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First Round Cheat Sheet

First Round Cheat Sheet

First Round Cheat Sheet
A – Atlantic
M – Metropolitan
C – Central
P – Pacific
W – Wild Card

Eastern Conference

1A Boston vs. 2W Detroit

Bruins: 54-18-9, 117 points
Red Wings: 38-28-15, 91 points

Season series: The Wings took three of four meetings from the Bruins, including both matchups at Joe Louis Arena. The ‘under’ went 2-1-1 in the four games, as the teams met only once since December.

Previous playoff outcome: Detroit squandered a 3-1 series lead in last season’s second round defeat to Chicago. The Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals after knocking out the Maple Leafs, Rangers, and Penguins, but Boston fell in six games to Chicago in the final round.

1M Pittsburgh vs. 1W Columbus

Penguins: 51-24-6, 108 points
Blue Jackets: 43-32-7, 93 points

Season series: The Pens swept the five-game series, including three victories at Nationwide Arena. Three time the Jackets were limited to one goal or less, while the ‘under’ went 3-2.

Previous playoff outcome: The Blue Jackets are in the postseason for just the second time in franchise history, as Columbus was swept in the opening round by Detroit in 2009. The Penguins eliminated the Islanders and Senators in the first two rounds of last season’s playoffs, but were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals.

2M N.Y. Rangers vs. 3M Philadelphia

Rangers: 45-31-6, 96 points
Flyers: 42-30-9, 93 points

Season series: The two teams split the four-game set, with the home team winning each time. The ‘under’ went 2-1-1, while the losing team scored two goals or less in the four games.

Previous playoff outcome: The Flyers are back in the postseason for the first time since 2012, when they were knocked out by the Devils in the second round in five games. The Rangers held off the Capitals in seven games of last season’s opening round before getting eliminated by the Bruins. Philadelphia faces New York in the playoffs for the first time since the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals, when the Flyers won in five games.

2A Tampa Bay vs. 3A Montreal

Lightning: 46-27-9, 101 points
Canadiens: 46-28-8, 100 points

Season series: The Bolts won three of four meetings, including both visits to the Bell Center as an underdog. All four matchups finished ‘under’ the total, while three games were decided by a 2-1 score.

Previous playoff outcome: The Lightning returns to the postseason for the first time since advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 as the Lightning lost to the Bruins in seven games. The Canadiens were bounced by the Senators in five games of the first round last season, while Montreal was swept by Tampa Bay in the 2004 second round in the only meeting between these two teams in the playoffs.

Western Conference

1C Colorado vs. 1W Minnesota

Avalanche: 52-22-7, 111 points
Wild: 43-26-12, 98 points

Season series: The Avalanche beat the Wild four of five times, with the lone loss coming in the shootout. Three of the five games were decided by one goal, while the final two meetings sailed ‘over’ the total.

Previous playoff outcome: Colorado is back in the playoff for the first time since 2010, when the Avs were bounced in the opening round by San Jose in six games. The Wild is making their fifth playoff appearance in franchise history, as Minnesota lost in five games to eventual champion Chicago last season.

1P Anaheim vs. 2W Dallas

Ducks: 53-20-8, 114 points
Stars: 40-30-11, 91 points

Season series: The top-seeded Ducks lost two of three matchups to the Stars, including a 2-0 home defeat in early February as a -200 favorite. Two of the three games went ‘over’ the total, with finals of 6-3 occurring twice.

Previous playoff outcome: Anaheim blew a 3-2 series lead to Detroit in the first round last season as the Ducks fell in seven games. The Stars qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008, as Dallas made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing in six games to Detroit. In that same postseason, the Stars eliminated the Ducks in the opening round in six games.

2P San Jose vs. 3P Los Angeles

Sharks: 51-22-9, 111 points
Kings: 46-28-8, 100 points

Season series: The Kings won three of five matchups, while the road team won just once, as Los Angeles grabbed a 1-0 triumph at the SAP Center in late January.

Previous playoff outcome: L.A. eliminated San Jose in seven games of the second round last season as the home team won each time. The Kings fell short to the Blackhawks in five games of the Western Conference Finals.

2C St. Louis vs. 3C Chicago

Blues: 52-23-7, 111 points
Blackhawks: 46-21-15, 107 points

Season series: The Blues grabbed three of five matchups, but the Blackhawks claimed the final two at home by a combined score of 8-2. The first three contests were decided by one goal with the Blues winning in the shootout twice.

Previous playoff outcome: The Blackhawks took home the Stanley Cup last summer by knocking off the Wild, Red Wings, Kings, and Bruins. St. Louis blew a 2-0 lead in last season’s opening round with Los Angeles, falling 4-2. The last time Chicago and St. Louis met up in the postseason, the Blues advanced in five games of the first round in 2002.

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Re: First Round Cheat Sheet

How to safely bet the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs
By Jason Logan

The NHL playoffs, more so than any other sport’s postseason, are about as different from the regular season as you can get.

Teams that dominated during the regular schedule suddenly find themselves on the brink of elimination, and clubs that squeaked into the playoff picture can catch fire and ride a hot goalie all the way to the Stanley Cup.

In order to help hockey bettors navigate the upside-down world of postseason puck, we asked some of Covers Experts’ top handicappers to share their best tips, tactics, and trends when it comes to successfully wagering on the NHL’s second season.

Hot goaltenders

Like pitching in baseball, goaltending can singlehandedly win a playoff series. Year after year, hockey bettors witness incredible performances between the pipes and make a small mint riding these red-hot keepers.

On the other side of the coin, not having a proven No. 1 goalie can quickly put a wrap on the season – no matter how many goals a team can score. Covers Expert Jesse Schule points to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were ushered out of the playoffs the past two years thanks to shaky play in the crease.

“When I'm looking to narrow down the field to legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, I always look at the goaltenders first,” agrees Covers Expert Sean Murphy. “Which ones are capable of carrying a team on their shoulders if need be? Who can steal a game, or even a series?”

Covers Expert Bryan Power uses the Los Angeles Kings as a prime example of a team that could ride their goaltender deep into the postseason. Jonathan Quick has proven his playoff mettle and makes the Kings a dangerous team as a No. 5 seed in the West.

“Despite having only the sixth most points in the Western Conference, the Kings are perceived to be a team you don't want to play as they have allowed the fewest goals this season,” notes Power.

Depth and toughness

Ever watch a hockey player get interviewed about his team’s deep postseason run? More often than not, the guy’s face looks like someone dropped a plate of spaghetti on the floor and then tried to sew it back together.

The NHL playoffs are a grueling challenge of teams’ overall talent and toughness. When a series goes six or seven games, the true depth of a roster is drawn to the surface.

Injuries can spoil a NHL bet faster than a Zdeno Chara slapshot and knowing which teams are healthy, getting healthy, and beat up entering the playoffs is a good way to gauge just where you should put your money.

“Some teams that were banged up earlier this season are healthy now and could perform better than expected, while the opposite could be true of teams suffering through multiple injuries at the moment,” says Covers Experts’ Doc’s Sports.

Teams that can get production from their third and fourth lines are the ones who survive, while clubs that rely on a few key players to carry the team often find themselves trading hockey sticks for golf clubs. Opponents draw up schemes to shadow and lock down these stars and force role players to beat them.

“It's important to consider depth,” says Murphy. “Which teams can roll four lines and get steady production from their role players? Unlike other sports, the NHL playoffs aren't all about the superstars. It's the grinders that often decide which team is left standing in June.”

Physicality also plays a major role in the outcome of the playoffs, with every hit looked at as an investment. Finesse teams can get worn down over the course of a series while teams that like to lay the lumber excel in the furious pace of the postseason.

“Some teams might not be the fastest and most skilled, but instead they out-work, out-hit, and physically dominate their opponents,” says Schule. “We've seen the Boston Bruins employ this tactic with great success in recent seasons.”

Road Warriors

Another big difference between the NHL playoffs and other sports’ tournaments is the importance - or lack thereof - when it comes to home ice.

In basketball and football, having the crowd on your side is crucial to a championship run. However, in hockey, bettors get great value with road teams in the postseason. Hot home teams like San Jose or Anaheim may be good fade bait while tough road clubs, like Colorado, can hold added pop on the road.

“Other than getting the final line change, there is really not much of an edge for the home team,” says Covers Expert Steve Merril. “Obviously, the crowd will be supporting them. But unlike the NBA, it does not influence officials as much, as penalties are normally called evenly and on an alternating makeup basis.  NHL playoffs is the one sport where I feel home teams are generally overvalued, especially since travel is not a factor and both teams in a best-of-seven series have the same travel schedule.”

Covers Expert Ben Burns believes each NHL postseason game is unique and doesn't carry as much momentum from one contest to the next. Teams quickly make adjustments, line changes and roster moves based on the game before and can have a completely different feel when they face off next. A high-scoring Game 1 can produce a low-scoring Game 2 with teams tightening up on defense.

Special teams

Referees do tend to let a lot more slide in the postseason compared to regular season action, so it makes it even more important for teams to capitalize on those man-advantages when the whistle does blow.

“It is absolutely imperative to score on the power play, in order to discourage opponents from taking cheap shots at your best players,” says Schule.

Entering the postseason, the Penguins boast the top power-play attack in the league with 65 goals with the man advantage and a 23.4 power-play percentage. At the bottom of the scale, the Kings boast the lowest power-play percentage in the playoffs at 15.1 percent.

As for killing off those penalties, the St. Louis Blues didn’t get burned much with a man in the box ranking second in the NHL with an 85.7 penalty-kill percentage. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens followed them, killing off over 85 percent of their penalties. The Minnesota Wild, No. 7 in the West, has the worst PK among playoff teams at 78.8 percent.

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