NHL Wednesday best bets: Hurricanes to top Rangers
Tuesday night was not kind to our best bets. The Panthers scored first and led for much of the game against the Lightning, but they were unable to convert that into a win. The Avalanche followed that up by hitting four posts before blowing their lead in the dying minutes of regulation, only to outshoot the Blues 13-0 in the extra frame en route to a sweat-free overtime win.
We'll look to get back on track as another two series begin on Wednesday.
The Hurricanes figure to have a huge edge over the Rangers at five-on-five. Carolina was one of the league's elite all season, ranking top-five in shot share, chance share, and expected goal share. The Canes took it to their opponents like few others on a nightly basis.
Now they're drawing arguably the worst five-on-five team in the playoffs - certainly the one in the worst form. The Rangers were walked all over against the Penguins, controlling a putrid 38% of the expected goals in that game state while allowing more shots on goal, scoring chances, and goals than every other team.
Part of it is stylistic; the Rangers are comfortable playing on their back foot and trying to capitalize when they get opportunities. Understandably so, considering they have Igor Shesterkin in goal. But they're really pushing it, and a date with the Hurricanes won't help matters.
The Hurricanes controlled at least 62% of the expected goal share in three of the four meetings this season. They won three of those matchups, only falling short in a game Alexandar Georgiev pitched a 44-save shutout.
New York's path to victory in this game is great goaltending and opportunistic finishing - mostly on the power play. The problem is the Hurricanes have the league's best penalty kill. Despite spending the most time shorthanded in the regular season, the Hurricanes ranked second in shots allowed and were only one goal back of the top spot for fewest goals against on the PP. They have what it takes to neutralize New York's lethal power play.
So long as Antti Raanta is competent - he showed he's more than capable in Round 1 - the Hurricanes should be able to grind out a win inside 60.
Bet: Hurricanes in regulation (-110)
Starting fast has been the Flames' calling card all season long. Only the Panthers and Maple Leafs scored more goals in the opening frame, and nobody led more often after 20 minutes of play. Calgary found itself leading after the first period 39 times in 82 games - which is nearly 48% of the time. No team led more often, and no team picked up more wins (32) when front-running following the opening period.
Jake Oettinger often prevented Calgary from getting out to those fast starts in the opening round. That's part of the reason the series dragged on for seven games. I have no doubt the Flames will be dialed in and ready to start when the puck drops for Game 1.
While the Oilers are a solid side and obviously have the firepower to score, they trailed more often than they led after 20 minutes this season. A big reason for that is their defensive play. They struggled to keep the puck out of their net in the early going, conceding 81 first-period goals over 82 games. That was ninth-most in the NHL, and they were the lone playoff team to concede more than 80.
Calgary took advantage of Edmonton in the opening period throughout the season series, leading after 20 minutes in three of four meetings while netting seven goals in that span.
Look for the Flames to be on their toes, getting out to an early lead once again.
Bet: Flames -0.5 in 1st period (+135)
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.