-laden forward group can exploit some of the Kings’ weaknesses, particularly on the blue line as LA has a lot of newer and younger faces on defense now than they did back in 2014 when they won the Cup.
I’ll recommend laying a moderate price with Vegas -130 in series price wagering to defeat Los Angeles.
Ian Cameron has been handicapping and betting sports year-round for over a decade. He has been with Sportsmemo.com since 2012, using his knowledge and handicapping techniques to make insightful winning selections