Apr 11th, 2012 by dmack
Flyers at Pens, Wings at Preds, and Kings at Canucks get playoffs rolling
The NHL playoffs start tonight with three games featuring the four-vs-five matchup in the East as Philadelphia travels to Pittsburg. The Penguins are a -200 series favorite and a -170 favorite in Game I. The total has been set at 5 1/2 with the over -130. In the four/five matchup in the West, Nashville is a luke warm -125 series favorite and -130 in tonight’s opener. The Wing/Pred total is also 5 1/2 with the over -135. The night’s late show finale has the eighth-seeded LA Kings facing the West top-seed Vancounver Canucks. Last year’s NHL runnerups are -185 in the series, -165 in Game I with a total of five flat and the under -135. Goals figure to be at a premium in this one.
BOTN previews all eight series followed by a predictions. To get the best of the number for any series or game, check out BOTN sponsors like Bovada, Wager Web, Bookmaker, Top Bet, Bet Online, Legends, DSI, and EZ Street. Opinionated lines, rocket fast payouts, great customer service, and the best bonuses in the industry. Check them out.
First, Barry Melrose’s take
In no particular order by conference
In the East
#1 NY Rangers vs #8 Ottawa Senators (NYR -225, Ottawa +185)
The strange thing about the East is that in all four playoff matchups, the higher seeded team lost the season series to lower seeded team. In fact, the Sens won this season series by a gaudy 15-7 aggregate and have astoundingly won 22 of their L30 visits to Madison Square Garden including five of the last six. Ottawa ended the season on a 4-6 run, losing three, winning four, losing three … scoring just six goals in the six losses. This is not the best matchup for the Eastern Conference champs but in the end, gotta back probable Hart and Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lunqvist over Craig Andersson in the battle between the pipes.
Prediction: Rangers in six games
#2 Boston Bruins vs #7 Washington Capitals (Boston -225, Washington -180)
The defending Stanley Cup Champions started out in a funk, were untouchable for 45 days, hit a flat spot but rebounded for a 9-3 finish. The Caps were life and death to hold off Buffalo for the eighth spot in the East going 6-6 down the stretch but coming through when the chips were down. Washington won the season series 3-1 this year and is 7-5 vs the Bruins over the L3 years, 4-2 at Boston. The dogs do have Ovechkin but just can’t find a reason to back one of the league’s worst road teams (16-25) and have a brutal recent playoff history.
Prediction: Boston in six games
#3 Florida Panthers vs #6 New Jersey Devils (Florida +150, NJ Devils -170)
This is the only series where the higher seed is the underdog but that is easy to explain. Florida is only the third seed by virtue of winning their division, undeniably the weekest in the NHL. The Panthers did their best work in September and October getting off to a white-hot start but were extremely pedestrian playing worse than .500 after the break including 1-4 to finish the season. The Devils got off to a terrible start but roared back and even closed the season with six straight wins. To their credit, the Panthers did make the playoffs for the first time since John Van Biesbrouck was in goal. They won’t last long.
Prediction: New Jersey in six games
#4 Pittsburg Penguins vs #5 Philadelphia Flyers (Pittsburg -200, Philly +170)
Philadelphia won the season series winning four of the last five in the series overall and four of the last five played in the Igloo. The Pens have split their last four first round series and four of their L7 playoff series overall have gone seven games. Both teams are hot, Philly closing 7-2 L9 and the Pens 4-1 in their L5. That said, Pittsburg is just 28-90 all-time in Philadelphia and the Pens have had no success vs the Flyers on home ice.
Prediction: Philadelphia in seven games
In the West
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 LA Kings (Vancouver -185, LA +160)
These teams are pretty evenly matched which is pretty much why Vegas turned heads opening this series at “only” Vancouver -150. It has since been bet up to 85 cents. The teams have split their last eight games and season series the last two years at two apiece. They’ve also split their last four playoff series. The Canucks are the class of the West and had a big second half (8-1 L9) to win their second straight President’s trophy. The Kings staggered home 3-5 and haven’t won a playoff series since 2001 and 1-5 in this round since the ’93 Gretzsky team. Class wins out here.
Prediction: Vancouver in six games
#2 St Louis Blues vs #7 San Jose Sharks (St Louis -160, San Jose (+140)
The Blues are arguably THE story in the NHL this year, turning their season around after changing coaches to Ken Hitchcock on November 6th, 2011. St Louis is 42-14 in 66 games under Hitchcock and that includes a 3-4 stretch run. The Blues swept the Sharks winning all four meetings by an 11-2 agg. With Hitchcock in charge, the Blues wins over the Sharks were 1-0, 3-0, and 3-0 … and that’s the way the Blues do it … defense, timely scoring, and superior goaltending. The under is 8-4 in the series over the L3 years, 5-1 low in St Louis. Like the Blues in a low scoring defensive series.
Prediction: St Louis in six games
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs #6 Chicago Blackhawks (Phoenix +105, Chicago -125)
The Blackhawks are two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup and still have most of the key contributors from that 2010 championship team. That said, Chicago has been an enigma for the better part of two seasons. Phoenix won their L5 4-1, 4-1, 2-0, 4-1, 2-0 to win the four way battle in the Pacific. The Desert Dogs are 8-4 in the series over the L3 years and won the final three games in the series this year. Since moving to Phoenix, the Coyotes have made the playoffs seven times and have never gotten out of the first round. In BOTN’s opinion, the toughest of the eight series to call.
Prediction: Chicago in seven games
#4 Nashville Predators vs #5 Detroit Red Wings (Nashville -125, Detroit + 105)
In their brief history, Nashville has not had much success in the playoffs, in fact, winning their first series ever last year over the Ducks. The Preds are a “sexy” pick by the experts and won four of their L5 to finish up. That said, Detroit is 25-11 at Joe Lewis Arena vs Nashville and also own a winning record at Nashville City. The Red Wings are ultra-experienced with this their all sports record 20+ year straight playoff appearance. They’ve won six of their L7 opening rounds. The Wings are the oldest team in the NHL and no good in B2Bs, they won’t have to worry about that now.
Prediction: Detroit in seven games