NHL Picks: Best Bets for Oilers vs Stars Game 1 & Western Conference Final Series (Thursday, May 23)

NHL Picks: Best Bets for Oilers vs Stars Game 1 & Western Conference Final Series (Thursday, May 23) article feature image

Sam Hodde/Getty Images. Pictured: American Airlines Center in Dallas

Check out Nicholas Martin's NHL best bets with picks for Oilers vs. Stars Game 1 and the overall Western Conference Final series.

Whether the Edmonton Oilers or Dallas Stars ultimately come out on top of this exciting series, the Western Conference will be represented by a worthy side in the Stanley Cup Final.

The two sides kick off tonight's crucial series (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT & truTV) with Dallas playing host.

Despite being the top seed, the Stars have already knocked off two legitimate Cup contenders to get to this point. The Oilers, meanwhile, took seven games to get through the Canucks while displaying some flaws, which is why most observers are giving them little chance in this series.

Below, I've outlined my best bets for Oilers vs. Stars Game 1 and for the series.

(NHL fans: Use our FanDuel promo code for your hockey action tonight!)

NHL Picks – Oilers vs. Stars Best Bets

Dallas Stars to Win Series (-125)

I'm more bullish than most on Edmonton's ability to steal this series, and I even think FanDuel's price for the Stars to win the series looks a bit off.

The Oilers deserve lots of credit for the back half of their season, as well as their solid playoff run thus far. The Stars have very deservingly topped two of the best teams in hockey, though, while displaying excellent play in all areas of the game.

The Stars have a league-leading 59.17% expected goal share this postseason. They feature two elite defensive pairings and four quality offensive units. Their lack of replacement-level players is a key reason they could get by a top-heavy Oilers side.

Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harley can both skate like the wind, and they are both tremendously skilled with the puck. They do a fantastic job of generating offense without being compromised at the other end of the ice.

Chris Tanev and Esa Lindell make an excellent shutdown tandem, which has already fared extremely well against Jack Eichel and Nathan MacKinnon's lines, respectively, this postseason. That duo likely won't find as much success against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the Stars shouldn't need to fully shut down that duo in order to win this series.

Jake Oettinger has displayed significantly sharper form than Stuart Skinner so far this postseason. (My colleague Jessica Gonsalves mentioned that edge in her preview of the Oilers vs. Stars odds tonight). The goaltenders did play to comparable results in the regular season, and Skinner did bounce back with good performances in Games 6 and 7 against the Canucks. Even still, it is fair to view the Stars as the side with the edge in goal.

The Oilers' depth appeared to be much improved in this year's regular season, but that strength has not continued into the postseason. Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm have been absolutely incredible, but the rest of the defensive core leaves something for want. The Oilers managed that flaw well enough to get by far thinner offenses in Rounds 1 and 2, but the Stars feature arguably the deepest offensive core in the league.

The Pick: Dallas Stars to Win Series (-125 at FanDuel) | Play to -130

Oilers to Win Game 1 & Lose Series (+475)

The Oilers' best chance to strike in this series could be early on, and because I like the Stars' chances to take the series, this price looks too long to me.

Teams coming off of Game 7 victories facing opponents who have rested for three or more days are 21-17 in the NHL playoffs dating back to the 2005 season. The Stars will benefit overall from some rest after two lengthy series, but historical trends tell us rust is a real factor.

The Oilers won't have to face Stars top center Roope Hintz in Game 1, but they will likely have to at some point in the series. And while the Stars have been resting for far longer, I'd still argue that the Oilers' top stars getting two off-days since Game 7 is an advantage for the Oilers entering Game 1.

Early-series games also tend to feature far more power-play opportunities than Games 5-7, which is another factor that suggests the Oilers' chances to win tonight might be better than they are later on.

To cover up for their lesser depth, the Oilers are likely going to need to give absurd minutes to McDavid, Draisaitl, Bouchard and Ekholm to win games in this series. That's another strategy that could work out reasonably well early on – but prove to be an issue later in the series.

I like this bet for the Oilers to win the opener but lose the series. DraftKings has odds of +475 for this series bet.

The Pick: Oilers to Win Game 1 & Lose Series (+475 at DraftKings)

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