The league has not yet announced an official start date for the postseason, but all signs point to the NHL playoffs commencing on Saturday, with the North Division getting underway a few days later.
NHL playoff time is one of the greatest times of the year, and with the first round just around the corner, these next few days are for watching "History Will Be Made" commercials and past playoff montages while revisiting the Stanley Cup oddsboard.
|Vegas Golden Knights||+350|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+550|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+600|
|New York Islanders||+1000|
|St. Louis Blues||+2200|
I've been beating this drum since before the season, and you best believe I'm not stopping now. All the Hurricanes did this year was win a gauntlet of a division, despite Teuvo Teravainen and Petr Mrazek playing for just 31 games combined. The club went 10-3-3 against the Panthers and Lightning and absolutely dominated the Predators, their first-round opponent.
It's not just that Carolina won, it's also about how the team won, finishing top five in xGF%, CF%, and HDCF%. The Hurricanes also allowed the fewest goals in the league by a wide margin (both overall and five-on-five) while ranking second on the power play and third on the penalty kill. The only reason Carolina isn't priced among the favorites is because of the reputations of the clubs above them - we're getting a squad every bit as good as Colorado and Vegas at double the price.
The Hurricanes winning the Central Division also works in their favor, presenting a much more appealing first-round date with the Predators while Florida and Tampa beat up on one another. It also ensures Carolina will have home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds, and likely three - a massive boost for a team that went 20-3-5 at PNC Arena this season.
The Bruins lost 8-1 to the Capitals on April 11 to drop to 21-12-6, fourth in the East Division, and just four points into a playoff spot. Boston had a goal differential of plus-five. Later that night, the franchise acquired Mike Reilly and, a little over an hour later, Taylor Hall. The Bruins have gone 11-3-1 since then with a plus-28 goal differential, and they come into the playoffs as the NHL's hottest team.
Boston leads the league over that span with an outrageous 61.71 xGF% at five-on-five, while ranking second in CF% and fourth in xGF/60. It's been an impressive turnaround for the Bruins, which were among the league's worst offensive teams through the first half of the campaign. Injuries also played a big part in Boston's earlier struggles, with the club ranking top five in man-games lost among playoff teams. The Bruins were hit especially hard on the back end and in goal, with Tuukka Rask limited to just 24 games.
Hall has since filled a massive void in the squad's top six, joining what has become a dynamic second line with David Krejci and Craig Smith behind a first line that's been among the NHL's best for the past five years. The bottom six is among the league's stronger groups, while Reilly's emergence has solidified a now healthy blue line. There are few holes in this roster as Boston gears up for yet another run at the Stanley Cup.
If you're strictly looking for value, the Oilers being offered at 25-1 at theScore Bet fits the bill. You won't find better odds anywhere on Edmonton, which ranges between 16-1 and 20-1 elsewhere.
Now I'm not particularly high on the Oilers - and those reservations will keep me off them at anything 20-1 or shorter - but it's hard to look away with such a generous price here. Edmonton will only go as far as Connor McDavid takes them, but there's no one better to hitch your wagon to than the best player on the planet who's coming off one of the most dominant seasons in sports history.
The path out of the North isn't particularly daunting, and while the Oilers are a class below the Leafs, Toronto's goaltending situation is a red flag. If Mike Smith can pick up where he left off in the regular season, finishing sixth among all goalies in GSAA and seventh in GSAx, this club can be a real problem. Edmonton is not without its flaws, but the star power up front, the NHL's top-ranked power play, and a born-again Smith between the pipes are enough reasons to buy in at this price.
Alex Moretto is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.