And then there were 8. Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins this week. My first round series picks went 4-3 for -0.37 units (with a Leafs win I would have been 5-2 for +2.03 units). I still think the reads were good though, so I’m expecting to get back in the black here in round 2.
I will be using the best odds for the team I’m taking from any of our recommended betting sites.
Washington Capitals (1) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (2)
- Washington 2.10
- Penguins 1.80
The Caps have already overcome adversity in these playoffs after dropping the first two games of their round 1 series to the Blue Jackets, both in OT. Game 3 turned into a must win and the Caps OT luck turned with a 3-2 double overtime victory to turn the tide of the series. From there the Caps won 4 straight to advance to the second round. Braden Holtby came into the series in game 3 after the two early losses and he played a very solid four games to put his regular season troubles behind him.
The Pens had a strange barn burner of a series against the Flyers that also went 6 games, but it never really seemed like the Pens had their back against the wall. Matt Murray was able to backstop the Pens to a couple of shutouts in the series, but he gave up 5 goals in the final game (an 8-5 Pens win) and really only played well in half the games. He’s definitely not at the level he was in his last two playoff years.
This series I really think could go either way. I don’t put much stock into the fact that the Pens beat the Caps in the second round both of the last couple years. Washington outplayed Pittsburgh in the series last year and you could argue those series could have gone either way too. It’s impossible to know how many times each team would have won the series had it been played 100 times, but if the teams are close to equal then there is a 50% chance the same team would win two years in a row, so I don’t put a lot of stock into the Pens having the Caps number or anything like that.
This year I think there are a few reasons that the Caps could have the edge.
First of all, I think Matt Murray has had a very average season and that’s continued into the playoffs. It’s difficult for a guy to just turn it on and the fact he’s now been the starter for the entire season could play a factor in the fatigue department, which could affect his consistency. I don’t give the Caps the advantage at goaltender, but I don’t give the Pens the advantage there either.
Both teams have potent powerplays, but I give the edge to the Caps in this category, which I think could play a huge role in the winner of this series. John Carlson looks great as the powerplay QB. I always thought it was a very strange deadline pickup to get Kevin Shattenkirk last year to run the PP when you have Carlson on your roster, and I think that addition was more of a liability than a help for the Caps last season.
Lastly, I think the depth at defense is an issue for the Penguins. Yes, they were missing Kris Letang last year and still won the Cup with a defensive corps that was not good on paper, but I still think guys like Oleksiak and Ruhwedel will be taken advantage of by the Capitals top lines.
Finally, the Malkin injury could play a huge factor in this series. Malkin is every bit as important as Sidney Crosby to this team. If he’s out or at less than 100% that’s a big advantage to Washington.
Play: Capitals 2.10
Nashville Predators (1) vs Winnipeg Jets (2)
- Predators 1.71
- Jets 2.25
This is a very difficult series to call. In my opinion these are the two best teams in the NHL right now and whoever wins this series will be my pick to go on and win the Cup.
The Preds have the best top four D-men in the league, while the Jets have a very solid top 4 themselves and some great depth at the position. Up front both teams have one of the best top lines in the NHL and great depth with size and speed throughout the lineup. Oh, and let’s not forget that this series boasts two of the three Vezina trophy nominees between the pipes.
There is just really not many weaknesses on either team, so it’s going to come down to whichever team executes in the big moments, stays out of the penalty box, and gets the bounces that can change a series.
I will not be betting on this series because it’s too tough to call, but my lean is the Predators just based on the experience they gained from their playoff run last year.
Play: No Play – Predators Are My Lean
Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs San Jose Sharks (3)
- Vegas 1.74
- San Jose 2.15
I faded Vegas in the first round and they proved me wrong quickly with 4 straight wins over the Kings, while only giving up 3 goals in the series. That said, each game was decided by one goal and Fleury stood on his head when called upon in those 4 games.
The Sharks had a similar series with the Ducks where the kept Anaheim off the board for the most part, only allowing 4 goals throughout the series, but they were able to rack up some big goal totals of their own unlike the Golden Knights.
Both goalies in this series are playing lights out hockey so I can’t give either team an edge in that category. Where I see San Jose having the edge is in their top four defensemen. I expect Vlasic and Braun to be able to slow down the Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line from Vegas, and the Burns-Martin duo is also one of the top pairings in the league. Don’t get me wrong, the Vegas defensemen are not bad. In fact, I would say they have an average defense corps with Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore all stepping up in a big way this year. That said, I don’t think Vegas has the depth in the back end to keep up with the speed of the top two Sharks forward lines.
The Kane-Pavelski-Donskoi line looked very dangerous against the Ducks, with Kane really showing that his game translates perfectly to playoff hockey. The second line of Couture-Hertl-Boedker was also buzzing in the first round and I just think these lines will be able to score goals in this series, which is something the Kings simply could not do.
The Vegas fade is back in a big way for round 2. Hopefully it won’t have to continue into the Conference Finals.
Play: Sharks 2.15
I will be adding my Tampa Bay vs Boston/Toronto article once the odds are up for the series after tonight’s game. Spoiler alert, the Bolts would have to be very big favourites for me not to pick them in round 2.
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs Boston Bruins (2)
- Tampa Bay 1.77
- Boston 2.20
The Bruins were able to have a big third period to win game 7 over the Leafs and advance to this series. That said, they looked sloppy on the back end for good portions of the series and Rask looked average at best throughout the series.
I expect the Lightnings high end talent up front to take advantage of the Bruins lack of depth at the D-man position and for the Point-Johnson-Palat line to match up very well with the Bergeron line in this series.
I give the Lightning the edge in every area in this series and I expect the Bolts to be able to score in bunches in this series and win fairly dominantly.
Play: Lighting 1.77
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