After two exciting Game 7’s on Thursday night where the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers advanced by the collective hair on their chinny-chin-chins, the final eight teams have now made it to the NHL Stanley Cup conference semifinals.
Here are the series prices for the two Eastern Conference semifinals, hot off the presses from the most renowned sportsbook in the world, the LVH (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) SuperBook.
For the Western Conference semifinals series prices odds preview, just click on this link.
EASTERN SEMIS SERIES PRICE: NY Rangers -180, Washington Capitals +160
The New York Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the team here in Las Vegas with the best odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup (7/2, complete list below), were pushed to the brink in their Round 1 series against the upstart Ottawa Senators and may feel a bit gassed heading into this next round.
Their opponent, the Washington Capitals, also had to fight through an extremely tough first round opponent in the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, but Alex Ovechkin and his teammates found a way to get it done and now have to find a way to crack the Rangers code.
Saturday afternoon’s Game 1 (NBC, 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT) at Madison Square Garden will be crucial for both teams, as the visitors can steal the home-ice advantage away from the Rangers by simply winning this one meeting.
New York was led in the regular season offensively by Marian Gaborik (76 points, 41 goals) and Brad Richards (41 assists) and defensively by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (1.97 GAA, ,930 save percentage, eight shutouts), a solid candidate for the Vezina Trophy,
The main scoring cog, as always, for Washington was Ovechkin (65 points, 38 goals), a player opponents need to keep a body on at all times or run the risk of having this one-man wrecking crew wreak complete havoc on the ice.
The Capitals seemed to have found a goalie for the future this season in Braden Holtby, a guy who proved the postseason doesn’t phase him as he out-dueled Boston’s star netminder Tim Thomas to help his team advance.
These two teams split their regular season series (2-2) with all four games seeing at least five goals and both teams going 1-1 at home.
As was proven in the crazy first round, the underdog isn’t always the lessor team and I think there’s some real value in looking at the Capitals at +160 to win this series.
As previously mentioned, the Blueshirts were taken to the limit on the last night of the opening round and will only have head one full day’s rest heading into Game 1.
This series may go the full seven games as both teams are very close and the home-ice will likely mean nothing when the first puck is dropped. The Capitals seem to have that perpetual monkey on their backs and are still hungry enough to be a threat to make it to the Eastern Conference finals.
Although the Rangers are the East’s top-seed and the Stanley Cup Finals favorite here in Sin City I see them as very beatable and a team with just too many big obstacles in their way to be kissing that trophy this time around.
SERIES PREDICTION: Capitals 4-3
EASTERN SEMIS SERIES PRICE: Philadelphia Flyers -180, NJ Devils +160
As I wrote about in my Stanley Cup playoffs Round 1 preview here, if the Flyers could only get by their first round opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, they would have a shot at finally getting their hands back on that coveted Stanley Cup.
Well they did, and I still believe they might end up playing the Nashville Predators for all the marbles a month from now.
Sunday’s Game 1 (NBC, 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT) at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center will be another big one with the Flyers scoring machine going up against veteran Devils netminder Martin Brodeur (2.41 GAA, .908 save percentage, three shutouts), who has been around so long he actually has 11 points (10 assists, one goal) of his own in the postseason.
The Flyers are really deep with scoring talents in players like Claude Giroux (93 points, 65 assists), Scott Hartnell (37 goals) and Jaromir Jagr, an offseason signing that may ultimately be the difference in Philadelphia winning it all (9/2, Las Vegas SuperBook).
In net, Ilya Bryzgalov (2.48 GAA, .909 save percentage, six shutouts) and the Flyers withstood the barrage of Sidney Crosby and their fierce rival Pittsburgh in an extremely high-scoring Round 1 to get his team to this point and a matchup they would have probably rather preferred in the opening series.
Besides the 39-year-old Brodeur, who registered his 100th career playoff victory against the Florida Panthers in the opening round, the Devils are led by stars Ilya Kovalchuk (team-leading 83 points and 37 goals) and Patrik Elias (54 assists).
In the regular season series, the home ice proved to be insignificant as the Flyers went 2-0 in New Jersey with the Devils going 2-0 in the City of Brotherly Love making it six straight meetings (including the preseason) where the visitor has prevailed.
So like the Rangers-Capitals, the Western Conference semifinals and the entire first round, the home-ice advantage may end up not being much of an advantage at all unless it all comes down to that nail-biting do-or-die Game 7.
Although the Devils squeezed past Florida on Thursday night to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 I think the buck stops here; the Flyers simply look like a team on a mission.
Which teams will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals?
SERIES PREDICTION: Flyers 4-2
So there you have it. And please remember the odds and the previews above are way more important than any predictions or silly gambling advice I could possibly give you.
Think for yourself and sometimes the best way to watch the NHL Playoffs is to just sit back and watch, brother. Enjoy.
ODDS TO WIN EASTERN CONFERENCE
New York Rangers 3/1
Philadelphia Flyers 9/5
New Jersey Devils 4/1
Washington Capitals 5/1
ODDS TO WIN 2012 STANLEY CUP
New York Rangers 7/2
St. Louis Blues 4/1
Nashville Predators 9/2
Philadelphia Flyers 9/2
Los Angeles Kings 8/1
New Jersey Devils 8/1
Washington Capitals 10/1
Phoenix Coyotes 10/1
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