After an unprecedented week with both Qualifying Round and round-robin games, the NHL returns to its standard playoff format today with the “first round” of the NHL Playoffs. The teams in each conference have been re-seeded one through eight and will get back to the typical seven game series’ that fans are used to seeing. Below you’ll find betting splits and analysis for the Western Conference, getting you ready for the start of hockey action at 3:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon.
(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs (8) Chicago Blackhawks
The Vegas Golden Knights swept their three round-robin games and earned themselves the number one seed heading into the first round of the NHL Playoffs. The Knights were one of the best teams in hockey all year, but some recent key injuries posed problems for them and they’ll need to remain healthy if they want to keep their status as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year.
Mark Stone ($6,700) has already returned from the lower body injury that was threatening his season at the time of the NHL suspension, but Max Pacioretty ($7,200) hasn’t played yet in the restart and only just joined the team on Sunday. Pacioretty is expected to play in Game 1, and his return would go a long way in helping the Knights produce enough offense to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks and make a deep playoff run.
The Blackhawks are coming off of a big upset, at least in the eyes of most bettors, beating the Oilers who were one of the most popular bets of the Qualifying Round. The Blackhawks just snuck into the playoff as the number 12 seed but drew a matchup against a clearly overrated Oilers team, who have star power but just not much roster depth or defensive capability. This series will be an exponentially tougher test, as they take on a Knights team that’s apparently fully healthy heading into Game 1.
(2) Colorado Avalanche vs (7) Arizona Coyotes
The Colorado Avalanche were one of the more injury-affected teams in the NHL when the season was stopped in March, but they’ve fully healed up and are one of the best bets to come out of the Western Conference and compete for a Stanley Cup. They’ll take on the Arizona Coyotes, who pulled off a semi-surprising upset against the then 6-seeded Nashville Predators. The Avs are sizable favorites for this matchup and perhaps rightfully so, and the Coyotes are one of the few teams who would have been on the outside looking in under the normal NHL Playoff format.
The most obvious reason for the massive disparity in betting splits towards the Avalanche is the hometown love coming from the state of Colorado, as Colorado is one of the newest states with available sports betting and Avs fans have been showing up in large numbers since they were first given the opportunity to be on their team. The Avs are the top overall bet to win the Stanley Cup this season (+625) with 24% of both handle and bets, and they’re getting an even larger share of betting since mid-March, with 37% of the bets and 39% of the handle since the league first halted play.
(3) Dallas Stars vs (6) Calgary Flames
The Dallas Stars pulled off an improbable 2-1 shootout win on Sunday, coming from behind to defeat the St. Louis Blues despite playing the game without their top center in Tyler Seguin ($5,900). The win moved the Stars into the 3 seed in the West, and fortunately Seguin is expected to be in the lineup when their series against the Calgary Flames gets underway on Tuesday.
The Flames themselves are an interesting case, as they were one of the rare extremely contrarian favorites from a betting splits perspective in the Qualifying Round. The Flames took advantage of key injuries to the Winnipeg Jets, so even though it became an easy matchup, bettors don’t seem hesitant to back to the Flames in this round against a superior Stars team. As displayed above, the Flames are getting 75% of the bets to win the series despite being slight underdogs, but the handle for the series is closer to an even split which suggests that the larger bets are coming in on Dallas.
(4) St. Louis Blues vs (5) Vancouver Canucks
The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues find themselves as the lowest of the Round Robin seeds, after limping into the playoffs with an 0-3 showing in the Round Robin games. Those three games were against three of the best teams in hockey, however, so this shouldn’t be much of an indication for their chances going forward. The Blues were one of the best teams in the NHL this season too, and have gotten their star forward Vladimir Tarasenko back in the lineup, so they’re as poised to make a run to the Cup as anyone.
They’ll face the Vancouver Canucks in Round One, who are coming off of an impressive 3-1 series victory over the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks are one of the more exciting young teams in hockey, with potential future stars like Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes, and they’ll pose a tough test for the Blues when the series gets going on Wednesday night. DraftKings Sportsbook bettors see the Blues as the superior team (with 66% of the bets and handle) and rightfully so, but the Canucks are a bigger threat than some of the previously mentioned underdogs and this could be one of the more competitive series in the first round.
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