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DraftKings Sportsbook NHL Playoffs: Qualifying Round Series Previews and Betting Insights

Matt Meiselman previews the Qualifying Round series and gives betting insight for the NHL ahead of the league’s return on Saturday, Aug. 1.

Vegas Golden Knights v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The NHL is set to resume its season on Saturday with a Qualifying Round series for teams seeded 5 to 12 and round-robin games for the top four seeds in each conference. You can find some analysis here about how things have changed since hockey was last played over four months ago:

DraftKings NHL Preview: Notable Player Status Updates for the 24 Playoff Teams

DraftKings Sportsbook NHL Playoff Preview: Top 5 Rosters Most Impacted by the Layoff

NHL Playoff Goal Bonus

Place a $50-plus bet on any team to win their Qualifying Series matchup on DraftKings Sportsbook and get $5-plus toward a Free Bet for every goal they score all series! Place your bets here at the DraftKings Sportsbook NHL page or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app.

Pittsburgh Penguins (-165) vs. Montreal Canadiens (+143)

Bets Split: Penguins 97%, Canadiens 3%

Handle Split: Penguins 99%, Canadiens 1%

The Penguins are by far the most popular bet for the first-ever NHL Qualifying Round, getting almost all of the bets and handle to beat the Canadiens. It makes plenty of sense, as the Penguins were among the Stanley Cup favorites for the majority of the 2019-2020 season. Pittsburgh is also fully healthy, with star winger Jake Guentzel now returning from a shoulder injury that has kept him out since December. The Canadiens, on the other hand, were 10 points back of the No. 8 seed when the regular season was suspended and only got into the playoffs because of the expanded 24-team format. It’s pretty clear what bettors are seeing, but the +143 line for the Canadiens indicates that this probably won’t be quite so overwhelmingly lopsided.

Carolina Hurricanes (-132) vs New York Rangers (+115)

Bet Split: Rangers 73%, Hurricanes 27%

Handle Split: Rangers 86%, Hurricanes 14%

The biggest storyline in this series is the regular season results between these two teams, with the Rangers winning all four of the team’s matchups against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes were the better team for most of the season, but for whatever reason, the Rangers played extremely well against them. Even with that head to head disparity, oddsmakers are still giving the Hurricanes the edge to win this best-of-five series. One key variable to monitor, however, is that Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton may not be available for some or all of the series. Hamilton was apparently fully recovered from a broken fibula, but he got injured again in practice last week and his status for the Qualifying Round is very much up in the air. His absence would certainly move the needle further in the Rangers’ direction.

New York Islanders (-115) vs. Florida Panthers (+100)

Bet Split: Islanders 63%, Panthers 37%

Handle Split: Islanders 63%, Panthers 37%

This series is expected to be closely contested, both in terms of the betting odds and the betting splits. The Islanders and Panthers had similar quality regular seasons, finishing with 80 and 78 points respectively. Both of these teams were on the playoff bubble when the season paused, but both are fully healthy and preparing to make a deep playoff run. The Islanders took all three regular-season meetings against the Panthers, and this could help explain why bettors are leaning in their direction.

Toronto Maple Leafs (-150) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (+130)

Bet Split: Maple Leafs 64%, Blue Jackets 36%

Handle Split: Maple Leafs 68%, Blue Jackets 32%

The Maple Leafs will have the rare experience of playing all conference playoff games at home this season, albeit with no fans in attendance. This still figures to give Toronto a slight edge against the Blue Jackets in this No. 8 seed vs No. 9 seed matchup. The Leafs are widely considered to have one of the most talented rosters in the NHL and finishing the regular season near the playoff bubble is probably a bit of an underachievement for Toronto. The Jackets, meanwhile, were probably fortunate to wind up where the team did, considering all of the injuries Columbus dealt with throughout the season. Seth Jones and Oliver Bjorkstrand were dealing with serious injuries when the season paused, however, and both will be back in the lineup when this series gets underway on Sunday.

Edmonton Oilers (-150) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (+130)

Bet Split: Oilers 81%, Blackhawks 19%

Handle Split: Oilers 86%, Blackhawks 14%

Like the Maple Leafs, the Oilers will be playing postseason games from the team’s home arena in Edmonton. The Oilers actually finished the regular season with more points than the fourth-seeded Dallas Stars, but slot in as the No. 5 seed based on a slightly lower winning percentage. The Oilers will take on the Blackhawks, who like the Canadiens, were likely going to miss the playoffs if the season proceeded on schedule. All of this surely plays into why we’re seeing overwhelming support for the Oilers with more than 80% of the bets and handle. Like with the Canadiens, the betting line indicates this could be a closer series than people seem to be expecting. The Blackhawks also took the season series from the Oilers, winning two out of three matchups.

Nashville Predators (-127) vs Arizona Coyotes (+110)

Bet Split: Predators 67%, Coyotes 33%

Handle Split: Predators 71%, Coyotes 29%

The Predators entered the 2019-2020 season off of back-to-back Central Division titles in which the team went into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. This season was more of a challenge for Nashville, particularly while dealing with an injury to defenseman Ryan Ellis, who may be one of the most underrated players in the NHL while generally getting overshadowed by his teammate Roman Josi. The Predators also struggled to get consistent goaltending this year, which explains why they still haven’t determined the playing time breakdown between Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. The Coyotes are letting their goalies battle it out too, but more so because both Darcy Keumper and Anti Raanta have played extremely well this season. These teams met twice in the regular season with each team winning once.

Vancouver Canucks (-112) vs. Minnesota Wild (-105)

Bet Split: Canucks 63%, Wild 37%

Handle Split: Canucks 76%, Wild 24%

There’s a strong contrast in this series between exciting young talent and seemingly boring older veterans. The Canucks have some of the league’s most prolific rising stars, particularly Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser. The Wild are mainly led by a strong veteran presence, and this could explain why bettors are more interested in backing the Canucks. Both teams had fairly erratic seasons and were on the edge of the playoffs when the regular season was cut short and both will be looking to capitalize on this opportunity in the playoffs. These teams met three times this season with the Wild winning twice.

Calgary Flames (-130) vs. Winnipeg Jets (+112)

Bet Split: Flames 39%, Jets 61%

Handle Split: Flames 31%, Jets 69%

The Jets are one of two Qualifying Round series underdogs getting the majority of bets (along with the Rangers) and it’s easy enough to see why. The Jets have some of the best top-end scoring talent in the NHL and Winnipeg generally tends to be one of the most exciting teams to watch, at least from an offensive perspective. Jets goalie Connor Helleybuck is also this season’s likely Vezina Trophy winner and strong goaltending tends to be a major theme for playoff predictions. The Flames had a decent season, but nothing particularly stands out about them and it’s pretty obvious that they underachieved for most of the year. The Flames were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a year ago and have almost the same roster this year, but bettors don’t seem to be weighing that very heavily.

Additional Series Betting Notes

  • Penguins series winner bets account for 25% of all Qualifying Round bets, and 43% of all Qualifying Round handle
  • The Oilers have the second largest share of Qualifying Round bets at 12% and the Rangers have the second-largest share of Qualifying Round handle at 14%.

NHL Playoff Goal Bonus

Place a $50-plus bet on any team to win their Qualifying Series matchup on DraftKings Sportsbook and get $5-plus toward a Free Bet for every goal they score all series! Place your bets here at the DraftKings Sportsbook NHL page or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app.

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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.