Betting Preview and Predictions for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Marc-Andre Fleury
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights (photo credit: Imagn/USA TODAY Sports)

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing and the field has been whittled down to the final four teams. The Vegas Golden Knights are the betting favorite entering the semifinals, listed at +125 at FanDuel Sportsbook. The Tampa Bay Lightning, last season’s winner, is right behind the Golden Knights on the oddsboard at +145. The other two squads are the New York Islanders (+600) and Montreal Canadiens (+1100). In this article, we’ll preview each series and give our predictions for how things will shake out.

The Golden Knights will take on the Canadiens in the semifinals, with the Lightning facing the Islanders. That setup may seem a little weird, but it’s because of the reworked divisions the league had for this season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Last season, the Lightning and Islanders met in the Eastern Conference Final, with Tampa Bay winning the series 4-2 before going on to beat the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Seeding

1Pittsburgh Penguins (out)Colorado Avalanche (out)Carolina Hurricanes (out)Toronto Maple Leafs (out)
2Washington Capitals (out)Vegas Golden KnightsFlorida Panthers (out)Edmonton Oilers (out)
3Boston Bruins (out)Minnesota Wild (out)Tampa Bay LightningWinnipeg Jets (out)
4New York IslandersSt. Louis Blues (out)Nashville Predators (out)Montreal Canadiens

With the way the season set up this year, the divisions are a bit different than what we may be used to, and that’s reflected in the seedings per division. The four top seeds entering the playoffs were the Pittsburgh Penguins from the East Division, the Colorado Avalanche from the West Division, the Carolina Hurricanes from the Central Division, and the Toronto Maple Leafs from the North Division. They’ve all been eliminating, with the Avalanche as the last to fall.

The Golden Knights are the highest seed remaining. They’re a No. 2 seed and no No. 1 seed remains. Both the Islanders and Canadiens came out of their divisions to reach the semifinals as No. 4 seeds. Montreal came back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round to the division’s top-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs, and then the Canadiens swept the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. The Islanders first beat Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, and then they topped David Pastrnak and the Boston Bruins in the second round. Tampa Bay beat the Florida Panthers in the opening round, followed by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round. The Golden Knights came out on top after a seven-game series with the Minnesota Wild and then beat the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche in the second round despite losing the first two games of the series.

Stanley Cup Odds

TeamOdds as of June 11
Vegas Golden Knights+125
Tampa Bay Lightning+145
New York Islanders+600
Montreal Canadiens+1100
Colorado AvalancheEliminated
Boston BruinsEliminated
Toronto Maple LeafsEliminated
Carolina HurricanesEliminated
Winnipeg JetsEliminated
Pittsburgh PenguinsEliminated
Washington CapitalsEliminated
Florida PanthersEliminated
Edmonton OilersEliminated
Minnesota WildEliminated
Nashville PredatorsEliminated
St. Louis BluesEliminated

Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook as of Friday, June 11, 2021, and subject to change.

Looking at the NHL Stanley Cup betting odds, it’s pretty clear that the betting community has the Golden Knights and Lightning as the two teams pegged to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Of course, this is the NHL Playoffs and anything can happen, but the odds paint a pretty clear picture as to how these four teams are viewed.

Matchups and Schedule

No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 New York Islanders

Game 1: Sunday, June 13, at 3 p.m. ET – Islanders at Lightning
Game 2: Tuesday, June 15, at 8 p.m. ET – Islanders at Lightning
Game 3: Thursday, June 17, at 8 p.. ET – Lightning at Islanders
Game 4: Saturday, June 19, at 8 p.m. ET – Lightning at Islanders
*Game 5: Monday, June 21, at 8 p.m. ET – Islanders at Lightning
*Game 6: Wednesday, June 23, at 8 p.m. ET – Lightning at Islanders
*Game 7: Friday, June 25, at 8 p.m. ET – Islanders at Lightning

*If needed.

No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

Game 1: Monday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET – Canadiens at Golden Knights
Game 2: Wednesday, June 16, at 9 p.m. ET – Canadiens at Golden Knights
Game 3: Friday, June 18, at 8 p.m. ET – Golden Knights at Canadiens
Game 4: Sunday, June 20, at 8 p.m. ET – Golden Knights at Canadiens
*Game 5: Tuesday, June 22, at 9 p.m. ET – Canadiens at Golden Knights
*Game 6: Thursday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET – Golden Knights at Canadiens
*Game 7: Saturday, June 26, at 8 p.m. ET – Canadiens at Golden Knights

*If needed.

Previews and Predictions

No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 New York Islanders

In a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning face the Islanders in this next round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just as they were last time around, the Lightning are favored over the Islanders. On Friday, FanDuel Sportsbook had Tampa Bay listed at -250 to win the series, with New York priced as a +200 underdog.

There’s little doubt as to which side has the better team here. If you look at the rosters, it’s the Lightning, but as we’ve seen before plenty of times in the NHL postseason, anything can happen. New York has already beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins in these playoffs, with both of those teams having better top-end talent on offense than the Islanders do, on paper at least.

What’s interesting is that for how much we think of the Islanders as a defensive-minded team that relies on its back end and goaltending, New York is the team leading the playoffs in goals with 43. When you break it down per game, the Islanders are second at 3.58 goals per game, but the team ahead of them, the Colorado Avalanche, has been eliminated. While we might not think of the Islanders as this high-scoring squad, they’ve done well to put the puck in the back of the net this postseason. Of course, Andrei Vasilevskiy will be one heck of a tough cookie to get past in the Tampa Bay net.

As for goaltending, we’ll give the nod to Vasilevskiy, but that’s not to take much away from Semyon Varlamov, who has been playing very well in goal for the Islanders. Vasilevskiy owns a .934 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average this postseason, with Varlamov having a .925 save percentage and a 2.62 goals against average. Vasilevskiy has played more than 200 more minutes than Varlamov in the playoffs this season and has recorded two shutouts. Varlamov has no shutouts.

This matchup is really going to be about strength on strength. On one side, it’ll be New York’s defense and goaltending. On the other side, it’ll be the high-flying offense that Tampa Bay presents. Mathew Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier, and company can find the back of the net for New York, but this team really does its best work defending its own net. For Tampa Bay, there’s Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point for New York to deal with, plus others, and that’s going to be one heck of a tall task.

Prediction: At +200, we’re going to side with backing the Islanders. Beating the Lightning isn’t going to be easy, but this Islanders team has been overcoming the odds all postseason long. They’re a very tight group, they play extremely tough, and are well-coached by Barry Trotz. As long as the Islanders continue to score and receive the goaltending they have been receiving, there’s going to be plenty to like about how they match up against the Lightning. Is Tampa Bay good? Yes, they’re very good. Should Tampa Bay be favored? Yes. But at the end of the day, we think the +200 price on the Islanders is a little too big to pass up.

No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens

With the Vegas Golden Knights being the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them heavily favored over the Montreal Canadiens, who have the lowest odds to win it all. On Sunday, FanDuel Sportsbook had the Golden Knights priced as -460 favorites, with the Canadiens as +350 underdogs.

Vegas is the better team here, and there’s little debating that. The Golden Knights are better on offense, they have more depth from top to bottom, and they’re better on defense. Coming into the postseason, we’d have given the nod to Vegas in goal, too, thanks to the two-headed monster that is Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. While Fleury has played pretty awesome throughout the postseason, Montreal netminder Carey Price has done wonders for his team.

Price has a .935 save percentage and a 1.97 goals against average in these playoffs, and he’s the biggest reason that the Canadiens are here against the Golden Knights. Fleury has been good, too, with a .923 save percentage and 1.91 goals against average. While we can debate these two goalies all day, the biggest question is whether or not Price can steal another series for Montreal. With the way he’s playing and the talent he possesses, it wouldn’t entirely be out of the question. That said, it’s going to be one heck of a tall task against Vegas.

After many thought the series against the Colorado Avalanche would push the Golden Knights to seven games, it’s good for them to have gotten the series wrapped up in six games so they could have a few days off before starting up with Montreal. Vegas has the home-ice advantage, and Montreal has had more time off thanks to sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in the last round.

For Vegas, we really like what we’re seeing from the William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith, and of course plenty will be made of Max Pacioretty going up against his old team.

Prediction: Vegas is a big favorite at -460 to win this series, so it’s hard to lay money on them. If we absolutely had to bet it, the play is probably just to toss a half of a unit on Montreal and hope that Price stays hot. We don’t like either side, though – we don’t like laying such heavy wood on the Golden Knights and we aren’t confident in Montreal against Vegas. We’d much rather take some action on a couple of the other series bets you can find, specifically from FanDuel Sportsbook. You can get the Golden Knights -1.5 games in the series for -186, which isn’t too bad. You can also do a “Game 1/Series Double” bet on the Golden Knights to win Game 1 and win the series for -165. Those are the two bets we’d make, either one of them.

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