Betting Preview and Predictions for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are onto the second round after the group of 16 teams was whittled down to eight. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and New York Islanders advanced. In the Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Vancouver Canucks moved on. In this NHL Playoffs betting preview, we’ll go over the updated odds to win the Stanley Cup, look at the betting lines for each series, and give out some predictions for how we think it will play out.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Seeding

 Eastern Conf.Western Conf.
1Philadelphia FlyersVegas Golden Knights
2Tampa Bay LightningColorado Avalanche
3Washington Capitals (out)Dallas Stars
4Boston BruinsSt. Louis Blues (out)
5Carolina Hurricanes (out)Vancouver Canucks
6New York IslandersCalgary Flames (out)
7Columbus Blue Jackets (out)Arizona Coyotes (out)
8Montreal Canadiens (out)Chicago Blackhawks (out)

In the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were two upsets if you were to base the results off seeding of the teams. In the Eastern Conference, the No. 6 seed Islanders topped the No. 3 seed Washington Capitals in pretty convincing fashion, winning the series 4-1. In the Western Conference, the No. 5 seed Canucks sent the defending champions and No. 4 seed St. Louis Blues home in a series that ended 4-2.

The second-round matchups will see the No. 1 Flyers take on the No. 6 Islanders and the No. 2 Lightning face the No. 3 Bruins in the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference, it’s the No. 1 Golden Knights versus the No. 5 Canucks and the No. 2 Avalanche against the No. 3 Stars.

If you recall reading the first edition of our NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs preview for this year, we correctly predicted six of the eight teams to advance. We had the Carolina Hurricanes topping the Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets beating the Lightning as the two series we incorrectly predicted.

Speaking of the Bruins and Lightning, that series takes a turn with the stunning news that Tuukka Rask, a Vezina Trophy finalist and starting goalie for Boston, opted out of the playoffs before the team’s Game 3 against Carolina. It’ll now be Jaroslav Halak who the team will lean on between the pipes.

Let’s take a look at the NHL Stanley Cup futures market entering the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stanley Cup Odds

TeamOdds as of Aug. 22
Vegas Golden Knights+325
Colorado Avalanche+400
Boston Bruins+500
Philadelphia Flyers+600
Tampa Bay Lightning+625
New York Islanders+1000
Dallas Stars+1400
Vancouver Canucks+1700

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Saturday, August 22, 2020, and subject to change.

Per the NHL Stanley Cup odds from DraftKings Sportsbook, the Golden Knights remain the betting favorite. The Avalanche are sitting second. It’s interesting to see that the top two teams in the Western Conference are No. 1 and No. 2 as favorites to win the Stanley Cup, then all of the Eastern Conference teams take up the next four spots before the other two Western Conference teams bookend the odds list.

Other than the odds for the Lightning, the odds for each team got shorter from first round to second round. The Lightning actually went from +500 to +625, which is interesting and could present more value for bettors looking to buy on the Lightning, especially with Bruins goalie Rask opting out.

The biggest jump in odds belonged to the Islanders, who went from +2800 to +1000, winning a lot of love with their dominance over the Capitals.

Let’s now take a look at each series and give out some predictions.

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 6 New York Islanders

The top seed in the Eastern Conference takes on the lowest remaining seed in the playoffs when the Flyers square off against the Islanders. Looking at the Flyers vs. Islanders odds for this series, the Flyers are favored, but the price isn’t as high as some might think for a top seed against a No. 6 seed.

The Islanders did well to make quick work of the Capitals in the first round, ending Alex Ovechkin and company’s playoff run in five games. The price on the Islanders to win that series gave bettors plus money to advance and that’s what bettors can find this time around, too.

The Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens in a series that ended 4-2. The result and the way each game played out was much closer than many expected it to be, which is one reason why the Flyers aren’t as big of a favorite against the Islanders. Another reason is how good the Islanders looked in the first round playing that lockdown style of play that Barry Trotz loves to deploy.

For as much love as Flyers goalie Carter Hart has received this season, there were some questionable times for him. Twice during the series against Montreal, Hart let us four goals in a game. With the way that the Islanders play defense and keep the puck out of their own net, Hart can’t afford to be giving up large goal totals because it’ll be very hard for his team to come back.

Although they’re not known to light up the scoreboard, the Islanders showed plenty of scoring ability in the series against Washington. Three times during the series the Islanders scored four goals or more in a game.

Prediction: The increased offensive production for the Islanders coupled with Semyon Varlamov’s play in goal and how well they lockdown on defense will be too much for the Flyers in the second round. We’ve got another opportunity to grab the Islanders at plus money and we’re going to do it. Islanders to advance.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins

This second-round series between the Lightning and Bruins has the potential to be a lot of fun, but it’ll likely be missing a couple of key players. As mentioned before, Rask has opted out for Boston, so Halak gets to shoulder the load in net. For the Lightning, stud forward Steven Stamkos is still out indefinitely, so it’s up in the air if we’ll see him take the ice at all in this series.

Looking at the Lightning vs. Bruins odds when they opened at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bruins were slight favorites. In the first round, Boston overcame the loss of Rask and also got past missing David Pastrnak for a couple of games to beat the Hurricanes. The Lightning avenged last season’s first-round sweep to the Blue Jackets by beating them this time around, which included winning a five-overtime slugfest in Game 1 of the series.

We know that Rask is out for Boston. That’s a given. What we don’t know is if Pastrnak will be back to 100% by time the series with Tampa Bay rolls around. Pastrnak is Boston’s best scorer and arguably best player, and he’s very key to the team’s efforts going forward.

As for Halak, he didn’t do horrible against Carolina, giving up 5 goals in the trio of games he played. He did look shaky at times, though, and he’ll need to be at his absolute best with the offensive firepower that Tampa Bay brings to the table. Even if they don’t have Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman, and company will present plenty to handle.

Tampa Bay seems to have increased its physicality, which isa good sign for them and a bad one for the Bruins. They handled Columbus well in the first round and will need to continue this new tough style against Boston.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is also a key player for the Lightning. He’s a very talented goalie and it would have been fun to see Vasilevskiy go toe to toe with Rask. Without Rask, Vasilevskiy needs to be better than Halak on every single night. There should be no excuses in that regard. If he’s not and falters, the door will be open for Boston.

Prediction: The Lightning have one of the best teams in all of hockey, even without Stamkos. They might even have the best team overall. We think they’ll be too much for Boston to handle and we don’t like the matchup of Halak in goal if we’re the Bruins. Getting Tampa Bay as an underdog is the play here and we pick them to advance.

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks were the final team to punch its ticket to the second round, sending the defending champions home on Friday night. They’re a young and fun team to watch and it’ll be a real test for them having to go against the Golden Knights in the second round. Looking at the Golden Knights vs. Canucks betting odds, the Golden Knights are pretty big favorites.

Although he let up 2.67 goals per game against the Blues, which included four games of letting up 3 goals, Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom played a big role in the Canucks advancing to the second round. Markstrom is going to need to be even better against Vegas, who have a lot of talent and depth on offense.

On the other side, the Golden Knights have what is considered the best goalie tandem in the league, with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner has gotten the bulk of the load so far, but either goalie is capable of being a No. 1 net minder for the team, which allows coach Peter DeBoer to work in rest if he wants to go back and forth.

Canucks center Elias Pettersson has been great to watch, as has Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes. The team may be young, but there’s little doubt they’re talented. One big thing to watch for this series is how Vancouver’s youth performs against the depth and experience of Vegas.

The Golden Knights revery well-rounded and have enough depth to just keep coming at you over and over. Mark Stone is the team’s best all-around player, but he’s got plenty of ability around him. Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch have been playing well lately, and Shea Theodore presents a skilled and offensive-minded defenseman that teams have to account for. There’s plenty more where that came from, too, including Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Max Pacioretty.

Prediction: We like the Golden Knights to advance past the Canucks. They’re got the better goaltending, better depth, and are more experienced. There’s a reason the Golden Knights are the favorite to win the Stanley Cup and we’ll be riding them through to the next round.

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars

The second series in the Western Conference sees the Colorado Avalanche take on the Dallas Stars. This is the first second-round series to start, with Game 1 on Saturday, August 22. Looking at the Avalanche vs. Stars odds, the Avalanche are sizable favorites.

During the regular season, the Stars beat the Avalanche in all four games the two teams played. The two played an additional game in the seeding round and Colorado won that one convincingly 4-0. The Avalanche are right behind the Golden Knights as a favorite to win it Allan it’s going to be an uphill battle for Dallas in this series.

Colorado made fairly easy work of the Arizona Coyotes in the first round, whereas the Stars had a little more of a battle with the Calgary Flames. On paper, Colorado has the better tea, here, led by stud forward Nathan MacKinnon. The Stars aren’t void of talent, though, and the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and company have a potentially high ceiling. The question with Dallas is whether or not they’ll reach that potential.

In addition to MacKinnon, the Avalanche have Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky, Mikko Rantanen, and Name Kadri on the roster. Like Vegas, Colorado can come at you with waves because of their depth.

Where the Avalanche can be weaker is with goaltending, which is a mix between Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz. On the other side, Dallas has Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin to man the net. Looking at the two goaltending units, we’d say it’s pretty even. This one is more likely to come down what happens between both teams’ skaters.

Prediction: The Avalanche are the better team on paper and they’ll prove they’re the better team on the ice, too. Colorado has better high-end talent, more depth, and more speed than the Stars. We expect the Avalanche to advance and meet Vegas in the next round.

Stanley Cup Futures Picks

In our first run of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs preview, we discussed avoiding the biggest favorites due to price and instead looking for value elsewhere. We did suggest that if we had to pick one of the favorites, it’d be the Avalanche. Colorado is still in.

The Stanley Cup futures pick we were highest on was the Islanders, and they advanced convincingly in the first round over the Capitals. The Islanders may be a No. 6 seed in the playoffs, but they’re a very solid team with speed, good defense and goaltending, and an experience head coach who has won. We’d still be willing to buy on the Islanders and would get a decent price doing so.

We didn’t pick Tampa Bay to get out of the first round, but they did and looked pretty good. The Lightning faded a bad injury to Hedman and Stamkos could come back at any time. The Lightning are behind the Golden Knights and Avalanche as a favorite and we wouldn’t mind having a ticket on them. After last season’s playoff debacle, the Lightning look as motivated as ever to get the job done this season.

Up Next