The NHL lockout is a distant memory for the majority of hockey betting enthusiasts and now it’s time to break down the Stanley Cup contenders in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Chicago will take on the Minnesota Wild in the first-ever playoff meeting between these two franchises. It’s the first playoff appearance since 2008 for the Wild and after getting blown out by the Oilers Friday, they almost missed their chance completely. Instead, Minnesota regrouped and beat the lowly Colorado Avalanche to claim the No. 8 seed in the West.
The Hawks (36-7-5) ranked second in league scoring, can win home or away and bring the look of a group focused on winning their second Cup in four years. Chicago was 10-3-2 in its past 15 games and it will be a tall order for the Wild (26-19-3) replicating last year’s eight-seed upset by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.
Pick Sixty Strategy: Take the Hawks in exactly six games
No. 2 seed Anaheim will take on the Detroit Red Wings and the Ducks had a winning record home and away but Joe Louis Arena can be a difficult stage for any team. Anaheim has depth in net but either Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth will have to come to the forefront and prove they have the mettle to win in the postseason.
Anaheim (30-12-6) is 7-5-1 in its past 13 but the Wings (24-16-8) have won four-straight, outscoring opponents 15-3 in that span.
Pick Sixty Playoff Strategy: Take the Wings in an series upset
The Vancouver Canucks face San Jose in the third Western Conference matchup and assuming Cory Schneider is good to go; Vancouver (26-15-7) is poised to advance. The power play needs to stay effective and the penalty kill, which finished eighth overall, will have to stay sharp against San Jose’s (25-16-7) seventh-ranked power play unit.
Pick Sixty Playoff Strategy: Take the Canucks in seven
Los Angeles takes on St. Louis in one of the more intriguing matchups and the pressure is on the Kings (27-16-5) to finally find the playoff groove that took them to the Cup in 2012. LA hasn’t been a “bad” team this year but they’ve fallen short of expectations and goaltending is a concern. If Jonathan Quick brings his A-game this series will go seven games but St. Louis (29-17-2) are one of the league’s hottest teams (12-3 last 15) and look ready for a fight.
Sports betting sites will offer some nice value on the Blues and while it is far from a best bet, we project St. Louis advancing to the second round.
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