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NHL Playoff Game 1 Betting Odds, Previews: Is the Market Flattering the Lightning?

Credit:

Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Ryan McDonagh

  • The NHL Playoffs begin on Wednesday with a five-game slate starting at 7 p.m. ET.
  • Michael Leboff breaks down two games and wonders if the betting market is flattering the league's best team.

The best two weeks to be a hockey fan have arrived. The first round of the NHL Playoffs is equal parts chaos and poetry.

The thing that makes hockey such a wonderful, wacky sport is that there is so much volatility. Let’s see if we can make some sense of the mayhem and get this postseason off to a great start.

There are five games on Wednesday night’s slate with odds courtesy of the Westgate SuperBook (current as of 1 a.m. ET).

  • Columbus Blue Jackets (+205) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-230)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins (-105) at New York Islanders (-105)
  • St. Louis Blues (+105) at Winnipeg Jets (-115)
  • Dallas Stars (+145) at Nashville Predators (-165)
  • Vegas Golden Knights (+130) at San Jose Sharks (-140)

Betting Odds: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Blue Jackets moneyline: +205
  • Lightning moneyline: -230
  • Over/Under: 6.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: USA

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the worst seed in the Eastern Conference and have been given very little chance to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1.

That makes sense given that the Bolts were a generational team, setting the record for wins in the Salary Cap Era, and are the Stanley Cup Favorites. What doesn’t fit, however, is that the Blue Jackets are not your average also-ran. The Jackets are a decent team, they just happen to be playing the best team we’ve seen in 10 years.

Not only were the Blue Jackets an above average team in terms of Goal Share and Shot Share, but they also have one of the best goalies on the planet — Sergei Bobrovsky.

The 30-year-old netminder has enough talent to steal a game. Pulling that off against a team that scores 3.17 goals per 60 minutes is easier said than done, but Bobrovsky at least levels the playing field somewhat.

According to the odds, the Bolts have an implied probability of 68% (assuming no vigorish), which basically means its being priced like a mid-season game between a really good team and a bad team.

Over the course of a best-of-7 series the Lightning’s talent will likely win out, but if you can get a team as good as Columbus at 2-1 in a single game, you should probably take it.

This is not a bet you should expect to win, but if you made this bet 100 out of 100 times, you’d likely come out on top.

The bet: Columbus Blue Jackets +205 (would play down to +190)

Betting Odds: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks

  • Golden Knights moneyline: +130
  • Sharks moneyline: -140
  • Over/Under: 6
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBCSN

These are two of the best three teams in the Western Conference. You could make an argument that any of Vegas, San Jose or Calgary deserve to be labeled “The Best in the West.”

These two teams are pretty similar under the hood. They both have good shot metrics, they both posted great expected goals numbers and they both can roll three very good lines every game.

The Sharks may seem to have the “star factor” edge thanks to Erik Karlsson (if he’s healthy) but there’s an argument to be made that Vegas has the best player in the series (going by current health and form) in Mark Stone, Karlsson’s former teammate with Ottawa.

If Karlsson is healthy, the Sharks’ defensive core is one of the best in the business but they will have their hands full with Vegas’ forwards. The Knights do a great job at generating scoring chances and that should exploit San Jose’s biggest flaw — their goaltending.

Martin Jones has been a below replacement-level goaltender for the better part of three seasons now and, even though he’s upped his game in the postseason in the past, he can’t be trusted. Jones is ranked as the No. 46 goalie in the league by Corsica and his numbers are ugly this year.

Jones had the second worst Goals Saved Above Average in the NHL last year at -23.35 and his .895 5v5 save percentage was last among goalies who played at least 1,000 minutes. That is not a winning combination.

Against bad teams the Sharks could probably cover for Jones’ ineptitude, but the Knights are the opposite of bad.

The bet: Vegas Golden Knights +130 (would play down to +115)

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