NHL Western Conference Playoffs 2019 1st-Round Betting Guide

NHL Western Conference Playoffs 2019 1st-Round Betting Guide

The balance of power shift in the NHL’s two conferences was made clear this season, as the Western Conference was relegated to the kid’s table compared to the East.

The Colorado Avalanche finished eighth, in the second wild-card spot, with 90 points in the West. In the East, the second wild-card team, Columbus, had 98 points. Six teams in the East had 100-plus point seasons, to only three in the West.

Those are still eight good hockey teams representing the West in these NHL playoffs, and it’s time to take a look at each of the four quarterfinal series, from the bookmakers’ point of view - and mine. Here’s how fans of Stanley Cup betting should approach the series.

Pacific Division

1. Calgary (Pacific winner) vs. 4. Colorado (second wild-card)

Not many had the Flames winning the West, but they wound up winning fairly comfortably. Not many had the Avalanche making the playoffs on March 15, after a desultory 5-3 home loss to Anaheim that dropped them to 11th in the conference. But an 8-1-2 record in the final 11 got them in.

At most sportsbooks, the Flames are -230 to win the series, with Colorado at +180. I think this will be a very close series, but I’ll go with Calgary.

While the Avalanche have a good team and a hot goalie in Philipp Grubauer, they can’t quite match the depth of the Flames, especially on the back end - though it’s possible top NCAA prospect Cale Makar could sign and play with the Avs as soon as his season ends with the University of Massachusetts.

Calgary’s second and third lines have more firepower than Colorado’s too, and the top line, led by Johnny Gaudreau, can hang with the Avs’ dynamic top trio. Calgary’s goaltending is the main worry, but David Rittich should be good enough to get the job done in this series.

Go to 888Sport and bet Flames to win in six.


Vegas Golden Knights

2. San Jose vs. 3 Vegas

It just wouldn’t feel like spring without the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, so here they are again in what should be a great series with the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas was red hot down the stretch, until losing starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for a couple weeks. Just how healthy Fleury is right now is a worrisome question for Knights fans.

But there is plenty of offense with the Knights, led by the trade-deadline acquisition of Mark Stone.

San Jose has some health worries too. Erik Karlsson returned for the final regular season game, but just how close he is to his old self will be an uncomfortable question as the series starts.

The Sharks also got spotty goaltending from Martin Jones for too much of the season, so goaltending is an issue here too.

I think Vegas will find a way to win the series. I think they have a bit more overall depth up front and play a hard-checking game. The bookmakers have essentially made this series a toss-up, with the Sharks at -117 and Vegas at -106.

Go to 888Sport and bet Golden Knights to win in seven.


Bet all the NHL playoff series here:

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Central Division

Nashville Predators

1. Nashville (Central winner) vs. 4. Dallas (first wild-card)

They had to have a big third period in the final game to get that extra point to win the division, but the Nashville Predators got the job done. Nashville won three in a row and was 7-2-1 in the final 10, so they go in playing some of their better hockey of the season.

The Dallas Stars surpassed many pundits’ expectations under first-year coach Jim Montgomery, and have three great offensive players in Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Ben Bishop is Dallas’ best goalie since the Marty Turco days, and he’s a guy who can steal a series.

But the bookmakers like the Predators at -182, with the Stars at +147. The NHL playoffs are where upsets happen, but I think Nashville escapes in six. Nashville’s top six on defense are better than that of the Stars, and the Dallas offense thins out considerably once you get past the top line.

Nobody among Dallas forwards had any more than 30 points besides the top line. You need more depth in the playoffs than that. Go to Karamba and bet Predators to win in six.


St. Louis Blues

2. Winnipeg vs. 3 St. Louis

The Winnipeg Jets finished higher in the standings, have home-ice advantage in this series and have as much talent as anyone in the West. But if the trends that marked these two teams’ final third of the season continue, the St. Louis Blues will win this series.

Fact is, Winnipeg stumbled down the stretch, and there is a general feeling of alarm among the city’s very passionate fan base about their team. Star winger Patrik Laine saw his production from 70 points to 50. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was hurt half the year and goalie Connor Hellebuyck didn’t have the kind of year he did the one before.

For a few glorious moments Saturday, the Blues had the division lead before late wins for Nashville and Winnipeg dropped them to third. But the Blues have been terrific the entire second half, and the bookmakers seem to like their chances of an upset of the Jets.

The Blues are at -121, while Winnipeg is -103. The money seems to be being put more on the Blues, and I agree with it. Jordan Binnington is the surprise goalie of the season, and nothing has burst his balloon yet.

Go to Karamba and bet Blues to win in seven.

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