2016 NHL Playoff Preview: Western Conference

Key hockey betting information, stats, series history and futures pricing for each of the four Western Conference matchups!

NHL pundits, bettors and fans have known all season that the biggest, toughest, most talented group of teams hail from the Western Conference and collectively, there are six of eight Stanley Cup faves representing either the Central or Pacific divisions. Only one can survive the first three rounds, however, and past champs have stated what a difficult test can be to try and stay focused on the moment, taking things one game — and one series at a time.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have risen to the challenge five of the past six seasons, and books many think these two are likely candidates to meet again in the Western Final but don’t tell that to the Blues, Stars, Sharks, Ducks or Predators (sorry Wild, but you’re done).

Here are a few things to consider when betting first round matchups, series bets or futures.

NEED TO KNOW — PLAYOFF DATA

Playoff history, updated series odds and key information to consider when making your first round selections.

MINNESOTA at DALLAS

Round 1 Odds: Stars -240 (Check status of Seguin; Parise)

This is the first ever playoff series between these teams and the Wild have just 15 wins from the past 41 regular season meetings. Dallas outscored the Wild 18-13 in five games this season (4-1 SU) but it’s worth noting that three of the Stars’ four victories came in extra time.

Dallas ranks just ahead of the Wild among playoff teams for advanced stats (12th overall) and  they will benefit greatly from the return of Tyler Seguin (Achilles) but that date is yet to be determined. Minnesota’s season needs to be assessed from February 13th on, when John Torchetti took over for Mike Yeo. In conference games against clubs with better records, Torchetti and the Wild went 7-2, though it should be noted that two of three road wins were against the Avs and Flames.

Key Stat: Dallas has won six of its past eight first round playoff series as the favorite.

NASHVILLE at ANAHEIM

Round 1 Odds: Ducks range from -170 up to -235

The Ducks get home ice and for an inferior team, travelling to the west coast and back during a physical series often proves to be too much (just ask the Blues or Jets). Given the mix of veteran leadership, explosiveness on offense and stability from the backend, however, we’re not sure these Preds should be taken lightly by anyone.

Anaheim battled into the third round of last year’s playoffs, taking down the Jets in four and Flames in five before losing to Chicago in seven. The Ducks (29-12 SU) own the league’s best record during the second-half and appear to be getting healthy on the point (Bieksa; Lindholm). They also have two strong netminders (Gibson; Anderson) and an insane power play but if the Preds can stay disciplined, this series could turn into a grind. Look for this one to last seven games.

Key Stat: The past 10 games between these two teams have averaged 6.4 goals, resulting in 9 overs, 0 unders and 1 push.

CHICAGO at ST. LOUIS

Round 1 Odds: Books are offering either team at -110 to win

With home ice advantage and the chance to stay in the Central time zone through the first two rounds, this is arguably the Blues’ best shot at a conference title since the mid-90’s. They truly earned their top seed this season and advanced numbers (Corsi, Fenwick) — which have been strong all season — are perhaps peaking at the right time. St. Louis has 26 wins since January 9th for the league’s third-best win percentage (.684) in that span (Pens, Ducks) and the team is confident they can beat these Hawks after taking three of five meetings this season.

The Blackhawks clipped the Blues in six games when these teams met in the first round of 2013-14, and then went onto win the Cup that year. St. Louis has beat the Hawks six of ten games since then, all regular season, and Chicago is 2-7 as the road dog in first round playoff series’. The Hawks have shown weaknesses this year but until the Blues prove they can expose them for a complete seven-game series, there will be doubters.

Key Stat: Chicago has been limited to two goals or less in six of its past 10 games vs. the Blues and the Hawks are 5-12 since February 9, scoring two goals or less in all 12 losses.

SAN JOSE at LOS ANGELES

Round 1 Odds: Kings -150

On paper this could be the closest matchup in terms of recent Corsi/Fenwick (last two months), season-long ‘Simple Rating System’ (goal differential; strength of schedule) and history (each team has five wins in the past 10 meetings). The big difference is that in the past decade, the Kings collected two Stanley Cup rings while San Jose was relegated to playoff failure, usually following strong regular seasons that led to inflated expectations.

As road dogs, the Sharks own a 6-3 series record during the first round and this team certainly proved they could win away from home this year, leading the league with 28 wins. The Kings had 22, though, and Los Angeles tied for fourth in home wins (26), including an 11-2-2 SU record their past 15 at Staples Center.

It’s unrealistic to think San Jose could win this series in less than six or seven games and regardless of who does win, I’m circling the winner of the Ducks-Predators series for potential value in Round 2.

Key Stat: Playoff teams that won more than 24 road games during the regular season are 13-2 SU in their first playoff game since 2007

Read our Eastern Conference NHL Preview and follow @PickSixtySports for more sports betting information throughout the playoffs!

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