It is arguably the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans, as they now look forward to days-on-end packed full of playoff games. Of course, many of the favourites are actually expected to win their respective opening round playoff series, but this might also turn out to be one of the most competitive first rounds in recent history, with 3 out of the 8 series being divisional matchups, and only 2 out of the 8 matchups featuring regular season series in which the favourites won outright.
Needless to say, however, the betting public will probably be betting almost every single game as if the favourites were all to pretty much sweep their respective oppositions, and this will probably be why a great deal of value will be found here with the underdogs. If it is reasonable to assume that any of the underdogs can at least push their higher-seeded opponents to a 6th or 7th game in their series, then it should also be reasonable to at least look underdog-first in a majority of playoff games. Otherwise, it may be very difficult to generate any profit laying -200 in almost every single game with the favourites.
Just to quickly note: the home teams went 6-2 last year in Game 1’s of the opening playoff round, and the year before that, they went 4-4. Furthermore, it would take 66.7% accuracy just to break even laying -200, so the margin for error is rather thin.
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Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsubrgh Penguins
The Ottawa Senators have taken their fans on and up-and-down roller coaster ride this season. The Sens were getting annihilated by opponents during their 5-game losing streak in early-January, and then, bounced back to win 11 straight. Similarly, Ottawa also lost 8 out of their 9 games coming out of the Olympic break, only to bounce back to win their next 6 after that. They are incredibly streaky, but there is also no denying that they are a very good team with a tremendous amount of upside. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, really fought hard to be consistent going down the stretch, but conversely, they were really not consistent at all.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
This may not have been the matchup that New Jersey wanted in the first round, but this is precisely the reason why they will be incredibly focused for game #1. Philadelphia won’t feel defeated if they lose this game, but New Jersey might (the doubt will start to creep in). I’d look for New Jersey to send a strong message here to open the series, and then, for Philadelphia to reply. Coming off that big emotional Sunday victory is going to be tough on the Flyers.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Phoenix Coyotes
The bet here in Game #1 really is a tough call because the line truly is a reflection of the public’s overvaluation of Detroit, and therefore, not really a fair price to take the road team at. On the other hand, the Coyotes are the weaker team here, both in terms of talent and experience, and it is also debatable just how much their win/loss record is inflated by their exorbitant amount of shootout wins. Ultimately, Detroit should win the series, but when looking at the betting line for game #1, the soon-to-be home dog here looks to be the right side.
Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks
In game #1 of the regular season, Colorado pulled off a ‘shocker’, albeit on home ice, by defeating the Sharks 5-2. Colorado then went onto an amazing run to start the season, and Craig Anderson looked like a strong contender to win the Vezina Trophy. Lately, however, Colorado has fallen off dramatically; unable to kill penalties and unable to get key saves from Craig Anderson. One saving grace for the Avalanche though, continues to be their ability to score in bunches, as seen in their 5-4 OT victory over San Jose on April 4th. Hence, you may only be one or two good bounces away from being 2 units richer here with the Avalanche at +200.
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