NHL playoff picks: Stars, Bruins will start strong
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This is when the real playoff hockey starts. The round-robin games felt like exhibition contests, and the play-in series didn't offer genuine playoff matchups.

The field is set now, and here are a pair of bets for the beginning of Round 1 on Tuesday.

Calgary Flames (-110) @ Dallas Stars (-120)

A lot of money is coming in on the Flames to win this game and the series, which is an overreaction to their convincing series victory over the Jets. Calgary outscored Winnipeg 16-6 over four games, with Cam Talbot posting a .945 save percentage.

However, the Jets were missing two of their top scorers all series, which contributed to Talbot's suddenly improved performance. As for Calgary's offensive outburst, Winnipeg's defense has been a wreck all season. The Jets were 26th in regular-season expected goals against, and they allowed the second-most high-danger scoring chances.

Now the Stars should give the Flames a wake-up call. Dallas allowed the second-fewest goals in the league this season, and the Stars excelled at suppressing chances. They play a style suited for playoff hockey, and until we see that from the Flames too following their swift elimination last season, Calgary remains a strong fade candidate.

Critics will doubt the Stars because of their trouble scoring this season, but the team's veteran forward group is capable of stepping up when it matters. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov were terrific in the playoffs last season, while Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski have a history of elevating their play in the postseason. Ride Dallas at a bargain in Game 1.

Pick: Stars (-120)

Carolina Hurricanes (+115) @ Boston Bruins (-145)

I'm picking the Hurricanes to win this series, but am backing the Bruins to jump out to an early lead and take Game 1. Boston was underwhelming in round-robin play, but the Bruins are incredibly experienced and won't struggle to ramp up the intensity to begin the playoffs.

The well-coached Hurricanes are a bit green, and they'll need to earn their stripes in Game 1. They cruised through the play-in round, and navigating past the Rangers with ease will hurt them a bit here. Carolina is also welcoming Dougie Hamilton back into the lineup for the first time since Jan. 16, and he'll need a game to get back up to speed.

Pick: Bruins (-145)

(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: Stars, Bruins will start strong
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