Betting can be very unpredictable once playoffs start. I understand the want to bet on the favourites to win the Stanley Cup since it’s a little more likely, but great odds can be found in some sleeper picks who are strong teams.
Edmonton Oilers – 2nd in Pacific Division (+1800)
On paper, the Edmonton Oilers have possibly the easiest opponent in the first round of this season’s playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings are tied for the highest Cup odds (+5000) heading into the postseason and they have their top defenceman, Drew Doughty on the sidelines.
He plays a shutdown and agitator role against opposing top players while also adding a big offensive element. The Kings will miss that and the Oilers’ high-flying offence will pounce all over that. The Oilers have also gotten the best goaltending over the past month from Mike Smith, tying the Oilers’ record set by Grant Fuhr by winning 10 consecutive starts.
The forward group of the Oilers is deeper than any team they’ve assembled in over 20 years, led by the four-time Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid, and the first player to record 55-plus goals and assists in the same season since 1995-96 in Leon Draisaitl. With offensive talent and depth like the Oilers have, scoring can and has come from everywhere, making it very hard to defend.
Possible second-round opponents include the Calgary Flames or Dallas Stars. The Oilers went 2-2 this season against the Flames while going 1-2 in games vs the Stars. Neither will be easy if the Oilers get past the Kings, but both are doable considering Edmonton has the third-best record in the NHL since Jay Woodcroft took over Feb. 10. The stars will have to continue to produce, the depth is a factor, and the goaltending has to hold up if the Oilers want to make a run. It’s definitely possible when looking at the roster and the team turnaround and they could be a good sleeper option to come out of the West and stun a powerhouse in the East.
St. Louis Blues – 3rd in Central Division (+2200)
The St. Louis Blues will have a very tough time getting out of their division, let alone winning the Stanley Cup, but that’s why the odds are so good in choosing them. They have the Minnesota Wild’s number, winning all three games against them this season while scoring a combined 16 goals against solid goaltending in Minnesota.
The Blues may need a performance in line with what Jordan Binnington gave the Blues when they won the Cup, but could just as likely turn to Ville Husso by the way he’s played this season. The forwards are something to marvel at with how they’ve managed to spread out the scoring and be a threat offensively at any time. Nine of their forwards have scored at least 20 goals this season and they have 11 skaters with 43-plus points.
If they can continue the success against the Wild from the regular season, they will likely play the Colorado Avalanche who have struggled to get out of the second round despite the teams they’ve had. Once they’ve made it that far, the core players who have been there just three years ago can finish the job once again.
Pittsburgh Penguins – 3rd in Metropolitan Division (+2000)
This will be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 16th consecutive postseason appearance, which means they are the most accustomed to playoff hockey. They also know what it takes as their core leaders have taken home the Cup three times since 2009.
The Penguins have defied the odds and played well all season despite missing Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for stretches. They had a number of players step up and also added a good top-six forward at the deadline to add to the threat they already posed.
The question will be with their goaltending, as Tristan Jarry is questionable for the start of the playoffs. In his absence, Casey DeSmith has stepped up big time as goaltenders tend to do in Pittsburgh when it’s needed. The East has better teams in the playoffs, so it will be a more difficult road. But if you’re placing your money anywhere on an underdog, why not go with a group that has been there before in the Penguins.
Odds via Yahoo and BetMGM.
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