The NHL presented me with a real conundrum going into the second round here. For reasons only their wisdom can comprehend, the schedule makers decided to go ahead and start the next round before the Ducks and Predators finished out their first round series in a Game 7. So we had Lightning/Islanders at 7pm last night followed by Ducks/Preds at 10. I suppose they didn’t want to have two straight nights with nothing on at 8pm, but that’s a tight spot for people who write and predict and bet on these games (like this guy). So I decided finding out the Sharks’ opponent was more important than the Lightning/Islanders results in Game 1, which is why you’re getting this on Thursday and not Wednesday. Don’t yell at me, yell at Bettman.
I managed to go 5 of 8 in the first round and hit on 1 of 2 parlays, which isn’t bad considering the Kings and Blackhawks both got sent home. I actually had too little confidence in Tampa and too MUCH confidence in Anaheim (betting against Bruce Boudreau in a Game 7 is now an entry in the Gambling Handbook). But for the first time since 2011, the Stanley Cup won’t be heading to Chicago or LA and the Western Conference is wide open for a couple long-suffering franchises. The East is mostly chalk, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find value in both conferences. As always, prices come from sportsbook.ag.
Tampa Bay Lightning (+145) vs New York Islanders (-165) (Isles up 1-0)
These are the updated odds for this series, but the Lightning bounced around -170 to -175 before dropping to -155 right before face-off last night and late money on the underdog usually means something’s fishy. And wouldn’t you know it, Ben Bishop allowed two shaky goals and got yanked in the second period.
Tampa’s still the better team here (52.2 vs 49.5 score-adjusted CF%) and they’ve got the supposed edge in goal with Ben Bishop over Thomas Greiss, but you can forget all those after you lose Game 1. If you’re willing to take some risk, getting Lightning now at +145 might have some value to you. They weren’t outplayed last night and I think they’ll bounce back. What the hell, I’ll still pick Tampa.
PICK: LIGHTNING IN 7
Washington Capitals (-120) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (EVEN)
Sorry Flyers fans, I like the Penguins again. They rolled through the Rangers without much trouble in the first round and put 21 pucks behind Henrik Lundqvist in 5 games. The Penguins are a force right now and I don’t think the Capitals will be able to keep up. Pens have the advantage at even-strength and Caps will need another dominant performance from their power play. And probably Braden Holtby too.
This is only the second time we’ve had the Ovechkin vs Crosby match-up and I’m expecting this series to go the distance (or at least close to it). And of course, this series will end with a heart-wrenching home loss in Game 7, as is tradition in our nation’s capital. Good value on the Pens here.
PICK: PENGUINS IN 7
Dallas Stars (+105) vs St. Louis Blues (-125)
A home underdog in the second round? And against the St. Louis Blues? The Blues nearly choked away another playoff series in epic fashion before finally putting the Blackhawks away in Game 7. The Stars played goalie carousel in the first round and still managed to get by the Wild in six games. So I’m taking Dallas, right?
NOPE. I was ride or die with the Blues in the first round and I’m back on the train here in the second round. The Blues had better possession numbers in their last 25 games, they’re goaltending situation isn’t a mess, and they’re going to the Western Conference Finals. Zero chance this comes back to bite me.
PICK: BLUES IN 6
San Jose Sharks (-175) vs Nashville Predators (+155)
Earlier this month, I called Pekka Rinne the weak spot in the Predators push to get out of the first round. Rinne had a .908 save percentage in 2016 and his postseason trips have been mostly forgettable. But Pekka flipped the bird to his doubters, stopping 62 of the last 64 shots he saw against Anaheim and sending the Ducks to yet ANOTHER Game 7 loss at home. Peter Laviolette is 5-1 in Game 7s, Bruce Boudreau fell to 1-8. Yes, ONE and EIGHT. Not sure who he killed in a past life, but they must have been important to earn him this type of cosmic punishment.
The Sharks are rolling though. They sent home the Corsi Kings in five impressive games in Round 1 and now face a weaker possession team that just went through a grueling, full-length series. The Sharks have the edge 5v5 and in goal (sorry, still not buying Rinne) and they’ll win the series. One thing to watch for though – the Sharks have the worst PK% of any remaining playoff team. If Nashville wants to pull off the upset, their power play better be on point because the Sharks won’t struggle to score like the Ducks. Wait, did I just pick a Blues/Sharks Western Conference Final? Going to test myself for a concussion immediately.
PICK: SHARKS IN 6
Best Value: Pens EVEN – Vegas knows the Pens shouldn’t be underdogs, but they can’t make them favorites over the President’s Trophy winners with only three home games. Still, home/road DOES NOT MATTER in the playoffs and Pens will prevail. And Barry Trotz will send 317 videos to the NHL DOPS after the series.
Parlay: Blues/Sharks +183
If You’re Feeling Frisky: Lightning +145 (remember, they’re down 1-0)
If You Can’t Afford Your Mortgage: Blues/Sharks/Pens parlay +466
Stats from puckon.net, war-on-ice.com, and nhl.com