NHL Series Odds with Picks and Predictions

Doc MosemanCorrespondent IApril 15, 2014

FILE - In this March 18, 2014, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews skates during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, in Philadelphia. The Blackhawks expect to have Toews and Patrick Kane in the lineup when they play at St. Louis on Thursday, April 17 after each had long layoffs to heal injuries. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
Matt Slocum

Starting Wednesday night, this season’s quest to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup will get underway with four best-of-seven series in both the NHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences. Doc’s Sports has posted the series futures odds, so it’s time to find the value in the numbers.

The first matchup on Wednesday’s slate pits the Montreal Canadiens on the road against Tampa Bay. These two teams battled it out for second place in the Atlantic Division behind Boston for most of the year, so it is easy to see why this is one of the tightest series on the board.

The Canadiens have been listed as slight -105 underdogs, with the Lightning listed as -115 favorites based mainly on having the home-ice edge by virtue of winning the aforementioned battle for second by just one point. These two played each other four times in the regular season, with Tampa Bay coming away with three victories and three of the games being decided in overtime. The bottom line on this series is that it is just too close to call.

Another series getting an early start this Wednesday is Dallas against Anaheim. The Stars edged out Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, while the Ducks were the top seed in the standings with a total of 116 points. Anaheim played far better in the first half of the season before struggling slightly after the Winter Olympic break. However, they did finish on a strong note with four straight wins and a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games.

The Stars come in as +165 underdogs and Anaheim as a -190 favorite. Despite being a heavy favorite in this opening-round series, the Ducks will feel a bit slighted after opening as 5/1 fourth favorites to win the Western Conference, especially when you consider that they posted the second-most points in the NHL. While there is some risk in wagering on the lopsided series moneyline, Anaheim aren't likely to lose in the first round.

The top matchup on the board heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs is Chicago vs. St. Louis. The defending champions are getting healthy at just the right time, with the expected return of both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for Thursday’s series opener at the Scottrade Center. Chicago opened as a slight series underdog, but the early money has evened things out with both teams listed at -110 on the current moneyline.

The Blues come into the playoffs as 5/2 favorites to win the Western Conference, but they are going to have to quickly return to form after losing seven of the last 10 games to close out the regular season. Another loss on Thursday night would quickly erase their home-ice advantage and add some tremendous value to Chicago’s series odds.

If you are looking for the best value on the board in the opening-round series prices, then go with Los Angeles as a +125 underdog against San Jose, who have been listed as a -145 favorite. These two met last season in the conference semifinals, and the Kings prevailed with a 4-3 series win. They kept the momentum going this year by dominating the regular-season series and boast a 4-0-1 record in the teams' five previous meetings.

The first game in this best-of-seven series is set for Thursday at the SAP Center in San Jose. It was just two years ago when Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick got hot and led his team all the way to a Stanley Cup title. While he may not take Los Angeles all the way to another NHL title, I like his chances to do enough to take the Kings back to the conference semifinals.