NHL Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets for Bruins vs. Capitals, Jets vs. Oilers & More (May 23)
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing on Sunday, with a four-game slate starting at 2:30 p.m. ET when the Hurricanes look to take a stranglehold on their series against the Predators.
Even in the North Division, which has had one series delayed due to COVID-19 protocols, there is separation in every playoff series. The Jets have gotten off the a shocking 2-0 lead over the Oilers north of the border, where the two teams meet in Winnipeg on Sunday night.
Our team of NHL betting analysts have identified their best bets for the four-game slate and break down each below.
NHL Odds & Picks
Pete Truszkowski: Carolina Hurricanes ML (-140) vs. Nashville Predators (PointsBet)
To the surprise of nobody who paid attention during the regular season, the Hurricanes have been the better team in this series at 5-on-5. They’ve played to a 54.3% expected goal rate and generated 53.1% of the shot attempts. The Hurricanes ranked fourth in both categories during the regular season, while the Predators were average at best.
When at even strength, the Hurricanes have received dominant performances from their top line, as well as their third. The trio of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov have posted a 76% expected goal rate. The Canes’ third line of Jordan Staal, Warren Foegele and Jesper Fast has been even better, playing to an expected goal rate of 78.9%.
The issue for Carolina over the past two games has not been its play at even strength, but rather the lack of even strength play. Nashville had 14 power-play opportunities combined through games two and three. Nashville’s power play has been impotent, converting just once on these opportunities, but it still has had an impact on Carolina’s game.
Carolina coach Rod Brind’amour called out the officiating following his team’s loss in Game 3, implying that the discrepancy in power-play opportunities is unjust. Brind’amour realizes that if his team is constantly killing penalties, it can’t generate momentum or roll four lines. It’ll be interesting to see if his scathing words will impact the officiating in this series.
Entering this best-of-seven set, a lot was made of the goaltending matchup. These teams ranked first and second in even-strength save percentage, but we’ve seen 19 goals in three games. Granted, that number is inflated due to overtimes and empty-net goals, but it hasn’t been the defensive struggle some expected.
The Hurricanes’ Alex Nedeljkovic has outplayed Nashville’s Juuse Saros to this point. Nedeljkovic has a +0.9 goals saved above expectation, while Saros has been mediocre at -0.5. If Saros doesn’t turn up his game, it’s hard to see Nashville making much noise.
Entering this series, I believed there was a significant disparity between these teams. Despite some close games and impressive performances from the Predators, I still believe that. I think we’ve seen Nashville play near its ceiling so far in this series, while the Hurricanes still have another level they can reach.
It’s pretty telling that Nashville needed double overtime and twice as many power plays than the Hurricanes to even this series. Teams coming home down 2-0 are often playing at full desperation and despite that, the Hurricanes hung right with them. In fact, Carolina had a 2.94-2.76 expected goal advantage at 5-on-5 in Game 3.
While I don’t love betting road favorites in the playoffs, I believe the Hurricanes are in range for a play here. Carolina is better than Nashville in every facet of the game. The Hurricanes are better at puck possession, shot generation, creating offense, special teams and arguably goaltending.
I’ll take what I think is clearly the better team coming off a loss. Focus and motivation should be high.
Mike Ianniello: Colorado Avalanche -1.5 (+115) vs. St. Louis Blues (BetMGM)
The Colorado Avalanche have dominated the St. Louis Blues to a 3-0 series lead, outscoring the Blues 15-5 through the first three games.
There has been at least one series to end in a sweep in the first round of the playoffs in 11 of the last 15 seasons. Over the last three seasons, teams with a 3-0 lead are 6-2 when attempting to close out a sweep.
What can be said about the Avalanche that hasn’t already been said? They have been phenomenal all season, winning the President’s Trophy with the best record in the NHL at 39-13-4 and 82 points during the regular season.
The Avalanche are incredibly balanced, leading the league in goals per game with 3.52 while also allowing the third fewest at just 2.36. They lead the league in xGF% (59.8) and High-Danger Chance% (59.3) and are just dominant in all possession metrics, leading the league in Corsi% and Fenwick%, as well.
It has been no different in this series so far. Colorado has outplayed St. Louis to a 63.35 xGoals% and a 75% actual goal advantage. The Avs are averaging 5.0 goals per game and are 3-for-9 on the power play.
The Blues had only 63 points during the regular season, a total that only one playoff team (Montreal) didn’t surpass this season. St. Louis limped through the entire season, and finished ranked just 26th in xGF% and 30th in High-Danger Chances for percentage.
The Blues’ roster is still full of 2019 Stanley Cup winners, including the likes of Jordan Binnington, Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and more. However, almost all of them had down seasons relative to their 2019 performances. Tarasenko and Schwartz are both without a point this series, and O’Reilly has just one assist through three games.
St. Louis dealt with guys going in and out of the lineup all season, and that has continued into the playoffs. Leading scorer David Perron was put on the COVID-19 list and appears likely to miss the entire series.
Goaltender Jordan Binnington has taken a step back since his breakout 2019. He finished the regular season 18-14-8 and had a .910 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average, both the worst marks in his three seasons in the NHL.
So far this postseason, Binnington has a 3.77 goals against average and .897 save percentage. He has -3.8 GSAx, the lowest of all playoff goaltenders.
St. Louis has had great success over the years playing to their identity of hard-nosed, physical, defensive first hockey. That style would have been a much better matchup for them against a team like Vegas, for example.
Colorado has skated circles around the Blues, who just do not have the speed to match up. The Avs’ top defensive pair of Cale Makar and Devon Toews are two of the best skaters and most dynamic defenseman in the league and have played to a 67.7 xGoals%.
I am sure St. Louis will not go down without a fight, but the Avalanche just have too much firepower to slow down, so I like Colorado to complete the sweep.
With their season on the line, the Blues will likely get more aggressive late, taking chances on offense and pulling the goalie sooner. The Avs have won each game by at least three goals and I like them to cover the puck line once again.
Nicholas Martin: Bruins vs. Capitals, Under 5.5 (-130) (PointsBet)
With Washington’s season on the line, I think we see a more closely contested game here, similar to Games 1-3. The Caps clearly let their frustration boil over midway through Game 4 and while it may not have ultimately been the difference, I do think the group lost the script there.
It’s easy to forget this with Boston managing to be up 3-1 after such a dominating performance, but the Caps very realistically could have been up 2-1 with Boston finding ways to tie both Games 2 and 3 late. Both of those games were very hard fought, competitive affairs.
Ilya Samsonov is giving the Capitals a chance to win, but Boston took its game to another level in Game 4 and managed to put a good total past the very talented sophomore. Should the Capitals find a way to limit some of the defensive zone errors we saw last time out, I think that we should see a lower total from Boston.
With that said, the Bruins are just playing so well as a group defensively right now and even though I think it is likely that the Capitals put forth a much stronger effort here, I do not think it is likely to lead to many defensive breakdowns from the Bruins. Washington’s power play also was notably stagnant on Friday, and it is hard for me to imagine they generate a lot of quality looks, although I am sure lots of new wrinkles were considered at practice Saturday.
Both games that Samsonov has started in this series have gone under, and I certainly think this is a good spot for that trend to continue, particularly if the Capitals can sharpen things up as a group and put together a more disciplined effort in a do-or-die affair. I think there is a good chance that we see a low scoring, tightly contested battle here and I see value on the under at -130.
Pick: Under 5.5 (-130)
Matt Russell: Edmonton Oilers ML (-125) vs. Winnipeg Jets (BetMGM)
Once you remove empty-net goals from the equation, there’s been just four total goals in this series and none scored on the power play. Given the previous nine matchups, that’s as surprising as McDavid being shutout through two games. However, while the goal tally looks the way it does, it’s not like the Oilers aren’t still creating enough offense to be successful as they’ve accumulated 58.5% of the Expected Goals at even-strength. Plus, in both games in this series they’ve had 2.5 Expected Goals, which shows they’ve created offense at a surprisingly high rate.
The Jets are famous in the analytics community for winning despite being on the worse side of the predictive metrics, thanks to the other Connor… their goaltender Hellebuyck. Last season’s Vezina Trophy winner continues to help the Jets steal games, but it’s important to note that he and his teammates are stealing them.
The series shifts to Winnipeg, and the big change is in the last change. As in, the Jets can match lines with the Oilers during stoppages in play. However, there’s no specific line on the Jets that’s going to have more success on McDavid and company so that may not be relevant. Neither is any home-ice advantage for other reasons, as the Oilers are more than familiar with playing in Winnipeg and with a fan-less environment.
I have the Oilers with a 57% chance to win this game, which translates to a fair price for them at -132. Anything better than that is worth a play on Edmonton and McDavid, expecting them to create a similar amount of quality chances both at even-strength and on the power play and to break through Hellebuyck enough to avoid bigger trouble than they’re already in.