The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are just about down to their final four teams, with the Eastern Conference final set and the Jets and Predators trying to punch their ticket to face Vegas in the Western final.
If you’re betting on postseason hockey, and want an some sports handicapping picks for the conference finals, here are some tips and tactics to follow when the puck drops on the remaining Stanley Cup playoff games:
Tampa Bay Lightning (+200)
The Bolts are the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup, priced at 2/1 odds after rolling the Boston Bruins in just five games to advance to the Eastern Conference final. Tampa Bay, known best for its surplus of scoring talent, did a great job on defense during that quarterfinal series. After giving up six goals in the series opener, the Lightning allowed only seven total goals in the next four games, outscoring Boston 15-7 in that span.
That tightening on defense showed in the Over/Under results. After going Over in their first three playoff games with the New Jersey Devils, the Bolts have since posted a 2-4-1 Over/Under count heading into Friday’s Game 1 with the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference final. Total bettors may want to look to the Under in those matchups with the Capitals, who can also grind out close wins with short scores.
Washington Capitals (+350)
The Capitals finally got the monkey off their backs with a series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern quarterfinals. Washington, which had previously lost to the Penguins in the past two postseasons, edged the defending Stanley Cup champs in six games thanks to an offensive surge that helped overcome Pittsburgh’s loaded attack.
The Caps opened the series with a 3-2 loss but went on to win three of the next four, totaling 15 goals in those games before closing out the series with a dramatic 2-1 victory in overtime. The question facing Washington is how big a letdown spot does this create for Game 1 with the Lightning? If the season series is any indication, this conference final matchup could be a close one: Tampa Bay won two of the three meetings, including a 4-3 overtime victory way back in October. The teams went 1-1-1 Over/Under in those contests.
Vegas Golden Knights (+300)
The Golden Knights’ dream inaugural season continues to wow hockey fans and bettors. The first-year franchise jumped out to a strong start to the 2017-18 campaign and haven’t looked back, rolling to one of the top spots in the Western Conference and knocking off divisional rivals Los Angeles and San Jose to punch their ticket to the Western Conference final. The challenging thing about offing the Golden Knights is that they’ve played multiple brands of hockey to eliminate opponents during the postseason tournament.
Against the L.A. Kings in the opening round, Vegas locked down Los Angeles to just three total goals in their four-game sweep, netting only seven total goals for in that span – a surprise to hockey bettors after the Golden Knights ranked among the top-scoring teams in the NHL all season. In the quarterfinals, Vegas turned up the intensity on offense and netted 22 goals through six games, offsetting the Sharks’ scoring push, which tallied 14 goals in the series.
Vegas is pegged to face either the Nashville Predators or Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference final. The Golden Knights went 2-1 versus Nashville this season and recorded the same record over its three meetings with the Jets. Nashville’s home-ice advantage has waned in the postseason and the Knights have already picked up four wins on the road in the playoffs. On the other side, Vegas’ meetings with the Jets produced an average of 5.6 goals and both teams can light the lamp on offense.