NHL Betting Preview: Western Conference Playoff Matchups, Odds, Analysis

OddsShark.comFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2016

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick looks to the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

You can make an argument for any of the eight playoff teams winning the Western Conference and playing for the Stanley Cup in one of the most competitive fields in recent memory.

Five teams have conference odds listed at 5-1 or less at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, and two of the top contenders did not even win their divisions this season.

The Los Angeles Kings (48-28-6) top the list at 4-1 despite losing the Pacific Division crown on the last day of the regular season when the Anaheim Ducks (46-25-11) blanked the NHL-leading Washington Capitals by a 2-0 margin.

The two rivals ranked third and first in goals-against average, respectively, and hope their outstanding defensive play carries through to the postseason and leads to another shot at the Stanley Cup.

The Ducks earned the top seed overall in the West last year before they were ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the conference finals, and they are listed at 9-2 this year.

The Blackhawks (47-26-9) and Central Division champ Dallas Stars (50-23-9) are tied with Anaheim at 9-2 followed by the St. Louis Blues (49-24-9) at 5-1. Chicago placed third in the Central behind St. Louis and Dallas, which got off to a fast start and then closed out strong to fend off the Blues for the division title.

Five Central Division teams made the playoffs in the West overall, with the Nashville Predators (42-27-14) and Minnesota Wild (38-33-11) rounding out the group as the two wild-card teams.

The Predators are 12-1 to win the West and play the Ducks in the first round, while the Wild are 14-1 and take on the Stars, who left Minnesota in 1993. Dallas has won four of the past five meetings, according to the Odds Shark NHL database.

The other team in the field from the Pacific Division is the San Jose Sharks (46-30-6), and they played much better on the road than at home during the regular season. The Sharks will meet the Kings in the first round and find out if that road magic can continue.

San Jose had more wins away from home than any team in the league, including Washington, finishing 28-10-3 compared to an 18-20-3 mark at the SAP Center.