A clear difference has been set between the National Hockey League compared to its sporting cousins. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association continue to drag their feet on return plans. NHL fans can boast that their league has delivered the goods. While there is still much to accomplish the NHL has an approved return format. Players and owners have signed off on a 24-team playoff format. Most important of all matchups are set with the NHL odds. Locations are to be determined. The first-round series is the best of five. Subsequently, all other series will be best of seven.
Eastern Conference Seedings and Matchups
First Round Byes: 1-Boston Bruins 2-Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-Washington Capitals, 4-Philadelphia Flyers
Montreal did little to distinguish itself in the regular season. Of great concern is the offshore betting price on superior Pittsburgh in a short series. Still, a Canadiens win has to be seen as a reach. After all Montreal’s metrics were bad in every aspect of the game.
At the time of the COVID-19 shutdown, the Rangers were one of the NHL’s most improved teams. Counter to that is a Hurricanes team that showed far greater balance. New York’s back end and goaltending remain a weakness.
Florida is one of the most inconsistent and frustrating teams in the NHL. Despite that fact, the Panthers boast skill and offensive ability. New York has a severe lack of offensive firepower. Additionally, the Islanders were not in good form when the shutdown began. Coach Barry Trotz’s Isles do boast strong defense and structure.
Toronto has as much skill and offensive firepower as any team in hockey. By contrast, the Blue Jackets are the ultimate blue-collar lunch bucket team. Columbus may have the advantage in that playoff hockey is as much about grit as dexterity.
Western Conference Seedings and Matchups
First Round Byes: 1-St. Louis Blues, 2-Colorado Avalanche, 3-Vegas Golden Knights, 4-Dallas Stars
Edmonton boasts the best player in the game with Connor McDavid. Chicago is a mere shell of their former championship glory. In view of Edmonton’s depth is a clear advantage with the NHL odds.
In this situation, we have two of the pluckiest teams in hockey. Granted the Predators have a better recent history. But neither team could maintain a foothold of consistent success. This may be the most difficult first-round series of all to handicap. Therefore, it has the potential to be highly entertaining.
New interim head coach Dean Evason had the Wild playing its best hockey of the season when play stopped. In contrast, the Canucks were sliding badly after a hot start and the first half of the season. Neither team is dominant. As a consequence, late form points to a Minnesota edge.
By reason of their metrics does the Flames record look deceiving. Calgary seems to defy gravity and exceed its ability. Winnipeg was once one of the top goal-scoring teams in the NHL. Eventually, their offense has dried up making them another inconsistent club. In comparison to Calgary, the Jets may have a deeper lineup.
NHL First Round Best Bets: Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders