The NHL playoffs begin today and it will be nearly two months before we find out who will be taking home the Stanley Cup. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the clear favorites after a historically dominant season, but anything can happen come playoff time. It’s a new season now, and there is a reason that they play the game.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Tampa Bay Lightning Game 1
Money Line: Columbus+199/Tampa Bay-240
Puck Line: Columbus-125/Tampa Bay+105
The Lightning’s 62 wins this season tied an NHL record. As good as they have been this season, they have been even better at home (32-7-2). Nikita Kucherov scored the most points ever by a Russian-born player this season (128). For Columbus, they come in winning seven of their last eight. Hot streaks are important when entering the playoffs, but the Blue Jackets will need near flawless play for the whole 60 minutes and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will need to turn his playoff struggles around mightily.
Columbus 1 – Tampa Bay 4
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders Game 1
Money Line: Penguins-110/Islanders-110
Puck Line: Penguins-285/Islanders+234
The Penguins offense has been one of the best in the league this season with 3.3 goals per game (6th). However, as good as their offense has been, the Islanders defense has been better, only allowing a league-best 2.33 goals per game. Flipping the switch, the Penguins defense is ranked 14th in the league with 2.9 goals allowed per game, while the Islander offense has struggled this season, only scoring 2.72 goals per game (22nd). This series is the most likely to have an “upset” in the first-round.
Pittsburgh 3 – Islanders 2
St. Louis Blues vs Winnipeg Jets Game 1
Money Line: Blues-102/Jets-118
Puck Line: Blues-280/Jets+230
The Blues are entering the playoffs as the hottest team in hockey (8-1-1 in their last 10 games), and that spells trouble for the Jets who limped their way into the playoffs. As we said with Columbus, teams entering the playoffs hot can be dangerous. Unlike Columbus though, the Blues should be able to pick up a win today. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington had a great season going 24-5-1 with only 1.89 GAA. The Blues defense should be able to contain a Jets offense that is only scoring 2.58 goals per game in their last 11 games.
St Louis 3 – Winnipeg 2
Dallas Stars vs Nashville Predators Game 1
Money Line: Dallas+140/Nashville-160
Puck Line: Dallas-215/Nashville+180
A defensive heavy matchup, the Stars and Predators are second and third in the league respectively in goals allowed. Both teams are ranked in the top six in the league in penalty kill percentage as well. Offensively, both the Stars and Predators rank in the bottom half of the league in goals scored, with Nashville having the edge 2.88-2.55. Two goals may be enough to win most games in this series.
Dallas 1 – Nashville 3
Vegas Golden Knights vs San Jose Sharks Game 1
Money Line: Vegas+115/San Jose-135
Puck Line: Vegas-240/San Jose+199
For the second straight year, these two teams meet in the playoffs with the Knights knocking off the Sharks in six games in the second round last year. Both teams finished the season struggling, with San Jose going 3-8-1 in their last 12 games and Vegas going 1-5-2 in their last eight. The Sharks struggles have been due to goaltending while Vegas has struggled to score. Which team will be the one to turn their biggest issue around? I like Vegas to get their scoring on track against the questionable goaltending of the Sharks.
Vegas 4 – Sharks 3