By: Ryan Gilbert
NHL Western Conference Odds: Will Things Turn Golden Once Again?
There have been a few surprising upsets already in the NHL postseason, and the official playoffs aren’t even underway yet. The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks both won their play-in series to qualify for the playoffs, knocking off the No. 5 seed in each conference.
Now, with the playoffs beginning, there are more underdogs to keep an eye on. Let’s look at the Western Conference.
Here is a quick breakdown of each of the four Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Western Conference Quarterfinal Odds for Each Series
No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights (-315) vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks (+255)
The Vegas Golden Knights have been one of the Stanley Cup favorites for a while now, and they showed why during the round-robin tournament. They went undefeated to take the No. 1 seed in the West.
They did so without Max Pacioretty, who should join them on the ice soon. They have two strong goalies that may be needed with a possible back-to-back scenario, and have more than enough scoring depth.
The Blackhawks were able to beat the Oilers in large part due to Edmonton’s lack of depth and goaltending. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are good – really, really good –, but the Oilers have very little depth, bad defense, and poor goaltending.
The Golden Knights should win this series easily, but +255 is almost worth betting a little bit on just for the value. Anything can happen.
Chance of an upset on 1-10 scale: 1 (Very low, but has value)
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche (-285) vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (+235)
The Avalanche are right behind the Golden Knights in the West. They easily beat the Blues and Stars in the round robin, outscoring them 6-1. They took Vegas to overtime before losing 4-3.
The Coyotes are interesting, however. They have some high-profile offensive players in Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel, as well as Clayton Keller. They took down the No. 6 seed Predators as the No. 11 seed in the play-in round, but Colorado is a lot better than Nashville.
The Avalanche play a fast game with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, and Calder Trophy Finalist Cale Makar as their core. Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz can both hold it down between the pipes.
The Coyotes were able to put up a good fight to beat the Predators, but they’ll likely only put up a fight against a skilled Avalanche team. Colorado should take care of business in five or six games.
Chance of an upset on 1-10 scale: 2 (Low)
NHL Western Conference Odds: Is There Value Betting the Underdog
No. 3 Dallas Stars (-120) vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames (+100)
This is one of the biggest “who knows?” series in the first round of the playoffs on either side. The Stars didn’t look great in the round-robin tournament and were without Tyler Seguin for their final game. On the other hand, the Flames looked pretty good against the Jets, but Winnipeg lacks defense and were missing both Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine.
The Flames won two of three matchups during the regular season, one of which came in a shootout. Calgary has a good group up front with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mikael Backlund, with Mark Giordano still doing his thing on defense.
Goaltending could be a huge turning point in this series. The Stars have one of the best tandems in the league with Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, while the Flames … well, don’t.
Both David Rittich and Cam Talbot weren’t great during the regular season. Talbot was better as the team’s backup, posting a 12-10-1 record with a .919 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average. He started all four play-in games, allowing just six goals on 110 shots (.945 SV%), including a shutout.
Talbot’s strong play could be due to Winnipeg’s missing pieces, or he could be finding a groove. If he can stay hot, so will the Flames.
Chance of an upset on 1-10 scale: 7 (Likely)
No. 4 St. Louis Blues (-200) vs. Vancouver Canucks (+165)
The No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in both conferences are very interesting.
The Canucks lost the first game of the series, 3-0, but then went on to win the next three. That could be a sign of things to come as they may have found their game.
On the other hand, the Blues did not win a game in the round robin, losing 2-1 to Colorado, 6-4 to Vegas, and 2-1 to Dallas in a shootout.
The Blues won it all last year so they know they have to turn it on, but can they? That’s a bigger question after five months off.
Jordan Binnington struggled in the round robin, allowing eight goals on just 76 shots (.895 save percentage). It’s a small sample size, but it could be worth keeping an eye on after a mediocre .912 save percentage in the regular season.
The Canucks have the offensive talent and goaltending in Jacob Markstrom to make a run. Markstrom posted a .918 SV% in the regular season, and went 3-1-0 with a .926 SV% and a shutout against the Wild in the play-in round.
The Blues may end up pulling this one out, but an upset is possible and the Canucks have some good value at +165.
Chance of an upset on 1-10 scale: 6 (Possible, good value)