NHL Playoffs Picks & Predictions: Bet These 2 Series Underdogs

NHL Playoffs Picks & Predictions: Bet These 2 Series Underdogs article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning

If you like juicy NHL bets, be sure to check out Greg Liodice's Series Underdogs for the first round of the 2024 NHL Playoffs, with his top underdog picks below.

When we hit that place-bet button, we always want a "sure thing." Because of that, we tend to lean a certain way with NHL bets.

That "sure thing" is usually the betting favorite. Bettors probably see that a team is favored to win at -200 odds and think that’s the best way to cash a winner (or, at the very least, create some momentum).

And if you care just about wins and losses with your NHL bets, you’re not wrong.

However, while that heavy favorite is a favorite for a reason, the name of the game is value. And one way to tilt the odds in our favor and find that value is by betting on NHL underdogs — teams that are viewed less likely to win.

But we don’t want to bet those underdogs willy-nilly – that’s just irresponsible.

Instead, in addition to betting on NHL underdogs that pass the eye test, we’ll examine trends with 10-game samples, 5-on-5 play, goaltending matchups and more.

I’ll be here to conduct that research so you don’t have to. Let’s make some money and dive into what we have in store for the playoffs' NHL bets.

NHL Playoffs – Picks & Predictions

Colorado Avalanche vs. Winnipeg Jets

Colorado Avalanche

After having such a great season, boy did the Avalanche tarnish it with such a poor ending.

They won the final game of the season, and loaded up against an Oilers team that rested their top players. Beyond that, Colorado went 2-4-1 in the month of April, including a devastating blow against its playoff opponents in the Jets by the score of 7-0.

Perhaps the Avs were just resting up for the playoffs and took their foot off the gas, or perhaps Winnipeg just has their number.

Why To Fade Colorado

In April, Colorado’s 5-on-5 play was dreadful. It ranked 26th in expected goals with a 43.25 xGF% and 29th defensively with a 3.9 xGA/60.

Not only that, the penalty kill was also abysmal over the past 10 games, at a staggering 65.7%. The power play, however, thrived, which isn’t a surprise, scoring at a 24% clip.

I’m also concerned about Colorado’s goaltending. Alexandar Georgiev started in 62 games, but he flamed out big time this season, with a .897 SV% and a 5.0 goals saved above expected (GSAx).

Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg ended its season off with a bang; eight straight victories is nothing to sneeze at.

Hoping to avoid a late-season collapse like last year, the Jets rattled off wins and came together as a team.

It’s not a top heavy squad as it was in years past. The wealth has been spread in Peg City, as the Jets have four players with 60 or more points. The additions of Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli bolstered up the front line as well.

The Jets also secured the Jennings Trophy, which is awarded to the goaltending tandem that posted the best overall save percentage. Connor Hellebuyck was a massive part of it with his .921 SV% and league-leading 33.1 (GSAx).

Why To Bet Winnipeg

There’s something different about the Jets this season, and what's interesting is that they're the underdog but hold the higher seed.

They’ve played a really strong 5-on-5 game all season, but especially in April, posting a sixth-best 56.51 xGF%.

Defensively, they were even better, with a fourth-best 2.53 xGA/60.

All season, the power play struggled, but in the past 10 games, it came into its own. Winnipeg scored at a solid 21% clip, and the penalty kill excelled at 82.6%.

Goaltending is obviously a big selling point. Even if Hellebuyck struggles, or goes down with an injury, backup Laurent Brossoit was one of the best backups in the league with a .927 SV%.

Pick: Jets +115 (DraftKings)

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Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Florida Panthers

After winning four straight games to end the season, the Florida Panthers secured the Atlantic Division title.

The Panthers were going through a bit of a rough patch from March on, but they closed out April with a surge.

There’s loads of talent here, and it starts with Sam Reinhart. The nine-year veteran shattered his career-high totals and scored 57 goals, with 27 of them coming on the power play.

Beyond him, Matthew Tkachuk and captain Aleksander Barkov also registered strong point-per-game seasons.

Goaltending is a big strength for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky, even while aging, is still posting solid numbers, with a .915 SV% and a 15.6 GSAx.

Even if Bobrovsky fizzles out, they have back up Anthony Stolarz, who also had a .927 SV%.

Why to Fade Florida

Everything points to Florida winning this series, and it’s all valid. Aside from that poor stretch in March, the Panthers have really had one of the better seasons.

From the talent up front, to the brick wall of a defense, to the solid goaltending, why wouldn’t you pick Florida?

I just think the Panthers’ weakness is staring them right in the face. The Lightning have a deadly force up front, led by multiple Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman.

If they were playing literally any other team, I’d back the Panthers. However, since it’s the Battle of Florida, I tend to err on the side of the Bolts.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What a roller coaster season it was for the Lightning.

Many thought this season was going to be the start of a downfall, yet, Tampa picked itself up and rose above the critics. It’s led by Art Ross Trophy-winning Nikita Kucherov, who became the fifth player in NHL history to register 100 assists this season, as well as 44 goals.

Along with him, Brayden Point is well known for showing up in big time moments, with 40 career goals in 82 playoff games.

Captain Steven Stamkos also had yet another 40-goal season.

Goaltending was a hot button topic in Tampa. Andrei Vasilevskiy missed the first few months with back surgery and struggled once he came back.

However, Vasilevskiy has always shone up in the playoffs. While last playoffs was a down stretch for him, he still has posted a .921 SV% in 105 starts.

Why to Bet Tampa Bay

This past monthly trend hasn’t favored Tampa one bit. It’s played to a weak 49.15 xGF% and defensively, it's struggled with a 3.59 xGA/60.

So, why am I betting on the Lightning? In short, it’s because you can never count them out until they’re officially out.

Even with Vasilevskiy underperforming last season, the Lightning still took the Maple Leafs to six games.

Not to mention, they always show up for the Battle of Florida. Both times they've faced off in the Spring Classic, the Lightning won the series, including a four-game sweep in the second round in 2022.

Pick: Lightning +150 (DraftKings)

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