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NHL Playoff Game 1 Betting Odds, Previews: Are the Flames Overvalued vs. Avalanche?

Credit:

Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Mike Smith

  • The NHL Playoffs continue on Thursday night with three games starting at 7 p.m. ET.
  • The market has moved in the Maple Leafs-Bruins game, but the two other games have interesting betting angles.

The NHL Playoffs got out off to a wild start last night.

The headline-grabbing result was Columbus’ 4-3 win over Tampa Bay. The Blue Jackets erased a 3-0 deficit against the Presidents’ Trophy winners. After a wonky first period, Columbus was bailed out by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky time and again over the last 40 minutes of the game.

The Bolts were definitely unlucky to lose — they created more expected goals and scoring chances — but this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, get used to the better team not winning.

In yesterday’s preview I thought the Blue Jackets were good value at +200, given that they are a good team with a great goalie and I’ll take those odds almost every time on a team of Columbus’ caliber.

I’m definitely monitoring the Game 2 line for Columbus-Tampa. It opened in the same range it closed last night and I’m hoping that bettors back Tampa and push it up even further to create even more value on the Jackets.

There are three more Game 1’s tonight, starting at 7 p.m. ET.

Betting market

The most interesting movement for Thursday night’s action has come in the Maple Leafs-Bruins game. Boston opened as a -150 favorite but has since drifted to -138, according to our consensus line. The adjustment makes sense, the Leafs and B’s are not too far apart. This series is tight and I’d be surprised if any game closes outside the -140/+120 range barring injuries.

The other two games are where my attention is going tonight.

Betting odds: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals

  • Hurricanes moneyline: +125
  • Capitals moneyline: -145
  • Over/Under: 6
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Channel: USA

Even with a new head coach, these Washington Capitals seem to me mirroring the Stanley Cup Champion Caps from 2017-18.

The Caps weren’t all that great in the early stages of the regular season, but they began to trend up down the stretch and coming into the postseason look like a threat once again.

Carolina, too, has been fantastic down the stretch and the Hurricanes sport one of the most impressive advanced stat portfolios in the NHL.

Both of these teams have tons of offensive firepower, but the way they get results differs. The Capitals rely on high-end finishers and playmakers (you know like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie) while the Hurricanes generate a ton of chances but have trouble finishing them.

The Canes led the NHL in expected goals per 60 (xG/60) and finished second in shot attempts per 60. The Caps were below average in both of those stats over the 82-game season, but they aren’t built to play a possession-based style, so it’s not a red flag in the big picture, but it does set up a tough matchup against Carolina.

At the current odds, the market suggests Washington has a  57.1% chance of winning this game. I expect Carolina to control the tempo and create the lion’s share of the scoring chances and that should level the playing field, creating value on Carolina at plus money.

The bet: Carolina Hurricanes +125 (would bet down to +120)

Betting odds: Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames

  • Avalanche moneyline: +160
  • Flames moneyline: -185
  • Over/Under: 6
  • Time: 10 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBCSN

Let me begin by saying that the Calgary Flames are a much better team than the Colorado Avalanche. I am of the opinion that the Avs are the worst team in the playoffs and the Flames are a top-5 team.

The Flames boast terrific shot and scoring chance metrics, ranking fifth in Shot Share, fifth in preventing expected goals and seventh in xGF%. The Avs are pretty much bang-average in all of those metrics, so the Flames should be the team dictating the game tonight. Calgary is much, much deeper than Colorado and has the edge in almost every position.

The one edge that the Avs have over the Flames is a big one though.

Calgary will start Mike Smith, who grades out as one of the worst goaltenders in the postseason, for Game 1. In 42 games this year, Smith posted a -8.5 Goals Saved Above Average and a .904 5v5 save percentage. According to Corsica Hockey, the 37-year-old is rated as the No. 32 goalie in the NHL.

Smith’s counterpart tonight will likely be Philipp Grubauer. The German is ranked No. 13 by Corsica and was terrific down the stretch after an up-and-down start to his Avalanche career.

I don’t trust Smith as far as I can throw him and think his presence in the blue paint creates enough value on Colorado at +160, though I wouldn’t bet the Avs at any lower than that.

The bet: Colorado Avalanche +160

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