This is the best betting week of the entire National Hockey League season if you concur in a basic philosophy which has little to do with handicapping:
The higher-seeded team in a first-round series is the better team, thus the bettor receives better value when they are on the road for Games 3 and 4.
Sure, one needs to adjust for injuries, hot goaltenders, styles of play – all the typical traits in order to determine a winner. However, one can over-think on all these categories and miss answering the obvious question: Which team is the better team?
Period. Don’t over analyze it – just state which is the better side?
There always seems to be one series which goes against all logic. However, with eight series running concurrently, just going with the better, obvious side should add to your wallet.
Games 1 and 2
When the home team loses on home ice in Game 1, how many times do they win Game 2?
Since the strike, the situation has happened 30 times entering this season’s playoffs, with the visiting team taking the second game exactly half of the time. And at plus-money (at time, up to $2 and more), so don’t fall for the "must win" scenario.
You’ll be up more than nine units continuing to bet the road underdog.
This playoff year, Game 1 road winners were: Philadelphia, New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Jose. Bet blindly, two of them (Flyers and Kings) also won Game 2 – at plus-money, more profit for the bettor.
Logically, sure it’s hard to pull the trigger and bet on the road dog, but now the trend is 17-17.
But now, in the reverse situation, you get the "better" team on the road this week.
If the higher-seeded team splits the first two games, they also do well on the road, winning Game 3 (and even Game 4) on an even higher rate. That’s why this week is my best for betting.
Lots of games with the same premise – and they win – with attractive prices at near Pick ‘em rather than -170 or higher.
Rangers-Senators: Ottawa took Game 2 in overtime (always a 50-50 proposition) to even the series. Still, which was the better third-period team despite a late goal to force the extra session? It clearly was New York.
Look, New York has the better goalie, the better defense and can score (despite some weakness on the power play). This is the week to bet on the Rangers!
Bruins-Capitals: Same as Rangers-Ottawa, except the Bruins are having trouble creating scoring chances. Still, bet on the Bruins.
What to watch for: Will Caps goalie Braden Holtby become the next Patrick Roy, who once won the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) the year before he was Rookie of the Year (Calder Trophy)? Thus, UNDER is the better wager.
Panthers-Devils: Be smarter than the NHL, which arbitrarily made division champions one of the top three seeds. The better team is New Jersey (more points while playing in a tougher division), which gained the home-ice advantage by winning Game 1
The Panthers take way too many penalties. If they do that on the road, the Devils will pounce on them.
Sure, Florida is happy with its first postseason win in 15 years in Game 2, but will it carry over to games at The Rock? No.
Penguins-Flyers: Has Pittsburgh gone crazy by playing the Flyers’ style? Even Sidney Crosby got into a fight!
And with a 3-0 lead for the Flyers, history is totally against the Pengys: Only three teams have ever bounced back from 3-down to capture a 7-game series, and one of those was during World War II with depleted rosters league-wide.
If one could make such a bet, take OVER on suspensions handed out by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL director of player safety – whatever that means.
Canucks-Kings: For the first time in franchise history, the Kings lead a playoff series by a 3-0 margin in looking for the team’s first series win since 2001.
And with few exceptions, when a team gains a third win, keep betting them until they win the series, as Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is the early leader for the Conn Smythe.
Plus, special teams have been dominated by L.A., including a pair of short-handed goals by Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Look at the numbers: Vancouver ranked first on the power play prior to the All-Star Game break. Since then, they are 27th out of 30 – they really do miss injured forward Daniel Sedin.
Thus, expect more rioting in B.C. before week’s end.
Blues-Sharks: Following another opening split by the road team, now is the time to play the Blues during their turn away from St. Louis.
In the final week of the regular season, if became obvious that San Jose went to a more physical style to offset its lack of scoring. However, the Blues tandem goalie situation hasn’t stopped supporting the most complete defensive unit in the West.
And again, the price is right with St. Louis on the road.
Coyotes-Blackhawks: The 3-vs-6 series may be the exception to my playoff betting guidelines. And with Jonathan Toews (a Winnipeg native) back from injury, centering a line with Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith must be outstanding for the Coyotes to survive.
But after Sharp laid a cold shoulder in Smith’s grill in Game 2, watch the suspension list to see who’s eligible to play. If Phoenix needs to switch to backup goalie Jason LaBarbera, Chicago will definitely advance.
Predators-Red Wings: As we talked about last week, Nashville can and will win in Detroit. Thus, they regained the home-ice advantage with a Game 3 win over the weekend.
The Preds may have the best unknown talent in the league. And Detroit head coach Mike Babcock admitted what the problem is for the team’s slow start: lack of winning faceoffs in order to get the forecheck in motion.
Faceoffs are a talent, a skill, a necessary – especially in the playoffs. Thus, Nashville is the play until things change. Puck possession is as important as defense.