Complete NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs 2019 Betting Guide
Somehow, this NHL Eastern Conference final feels right. Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes -- one team with Original Six and New England heritage, and another team whose original incarnation began as the New England Whalers of the old WHA.
These teams do have some playoff history, as the Bruins beat Carolina in the 1999 Eastern quarterfinals and the Hurricanes beat Boston in the 2009 Eastern semifinals. Let’s get into three reasons why each team could win, and then I’ll make my pick as to will emerge victorious and gain entry to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Odds to Win the East
|Boston Bruins||13/20 (1.65)|
|Carolina Hurricanes||5/4 (2.28)|
3 Reasons to Bet the Bruins
- Hot goalie: Tuukka Rask has had the occasional off night in these playoffs, but not when the games mattered most. He allowed one goal on 33 shots in a Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round. In Round 2, he shut out the Columbus Blue Jackets in the elimination Game 6 with a 39-save gem.
His saves percentage of .938 is the second-highest of his playoff career, the previous being .940 in 2013 when he led the Bruins to the Cup Finals before losing to Chicago.
Rask took much of the blame for the Bruins’ second-round ouster last year, and some of it was deserved, as he posted just a .903 saves percentage in 12 games. He’s gotten his game back in this postseason, though, and there’s nothing like having a hot goalie in the playoffs.
- Veteran scorers: While the Hurricanes do have a couple of veterans with proven playoff performance, they don’t come close to a veteran Boston team that has been there, done that.
Up front, Boston has Mr. Reliable, Patrice Bergeron, still one of the game’s best two-way players. Bergeron has 125 games of playoff experience, with 94 points. Brad Marchand, David Krejci and David Backes are all over 30, but they showed in the series against Columbus that they can still score big goals.
Krejci scored the first goals in Games 5 and 6, while Backes scored a big one in Game 6 to salt the win away.
- Skilled youth in right places: While the Bruins have some older players (we haven’t even mentioned Zdeno Chara yet), they have some skilled, younger players that have made a real difference so far.
Although defenseman Charlie McAvoy will miss Game 1 because of suspension, he will bring tons of speed and two-way skill when he returns. Forward David Pastrnak has elite talent, and Jake DeBrusk has shown he’s a real gamer, with lots of physical play and timely goals.
3 Reasons to Bet the Hurricanes
- Deep, mobile defense: Although the Hurricanes’ defense took a hit from the season-ending injury to Trevor Van Riemsdyk in the second round, there is still some good quality depth remaining. Guys such as Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk can all really skate and move the puck up ice.
- Speed, forechecking: These Hurricanes may not have the star power up front of the Bruins, but that doesn’t mean their forwards can’t be a real handful. They can be a relentless forechecking team that gets in on you quick and forces a lot of turnovers.
Sebastian Aho, the 21-year-old Finn, is probably the fastest of the bunch, and he can score too (83 points in regular season). If the Hurricanes can turn this series into a track meet, their odds of winning go up considerably. So far, not even defensive guru Barry Trotz has been able to do that.
- Tandem goaltending: Petr Mrazek led the Hurricanes to that first-round upset over Washington, and he was playing well against the New York Islanders in the second round before injury hit.
No matter, 35-year-old veteran Curtis McElhinney came in and did a great job leading the Hurricanes to the series sweep. While coach Rod Brind’Amour hasn’t said yet who will be his starting goalie for Game 1 against Boston, Mrazek has been practicing of late and says he’s healthy.
So, he’ll probably get the nod. Either way, the Hurricanes have two hot goalies at the moment - a luxury most teams never get the chance to have in the postseason.
This should be a fun series, an Original Six, veteran team against the upstart “Bunch of Jerks” from down Raleigh way. I love the fact that the Hurricanes have fun (we all love “The Surge”, right?) and an underdog run is always fun to watch.
But the Bruins are favorites to win the series, and I have to concur. Boston has home-ice advantage, and that has mattered at key times in these playoffs (Game 7 against Toronto, rubber Game 5 against Columbus). If Carolina is to sneak out a series win, their best chance starts in Game 1, with Boston’s best all-around defenseman, McAvoy, out.
In the end, I think Boston just has a bit too much star power up front and too much playoff experience. I say Bruins in seven. You can bet that series outcome at 4/1 (5.00) with Karamba as well.
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