NHL Playoffs 2018: Updated Schedule, Stanley Cup Odds and Picks

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2018

Erik Haula scored the game-winning double overtime goal in Game 2 for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Erik Haula scored the game-winning double overtime goal in Game 2 for the Vegas Golden Knights.John Locher/Associated Press

The Vegas Golden Knights accomplished quite a bit in the regular season. The first-year expansion team won the Pacific Division title and showed off their strength on home ice with a 29-10-2 record in games on the Strip.

Regular-season success is not enough for head coach Gerard Gallant's team. The Golden Knights earned a 2-1 double overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-7 first-round series. Erik Haula's close-range wrister beat Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick to seal the win for the home team.

The Kings will try to shake off that defeat Sunday when they host Vegas in Game 3 of the series.

On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks will try to join the Knights and take a 2-0 lead in their respective series.

                                           

Saturday's Playoff Schedule

New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET: Tampa Bay leads, 1-0.

Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 3 p.m.: Nashville leads, 1-0.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m.: Boston leads, 1-0.

San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks, 10:30 p.m.: San Jose leads, 1-0.

                   

Sunday's Playoff Schedule

Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers, 3 p.m.:  Series tied, 1-1.

Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild, 7 p.m.: Winnipeg leads, 2-0

Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m.: Columbus leads, 1-0

Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m.: Vegas leads, 2-0

See the full playoff schedule here.

                     

The Predators finished the regular season with the best record in the league and will have home ice throughout the playoffs as a result. In 2016-17, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Penguins in six games. 

They began their postseason march with a 5-2 victory over the Avalanche in Game 1, but that victory was not as one-sided as the score indicates. Colorado jumped out to a 2-1 lead before the Preds tied the game in the second period.

Nashville outscored the Avs 3-0 in the third period, and one of those goals was a highlight-film maneuver by Filip Forsberg who put the puck between his own legs, did the same to Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard and beat Jonathan Bernier with a bullet of a shot past his catching glove. Forsberg also scored another goal in the second period.

Despite the strong finish by the Preds, Colorado may be a live underdog in Game 2. The Avs have a ton of speed with stars like Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, and they have been a surprising team all season.

Nashville is a relentless and confident team, but the Avs could steal a win if they can take an early lead and win the special teams battle.

                          

2017-18 Stanley Cup Odds (via OddsShark)

Nashville Predators, +400
Tampa Bay Lightning, +500
Boston Bruins, +600
Vegas Golden Knights, +600
Winnipeg Jets, +700
Pittsburgh Penguins, +1200
Washington Capitals, +1600
Toronto Maple Leafs, +1600
San Jose Sharks, +2000
Columbus Blue Jackets, +2500
Philadelphia Flyers, +3000
Anaheim Ducks, +4000
Minnesota Wild, +5000
New Jersey Devils, +5000
Los Angeles Kings, +5000
Colorado Avalanche, +6000

                  

Predictions for Saturday's games

The New Jersey Devils got the best of the Tampa Bay Lightning in three games during the regular season. While they dropped the opener in Tampa, Taylor Hall will show the Lightning why he is a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate. The Devils win the game and tie the series.

The Avs are going to find a way to get even with the Predators in Game 2. Nashville is a strong and powerful team, but a sweep is not likely. Colorado wins here and gains some confidence. However, the Avs are not likely to win another game in the series.

The Bruins overpowered the Maple Leafs in Game 1, and Toronto will be shorthanded after Nazem Kadri was suspended for three games after his dangerous hit on Tommy Wingels. However, the Leafs are a fast, sleek team and are not going away in this series. They will push the Bruins in this game before losing on a late goal, but they will get back on track in Toronto. This still should be a long series.

The Ducks are desperate to win because they don't want to go to San Jose for Game 3 in an 0-2 hole. Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf will turn this series around and get Anaheim the win on home ice.

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