The NHL playoff matchups are settled and oddsmakers have opened their series prices for first round of hockey’s postseason. The NHL playoffs are notorious for upsets early on, so if you’re a fan of underdogs our sports handicapping articles will focus on these three series could provide the best upset value in the opening round of the NHL postseason:
Vegas Golden Knights (-135) vs. Los Angeles Kings (+105)
The Golden Knights were the big surprise of the regular season, becoming to first expansion team to make the playoff cut in their inaugural season. However, the postseason presents a much different challenge for Vegas and the Golden Knights won’t have the element of surprise when they face the playoff-savvy Kings in the first round of the Western Conference bracket.
The Golden Knight sputtered a bit toward the end of the season, and don’t have much playoff experience on the roster outside of a few key veterans. On the season, Vegas split its four meetings with L.A. winning in November and December but dropping the two most recent games with the Kings, including a 4-1 home loss back in February.
Los Angeles enters the postseason winning six of its last 10 games, with two of those losses coming in overtime. The Kings are the premier defense in the NHL, allowing only 2.5 goals per game, and have watched their offensive numbers improve during the home stretch of the season. And, with so many Kings fans in Vegas and able to travel, the Knights’ home-ice advantage could be quieted as silver and black fill the seats of T-Mobile Arena.
Tampa Bay Lightning (-300) vs. New Jersey Devils (+235)
The Lightning earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference on the back of their offense, scoring a NHL-best 3.5 goals per game. Tampa Bay has a smothering attack with plenty of scoring depth and a lethal power play that finds the back of the net on 24 percent of its man advantages. So, this -300 price tag is well deserved.
However, the Bolts back into the postseason with losses in five of their last eight games and star sniper Steve Stamkos is less than 100 percent after missing time with a lower-body injury, which has him as a question mark for Game 1 of this series.
New Jersey won seven of its last nine games heading into the playoffs and can play a physical brand of hockey that can tie up the Lightnings’ top scorers and make life tough on the No. 1 seed. The Devils also have the fire power to keep pace with Tampa Bay, more specifically star winger Taylor Hall. New Jersey won all three meetings with the Lightning this season, most recently knocking off the Bolts 2-1 at home on March 24.
Pittsburgh Penguins (-235) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (+190)
These state rivals have a rich playoff history and while the odds show a gap in quality, you can pretty much throw that out the window when it comes to his Pennsylvania bad blood. The Penguins are trying to become the first Threepeat in the NHL since the Islanders in the early 80’s and have a surplus of postseason experience.
The Flyers fought until the very end to get into the postseason, having picked up wins in four of their last five heading into the playoffs. Philadelphia is one of the more balanced teams in the league, but has watched its offensive output surge in recent weeks. On the season, the Flyers averaged only three goals a night, but they’ve netted at least four in each of their last four games and in eight of their last 10 outings.
Pittsburgh did sweep the season series with Philadelphia, however, two of those games went to overtime including their most recent meeting – a 5-4 Pens win on March 25. Those results seem to be inflating the series price for this matchup, and there is real value hiding with the underdog.