The intensity of the NHL postseason is unrivaled. Puck drops on the Conference Semifinals on Wednesday, the magnitude of which is amplified by two in-state/province rivalries. The Calgary Flames had a stunning come from behind overtime victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 7, setting up a second-round matchup with the hated Edmonton Oilers. Similarly, the Tampa Bay Lightning erased a 3-2 series shortfall, knocking off the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice in the series finale. That set them on a collision course with the Florida Panthers, pitting the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions against this year’s President Trophy winners.
That’s without even considering the other two series, featuring the St. Louis Blues, the last team to win the Cup other than the Lightning, against the playoff-moribund Colorado Avalanche, or the New York Rangers, trying to subdue the Metropolitan Division-winning Carolina Hurricanes.
We’re highlighting some of our favorite wagers ahead of Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames – Series Length Seven Games (+210)
Both Pacific Division teams needed the full allotment of games to sneak past their opening-round opponents. Although the Flames are priced as -200 favorites, this series will be closer than the betting market implies.
The Flames will be tasked with slowing down McDavid, which is no easy assignment. McDavid has torched the in-province rivals throughout his career, accumulating 47 points in 34 career games. The two-time MVP has put the Oilers on his back through the first seven playoff games, recording 14 points while being on the ice for 20 of their 27 goals.
Edmonton faces a similar task in limiting the Flames’ top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm; however, they’ve been an improved defensive squad under Jay Woodcroft’s tutelage. Scoring and high-danger chances have decreased over the past few months, and we saw how scarce opportunities became when the Oilers were buzzing in Games 6 and 7.
They say offense is the best defense, but even if McDavid takes his foot off the pedal, the Oilers emphasized defensive structure will help them limit the Flames. This series will be an instant classic and should go the distance.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers – Lightning Series Price +130
The Panthers ended the season as the league’s best team, but to be the best, you have to beat the best, and knocking off the defending champs could prove too big of a challenge.
Kudos to the Panthers for staging three comeback victories in their opening-round matchup against the Washington Capitals. Resiliency is an integral part of postseason success, albeit an unsustainable way of winning games. The Panthers feasted on subpar goaltending against an inferior Capitals team and step up in weight class against the Bolts.
Timely scoring saved the Panthers’ season, but their metrics took a big hit in the Conference Quarterfinals. Florida was out-chanced in high-danger opportunities at five-on-five, giving up more and creating fewer than they did during the regular season. That resulted in a leap in their PDO, increasing to 1.032 after the first round, implying that they are regression candidates this round.
Florida can’t employ a similar standard against the Lightning and expect to move on. Although it’s conceivable their metrics jump in the second round, we’re not laying -154, hoping things get better. Bolts as plus-money underdogs are the side to be on.
St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche – Blues Series Spread +1.5 +140
Every year, a team fails to live up to the hype in the postseason, and unfortunately for the Avs, it’s been them over the past few seasons. Exorcising their playoff demons in the Conference Semifinals against a proven playoff winner could perpetuate the Avs’ playoff narrative.
Colorado’s 4-0 series win wasn’t as impressive as it appeared. The Avalanche’s metrics took a hit, with the team failing to crack nine high-danger chances in two of their four games. The opportunities they did land against the Nashville Predators’ third-string goaltender count for less against Jordan Binnington.
We also saw a resurgent Blues team restructure things on the fly against the Minnesota Wild in Round 1. St. Louis tidied things up in their own end, allowing just 11 quality chances over their final two games of the series. Sustained defensive play is crucial to limiting a dangerous Avs attack, but even when they do break through, Binnington offers more resistance than Connor Ingram and the Preds.
There’s a fine line between rest and rust in the postseason, and the Avs are teetering towards the latter. The Blues have a proven playoff pedigree that will make this series a grind. St. Louis has an excellent chance to come out on top, but the +1.5 series spread at +140 offers some insurance that they can at least keep it close.