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 Eastern Conference, getting you ready for the start of hockey action at 3:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon.
(1) Philadelphia Flyers vs (8) Montreal Canadiens
The Philadelphia Flyers leapfrogged the top teams in the Eastern Conference with three consecutive round-robin wins, moving into the number one seed. It’s an impressive feat for the Flyers, who entered the restart in fourth place, and they’ll draw perhaps the most favorable matchup they could get with the Montreal Canadiens.
No one had really given the Canadiens a chance in the first round, with nearly 99% of the betting falling on the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Canadiens weren’t actually huge underdogs at roughly +200 and they clearly showed that they could compete with a 3-1 series win. The playoffs were a distant hope for the Canadiens in March, but the expanded format gave them a chance and they took full advantage in the Qualifying Round.
The Flyers are getting similar love to that of the Penguins in Round One, with an overwhelming share of the bets and handle, but the Canadiens are only moderate underdogs once again and this should be another competitive series. The Flyers are one of the more popular future bets in this year’s playoffs and that sentiment is translating into excessive betting on this series as well.
(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (7) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Lightning enter the NHL Playoffs as the two seed in the Eastern Conference, and they’ll have some extremely impactful injury scenarios to worry about as they get ready to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Steven Stamkos and Viktor Hedman are both dealing with injuries. Stamkos missed all three Round Robin games, while Hedman was actually injured against the Flyers on Sunday. Both are pivotal players, and both of their returns would go a long way in solidifying what may be the best team in the entire NHL.
The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, are fully healthy and are riding high after an extremely impressive series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jackets were the only team to win their opening series in 5 games, bouncing back to win Game 5 after blowing with a 3-0 lead in Game 4 with under 4 minutes remaining. The Jackets faced the Lightning in the first round in 2019 as well, and actually swept the one-seeded Lightning 4-0 as the eight seed. This year’s matchup should be competitive, but the injuries on the Tampa Bay side will play a huge role in determining how this series ultimately goes.
(3) Washington Capitals vs (6) New York Islanders
The Washington Capitals find themselves as the three seed in the East after losing two of their three round-robin games, and they’ll be tasked with facing the New York Islanders, who defeated the Florida Panthers in their Qualifying Series matchup. This is a very fairly priced series, at least in the eyes of DraftKings Sportsbook bettors, with both the bets and handle falling near 50% on each side.
The Capitals and Islanders played each other four times in the regular season with each team winning twice, adding further evidence that this figures to be a very close series. Additionally, despite the longer odds for both teams to win the Stanley Cup, these are the 3rd and 6th most popular Stanley Cup bets, respectively. So bettors are expecting that whoever wins this series, they’ll have a decent shot to keep it going through more rounds of the playoffs.
(4) Boston Bruins vs (5) Carolina Hurricanes
The Boston Bruins finished the first part of the NHL regular season with the best record in hockey, but fell to the four seed after some disappointing results in their round-robin games. The Bruins are actually receiving a small share of the bets (only 35%) against the Carolina Hurricanes, perhaps because the Hurricanes are coming off of a sweep against the immensely popular New York Rangers. These teams faced off in last year’s playoffs, with the Bruins beating the Hurricanes en route to the Stanley Cup, and these are largely the same rosters that competed in 2019.
Perhaps the most relevant note for this series is that Dougie Hamilton ($6,300) is expected to make his return for Game 1, as the Hurricanes actually won three straight games in the Qualifying Series without him. Hamilton is easily the most dynamic defenseman that Carolina has and is one of the best in the league, so having him back against an elite team like the Bruins should make a huge difference. Nonetheless, the Bruins are still getting 60% of the handle to win this series, so the bigger bets are clearly coming in on their side. This matchup should be close, but the bettors taking bigger stands seem to think that the listed -137 line is too short of a price.
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