There were no Tuesday night snoozers that lacked consequence or urgency in the thunderbolt 2020-21 NHL season. Every game was a four-point game. Every game meant something in a 56-game schedule and so there shouldn’t be as much of a guessing game in Round One or the divisional playoffs, including the Pittsburgh Penguins betting lines to win the Stanley Cup and to beat the New York Islanders.
In our full series preview, PHN predicted the Penguins beat the Islanders in six games. The oddsmakers are also installing the Penguins as a solid favorite to win Game One and the series.
The Islanders have not been able to contain the Penguins defense. Matheson-Ceci and Dumoulin-Letang are too much for New York which is still looking for the magic line combinations. The Penguins are feeling pretty good about themselves, too.
“Sometimes you have that feeling inside you like this year is a good year. We have a good team,” Letang said.
As “Friend of PHN”, George Richards of Florida Hockey Now pointed out, underestimate Barry Trotz at your own peril. But a coach can do only so much.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are also one of the best teams in the NHL at retrieving dump-ins, if not the best. That’s a result of the forwards’ speed which has been oppressive to the slower opponents. If New York chooses to pull back and clog the neutral zone, the Penguins are still able to gain puck possession.
That’s a marked difference from 2019 when New York swept a fractured Penguins team.
The key will be getting to the net. Since it’s the playoffs, we don’t think paying the price will be an issue. We actually like the Pittsburgh Penguins in five, but there’s always a little unexpected drama and the unforeseen, so we predict six.
The Penguins’ four lines are too solid. The defense too good with the puck. New York doesn’t possess the Boston Bruins’ ability to pound the Penguins down into second gear.
For the Penguins betting crowd, if you bet the Penguins win in six, it pays 5-1. If you like the Penguins in just five games, it pays 12-1. And MGM has an interesting prop bet, too. If Jeff Carter is the series leading goal scorer, it pays 22-1. If you bet Kasperi Kapanen to light the lamp most often, it pays 14-1.
That Kapanen bet seems tempting.
If you believe there is something a little bit different with the current Penguins, and that magic is back, the oddsmakers at DraftKings have given the worst odds (13-1) for the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup. So, if you believe, there’s your Huckleberry; place the “Penguins to win the Cup” bets there. Most sportsbooks have the Penguins at 12-1 and six teams ahead of the Penguins in the sports betting order.
NHL Playoff Odds and Predictions
East Division, Washington Capitals (2) vs. Boston Bruins (3):
Pittsburgh Penguins fans should hope for a long, grueling, pounding series, but they won’t get it.
Ovechkin has been banged up. T.J. Oshie is hurt. Top defenseman John Carlson is “progressing.” Evgeny Kuznetsov is still in COVID protocol for 10 straight days and reports are the Washington organization is ready to move on after this season.
The Capitals were one of the healthiest teams this season (minus a Pittsburgh hotel COVID infraction), but they’re gutted now. Boston is red hot with Taylor Hall. Boston was 12-4-1 after they acquired Hall at the April 12 NHL trade deadline.
Tom Wilson will have some folks hitting back but not much goal-scoring support. Boston’s Perfection Line with Marchand, Pastrnak, and Bergeron is too much for most teams, and Washington won’t have the answer.
Boston in FIVE over Washington.
Toronto Maple Leafs (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (4)
OK, if anyone can predict the North Division with any accuracy, we’d also like the lottery numbers, please. The North is full of bad goaltending, matador defense, and high-scoring machines. Connor McDavid’s historic run to 100 points in just over 50 games was Mario Lemieux-like. Auston Matthews surpassed 40 goals.
Hang on, these could be fun to watch.
The oddsmakers hate Montreal. Toronto is a HUGE favorite at -275. Carey Price and Shea Weber are day-to-day, Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher are out.
Montreal bounced the Pittsburgh Penguins last August in just four games. They will give Toronto more competition than expected, but there’s no way a depleted Canadiens team can stop the Toronto juggernaut without Shea Weber to crack a few heads, and Carey Price to fix a few mistakes.
Toronto in FIVE.
Edmonton Oilers (2) vs. Winnipeg Jets (3)
Connor McDavid vs. the Winnipeg Jets. One month ago, we would be all over this as a Winnipeg route. Winnipeg has vastly superior goaltending and better depth scoring.
However, the Jets were 5-9-1 since the NHL trade deadline. Edmonton was 10-3-0. So, that gives us pause. However, goaltending and defense win in the playoffs and Winnipeg has the goaltending.
Alex Stalock and Mikko Koskinen are the net duo for Edmonton.
Nikolaj Ehlers is out with injury, and that’s a huge loss for Winnipeg, but we’re going to call the mild upset. Winnipeg is SEVEN.
Carolina Hurricanes (1) vs. Nashville Predators (4)
Nashville was 8-4-1 down the stretch but with a brutal shot attempt and scoring chance rate. Teams had their way with Nashville, but Juuse Saros held the net.
Carolina is too deep. Too good. And they still have that youthful enthusiasm. Carolina in FIVE.
Florida Panthers (2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (3)
Florida was 5-2-1 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay this season. But toss that out the window. Magically, almost miraculously, now that the NHL salary cap no longer applies, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have former Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov and captain Steve Stamkos back in the lineup.
Florida is plucky. Against any other team, they would be the favorite. They have the warrior Patric Hornqvist. But the core of the team doesn’t yet know how to win in the playoffs. Tampa Bay knows.
Florida’s best chance is to get to Tampa Bay before Kucherov and Stamkos settle in, then hang on.
Tampa Bay in SIX.
Two of the three best teams in the league. Fortunately, they avoided a Round One match.
Colorado Avalanche (1) vs. St. Louis Blues (4)
We’ll cut to the quick. Without Vlad Tarasenko and Colton Parayko, St. Louis is an underpowered team. No chance for an upset here. Colorado is a buzzsaw when they want to be. Sports betting experts have Colorado as a 4.5-1 shot to win the Stanley Cup.
Colorado in FIVE.
Vegas (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (3)
Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin has done a quiet, but effective job getting Minnesota back into the playoffs. With Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen as the goalies and a top-line centered by Joel Ericksson-Ek, we have no idea how they did it, but they did.
Vegas is too good. Marc-Andre Fleury has an ax to grind with the rest of the league. Vegas may be the best team in the league. Ride the Fleury train here.
Vegas in FIVE.