NHL playoff picks: Back a pair of 'dogs to steal pivotal Game 1s
Bruce Kluckhohn / National Hockey League / Getty

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Wow, that was fun. The NHL's return on Saturday exceeded all expectations. Games were intense, physical, and resembled playoff hockey way more than expected following such a long layoff.

So let's do it again, shall we?

Arizona Coyotes (+110) @ Nashville Predators (-130)

The betting lines disagree with me, but I don't see an edge for the Predators in this series. They have the series' best player in Roman Josi, but Darcy Kuemper is the most valuable. If the Coyotes netminder had not gotten injured, a Vezina nomination would be unquestionable. Arizona was on a 100-point pace when he went down in December. Conversely, the Predators have endured some brutal goaltending all season.

Nashville has perceived scoring edge in this series, but just how good is this team up front? Filip Forsberg led all Predators forwards in points with 48, a few more than Arizona's Nick Schmaltz (45) and Clayton Keller (44). The Preds rely on all four lines for offense, but there's no edge there for Nashville. Both squads possess nine forwards with a minimum of 10 goals, so Arizona will have no problem keeping up in that regard.

So what makes this Predators team better? The Coyotes are deeper on the blue line, stronger down the middle, and significantly better in goal. They match up well with Nashville and should be favorites heading into the series.

Pick: Coyotes (+110)

Minnesota Wild (-110) @ Vancouver Canucks (-110)

What the Wild lack in star power – with Kevin Fiala quickly becoming an exception – they more than make up for in offensive depth. They get scoring from all four lines and can do some serious damage with a very strong bottom six, posing a real mismatch for a Canucks team that significantly drops in talent after their top two lines. There’s no sheltering Vancouver’s fourth line, which will see very few minutes in this series. That a problem given just how important depth will be as teams get their legs under them.

While the Canucks' top six can be electrifying, they lean too heavily on their top scorers, leading to some very unstructured hockey. And they don't have enough defensive talent to make up for it, either. The Canucks are very weak on the blue line, relying heavily on the heroics of Jakub Markstrom to keep them in games. Fundamentally the Wild are very strong and are built to expose Vancouver's often irresponsible on-ice approach.

Minnesota is also considerably better on the blue line, boasting a terrific top four that will go a long way in slowing Vancouver's frenzied attack. With a significant edge in depth and on the back end, the Wild will steal a pivotal Game 1.

Pick: Wild (-110)

(Odds source: theScore Bet)

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

NHL playoff picks: Back a pair of 'dogs to steal pivotal Game 1s
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