NHL Playoffs – Blackhawks/Red Wings & Round 2 Preview

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Football is my first love, as some of you know, but there is nothing like playoff hockey. My Boston Bruins just closed out a rollercoaster series with one of the most improbable comebacks in history and I couldn’t be more emotionally exhausted.

I’ve been hesitant to talk about my small run gambling on the first round of the NHL playoffs, but now that we’re in round 2 I feel like I can present my credentials and some interesting plays for the upcoming games.

Round 1 and Round 2: 7-0-1

5/4/2013: Capitals ML (-125) – WIN
5/5/2013: Parlay – Penguins ML (-175) and Sharks ML (-145) – WIN
5/7/2013: Blackhawks ML (Regulation only, -110) – WIN
5/7/2013: Senators/Canadiens OVER 5 (-110) – PUSH
5/8/2013: Rangers ML (-135) – WIN
5/9/2013: Islanders/Penguins UNDER 6 (-105) – WIN
5/9/2013: Islanders/Penguins First goal AFTER 9:30 of 1st Period (+105) – WIN
5/14/2013: Kings ML (-145) – WIN

For those of you that want as much proof as possible, here’s a cut-together image file of my bet history page on Bovada: NHL Playoff Bets

I’m not claiming to be a world-beater here, and as always, proceed with caution when it comes to playoff hockey, but I think I have a good feel for these games and I’d like to share some insight.

Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks

Get ready for a little regression to the mean if you’re a Red Wings fan. Three out of Detroit’s four wins in round 1 came in overtime. Game 2, the Red Wings blew a 4-1 lead only to win 5-4 in overtime. Game 4, they needed a late goal from Pavel Datsyuk after not generating much in the way of offense only to win 15 minutes into OT. Game 6, Detroit was ahead 3-1 late, and gave up 2 goals in the final 3:28 to force overtime. Again, Detroit won both games, but you can’t keep letting the other team back in the game if you’re going anywhere in the playoffs.

Chicago was first in Goals Allowed through the regular season, having two separate goaltenders, starter Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, both with a 1.94 GAA and a combined .924 save percentage. Detroit was fifth in Goals Allowed, with Jimmy Howard finishing the abbreviated season with a 2.13 GAA and a .923 save percentage. If you’re a fan of offensive hockey, proceed with caution.

Total goals has been 5 or under in nine of the last ten meetings between these two teams, including five consecutive games with Chicago at home. Five of Detroit’s seven games against Anaheim stayed under or at 5 goals. Three of Chicago’s five against Minnesota stayed under. Yes, both teams have elite scorers. Chicago has Kane, Toews and Hossa, Detroit has Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen. I still think game 1 between these two longtime rivals will be a feeling out process and a defensive battle, despite the fact that this will be the 800th total matchup between them.

Chicago has won seven of the last eight against Detroit, and despite a gutty upset of Anaheim in seven games, Chicago is the better team. I don’t like the puck line either way. The last 7 games between Chicago and Detroit have been one-goal games/shootouts, but this is one time I don’t feel comfortable with using prior results.

The pick: You can get the under at -105 on Bovada, and -115 on 5dimes. There is a chance that 5 is the right number, but a push never hurt. I think a Chicago ML play is relatively safe as well, but the price is steep at -225 on Bovada and -220 on 5dimes. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, parlay Chicago with the under, $100 wins about $180.

Series Prices

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with 5dimes for odds.

Los Angeles Kings (-245) vs. San Jose Sharks (+205) – The Kings don’t lose at home (19-4-1 regular season) and especially not in the playoffs in the past couple seasons. I absolutely hate going against a hot goaltender in Antti Niemi, but we’ve already see how Jonathan Quick takes his game to another level in the playoffs, and last night was no exception with a 35-save shutout in game 1. I think this comes down to a game 7 in LA and if so I’m taking the Kings. San Jose finished the regular season 8-14-2 on the road, 17-2-5 at home. All about home ice here.

Boston Bruins (-120) vs. New York Rangers (EVEN) – This one hurts, but I have to be realistic. The Bruins pulled off an incredible comeback against a team just happy to be in the playoffs playing with house money, narrowly avoiding another embarrassing collapse. The Rangers have all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist, along with a big, bad, hard-hitting defensive corps and an elite scorer in Rick Nash. The Bruins have three starting defensemen with injuries and no sign of return yet. The odds are close for good reason, I think this comes down to a bounce of the puck with multiple games going to overtime, so I could be – and would love to be – wrong here. I think Tuukka Rask steals a game or two, but short of a brief offensive explosion here and there, I don’t think the Bruins get enough pucks past King Henrik.

Ottawa Senators (+345) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (-430) – I don’t really need to go into this too much I don’t think. The Penguins are the superior team, and this is already one game in. If Tomas Vokoun keeps his head on straight and doesn’t lose games for the Pens the way Marc-Andre Fleury did, Pittsburgh may win this in 5. The Penguins had a brief scare against the Islanders, but I think they know how easily Ottawa dispatched Montreal and will not look past them.

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