NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Betting Preview: Round 1

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Betting Preview: Round 1

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Betting Preview: Round 1
By Covers.com

The Boston Bruins are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference after capturing the Presidents' Trophy with 54 wins and 117 points. The 2012 Stanley Cup champions will look to make their third final appearance in four seasons, but could face some stiff competition from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens.

Here's our Eastern Conference first-round playoff preview:

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Season series: Red Wings won 3-1 SU, 1-2-1 over/under
Series prices: Bruins -300, Red Wings +240

Why bet the Bruins: Boston was the class of the league at both ends of the ice, finishing third in the NHL with 261 goals for while surrendering the second-fewest goals against (177). That plus-84 differential was 42 better than any other team in the East; Detroit was a -8 by comparison. Add in the Bruins' 31-7-3 home mark and it's clear they're the team to beat in the East.

Why bet the Red Wings: Detroit gave the powerhouse Bruins one of the toughest times of any team in the league, winning three of four regular-season meetings while outscoring Boston 13-10 over that stretch. The Red Wings handed the Bruins one of their seven regulation home losses while posting an admirable 18-13-10 mark at Joe Louis Arena. If Detroit can steal one of the first two games, it may be able to pull off the upset.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Season series: Lightning won 3-1 SU, 0-4 over/under
Series prices: Lightning -120, Canadiens +100

Why bet the Lightning: Tampa Bay not only dominated the head-to-head series with the Canadiens, it surged past Montreal for home-ice advantage on the strength of a season-ending four-game winning streak. Electrifying forward Steven Stamkos scored 25 goals in 37 regular-season games and appears to have recovered nicely from his broken leg, while rookie Ondrej Palat surprised most with a 59-point freshman campaign.

Why bet the Canadiens: Bet against Carey Price at your peril. Price solidified his place as one of the world's top big-game netminder in leading Canada to gold at the Sochi Olympics in February, and put together a solid regular season (34-20-5, 2.32 GAA, .927 SV%) despite struggling with consistency. Max Pacioretty finished the year with nine goals over his final 11 games, and his 39 on the year ranked him fourth in the NHL.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Season series: Penguins won 5-0 SU, 3-2 over/under
Series prices: Penguins -235, Blue Jackets +195

Why bet the Penguins: Pittsburgh dominated the head-to-head series in 2013-14, winning all five meetings - three by more than one goal. The Penguins have the league's scoring leader in Sidney Crosby and a host of other scoring options at their disposal, while finishing in the top-five league-wide in power-play success (first, 23.4 percent) and penalty-killing efficiency (fifth, 85 percent).

Why bet the Blue Jackets: Marc-Andre Fleury may not wear a Columbus jersey, but he could be the Blue Jackets' biggest asset. The Pittsburgh netminder has a notoriously poor postseason track record - punctuated by a 4.63 goals-against average in 2011-12 and a 3.52 GAA last year - and has been a popular lightning rod for fans who have seen their team go five years without reaching the final.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Season series: Tied 2-2 SU, 1-2-1 over/under
Series prices: Rangers -145, Flyers +125

Why bet the Rangers: New York's perennially underrated defense is no longer going unnoticed: the Rangers were one of only two East teams to allow fewer than 200 goals this season, leading to a plus-25 goal differential that tied Tampa Bay for third in the conference. New York also boasted an impressive 25-14-2 mark away from Madison Square Garden, making it a dangerous foe both at home and on the road.

Why bet the Flyers: The Philadelphia offense caught fire at just the right time, finishing second only to the Bruins in goals per game after the Olympic break (3.22) while scoring the sixth-most power-play goals (16) in that span. Superstar forward Claude Giroux finished third in league scoring with 86 points and gives the Flyers a decided edge in scoring; Rangers deadline acquisition Martin St. Louis has just eight points in 19 games with New York.

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