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BlackJack’s Favorite NHL Playoff Bets: Picking 4 First-Round Series Winners

Credit:

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman (11) and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (88).

  • BlackJack Fletcher offers his favorite first-round NHL playoff bets, featuring picks for a series winner in Penguins vs. Islanders and three other matchups.

Today is a great day on the sports calendar.

Rather than mourning the loss of College Basketball, we should be celebrating the birth of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey features one of — if not the best — playoffs in all of sports. You might not like the format, but the games are intense, full of action, and can produce major upsets.

As we begin the quest toward awarding Lord Stanley’s Cup, let’s take a look at the first round and see whether there are opportunities to make money.

My favorite bets cover the following four series:

  • Blue Jackets vs. Lightning: Game 1 at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • Penguins vs. Islanders: Game 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • Golden Knights vs. Sharks: Game 1 at 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • Maple Leafs vs. Bruins: Game 1 at 7 p.m. ET Thursday

Let’s cash some tickets, baby!

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning have been a juggernaut throughout the regular season. They’ve played outstanding in all phases of the game. They can score at will, they defend tenaciously and their special teams are among the league’s best.

Columbus on the other hand, decided to go all-in on a playoff run this season.

The Blue Jackets chose not to trade free-agents-to-be Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. They made the dance, and now have the arduous task of facing the league’s best team.

Columbus might steal a game or two, but ultimately, Tampa advances. It’s a lot of juice to lay, but the Lightning aren’t falling in the first round.

THE PICK: Tampa Bay -400

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders

This is not a matchup many would have predicted back in October.

The Islanders lost John Tavares, but gained head coach Barry Trotz. And in doing so, Trotz turned the Isles into the league’s best defensive team. They’ve been exciting to watch and a genuinely good team.

The Penguins are still anchored by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which will always make them a danger in the playoffs. Still, at this price, I can’t help but like the Islanders. They’ll be playing back at the Nassau Coliseum, which will be a raucous environment. I think the edge is with them.

THE PICK: New York +134

Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks

This series is as even a matchup on paper as you will find in these playoffs, which means a lot of people might shy away from betting it — but not us.

The single biggest difference between these teams is the most important one: Goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury has been his usual efficient, sometimes spectacular self. And Martin Jones has been, well, Martin Jones — he simply isn’t on the same level as Fleury.

It’s the only real difference between these two teams, but it is a critical one.

THE PICK: Vegas -120

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins

These two teams have matched up in the past two playoffs, with Boston winning each time. Each of those series went to seven games.

This season, the Maple Leafs adds Tavares. They also have more playoff seasoning than in years past. And while the Bruins are as dangerous as any team in the NHL, this matchup is not a good one.

The Leafs have a good playoff run in them, and Tavares is a difference maker. I like the value here on Toronto.

THE PICK: Toronto +125

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