The unofficial second half of the NHL season is underway on Monday night, so let the playoff push commence.
With playoff hopefuls looking to buckle down in their pursuit of a postseason berth, we can get in on some postseason action thanks to specials listed at BetOnline.
BetOnline doesn’t have odds listed for every team, which makes sense as teams such as the Red Wings have no chance at a berth while a team like the Capitals and Blues are almost assured a spot barring a historical collapse and the sportsbooks want none of that action.
Nonetheless, there’s still plenty of bets and I want to share the five that I believe carry the most value at this point in time, in no particular order.
Top 5 NHL Playoff Special Bets
- Make Playoffs (-140)
- Miss playoffs (+120)
Every season there are teams we assume will be in the postseason but season-long struggles prevent them from doing so. To this point in the season, the Nashville Predators have been one of those teams.
Notoriously stout on the back end with reliable goaltending, the Predators have struggled in both areas this season, but it’s hard to blame the defense too much as they are largely the same group as the past couple of seasons save for the trade of P.K. Subban to the Devils.
Just two years removed from taking home the Vezina Trophy in 2018, Pekka Rinne has struggled with a 2.95 GAA and .899 Sv% on the season and struggled mightily at home where he owns a 3.14 GAA and .887 Sv%, prior to Monday’s game against the Maple Leafs.
The Preds have been grooming 24-year-old Juuse Saros as Rinne’s replacement when he retires, but Saros has struggled.
He seemingly provided hope that he would be ready for a No.1 job with a 2.45 GAA and .925 Sv% in 26 games in the 2017-18 season and a 2.62 GAA and .915 Sv% across 31 games last season, but has struggled with a 3.13 GAA and .895 Sv% in 23 outings this season.
Overall, the Predators rank 23rd with 3.21 goals against per game on the season, which is too bad because they’re offense has been good with their 3.30 goals per game sitting tied for seventh league wide.
As a result of their back-end struggles, the Predators currently sit six points back of the second Wild Card spot in the west, but with at least three games in hand on the teams ahead of them in that race.
What they do with those games could make a difference, but right now this team is not defending well enough to get back into contention and at these odds it makes sense to take advantage of the +120 for the Preds to miss out on the playoffs and snap a five-year playoff streak in the process.
Prediction: Miss Playoffs (+120)
Columbus Blue Jackets
- Make Playoffs (-170)
- Miss Playoffs (+150)
Tip your cap to general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, head coach John Tortorella and this Blue Jackets roster.
Given no chance to make the playoffs in the offseason after losing Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in free agency, the Blue Jackets find themselves in the second Wild Card spot in the east while battling through a litany of injuries to their seemingly already-thin roster.
The Jackets won six in a row entering the break and did so based on defense and goaltending, something few felt was possible between the combination of Joonas Korpisalo and rookie Elvis Merzlikins.
Korpisalo posted a 1.94 GAA and .932 Sv% in 12 December outings before going down with a knee injury, leaving the starting duties up to Merzlikins and his minuscule NHL experience.
All Merzlikins has done is post a 2.39 GAA and .926 Sv% on the season but also a ridiculous 1.72 GAA and .948 Sv% in going 8-2-0 in 10 January starts.
That said, while the fight in the face of adversity is admirable, it’s tough to see these types of numbers being sustained.
With the Maple Leafs and Flyers not far behind them, the Blue Jackets will need to keep their foot on the gas pedal moving forward, however given their offense woes I will take the valuable +150 odds to miss the postseason and run.
Prediction: Miss Playoffs (+150)
- Make Playoffs (-250)
- Miss Playoffs (+210)
The Florida Panthers were expected to take a step forward this season after signing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a lucrative seven-year contract in free agency and shoring up the team’s most glaring need with authority in the process.
Indeed, the Panthers have taken the expected step as they currently sit third in the Atlantic Division with a 28-16-5 record.
The problem is that record is not because of Bobrovsky, but rather in spite of him.
Bobrovsky’s first tour of duty in Sunrise couldn’t be going any worse as he sits with a 3.24 GAA and .898 Sv% in the Panthers’ bye week after the All-Star break.
Thankfully, the Panthers are the NHL’s highest-scoring team with 3.67 goals per game on the season and the only reason why Bobrovsky owns a solid 19-12-4 record on the season.
Largely due to Bobrovsky’s struggles, the Panthers are tied for 24th with 3.24 goals against per game on the season.
Among teams currently sitting in playoff spots, that is the worst defense of the bunch – by far – with Edmonton’s 18th-ranked 3.10 mark sitting as the next-worse mark among current postseason teams.
Simply put, the Panthers have outscored their woes in the defensive end almost all season long. Can they continue to do so for their next 33 games?
They’re only four points ahead of the Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic and own the same amount of points (61) as the second Wild Card team in the Carolina Hurricanes.
In other words, the margin is razor thin. If they don’t continue to score at the rate they have to this point, they could be in trouble.
Do the Panthers make the playoffs at this rate more often than not? Yes, they do.
In fact, Hockey Reference has their playoff chances pegged at 82.7%. I’m not so optimistic.
All it could take is for the Atlantic rival Maple Leafs to overcome a four-point deficit with 33 games to do it and the Panthers could be in big, big trouble despite leading the league in goal-scoring.
For a team that’s struggled this bad on the back end and in goal, I want to take a shot and see if we can take advantage of their +210 odds to miss out on the postseason.
Prediction: Miss Playoffs (+210)
- Make Playoffs (-250)
- Miss Playoffs (+210)
The Pacific Division is tight, but if we play our cards right here we can hit on some big-time value.
BetOnline has five Pacific teams (Flames, Golden Knights, Oilers, Canucks, Coyotes) heavily favored to make the playoffs. That would mean that both Western Conference Wild Card spots would need to come out of the Pacific.
As a result, I’m not so sure that happens.
For one, the first-place team in the Pacific – the Canucks – is just four points ahead of the Jets and Blackhawks who are both outside of the playoff picture looking in.
The Oilers, Flames, Coyotes and Golden Knights are all just three points ahead of those two clubs.
In other words, these standings are changing on a nightly basis. I guarantee at least one of those five Pacific teams – at one point or another – throughout the remainder of the season are outside of the playoff picture, right where the Jets and Blackhawks are.
Therefore, I want to take advantage of some underdog odds with one of these teams, and the Flames are my pick of the litter.
Even before controversy cost Bill Peters his job, he was rumored to be on the outs as the Flames were struggling.
They won six in a row after his resignation, but have struggled with consistency since.
For a team that was among the best offensive groups in the NHL a season ago, the Flames rank 25th with just 2.60 goals per game this season.
They’ve be solid at the back end with their 2.94 goals against per game ranking 13th, but for a team that doesn’t score much, I don’t think it will be enough.
Of the teams currently occupying the 16 playoff spots, the Flames’ -12 goal differential is by far the worst mark with Vegas’ +2 mark representing the second-worst figure.
Only the Stars have a worse offense among current playoff clubs, however they’ve balanced that out by ranking ranking first with 2.46 goals against.
The only way you can be a bad offense and win is if you’re defense is elite, and the Flames aren’t there. They’re as close to the bottom-half of the league in team defense as they are the top 10.
As a result, the Flames are my pick of the current Pacific Division clubs to miss out on the postseason and we’re getting wonderful odds to make this pick.
Prediction: Miss Playoffs (+210)
- Make Playoffs (+170)
- Miss Playoffs (-200)
As a result of my taking one of the five Pacific teams to miss the playoffs, it means I need a Central team to get in, and to me it comes down to the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets are capable of getting in and their +235 odds are intriguing. The Minnesota Wild are just two points behind those two teams, and with a game in hand.
Then there’s the Predators, who I have already ruled out.
Nonetheless, I like the Blackhawks for a few reasons.
One, it would be one heck of a story for a team that no one thought could get in with the top-end teams in the Central terrorizing them all season long.
More related to the game itself, I like the Blackhawks’ experience in this type of situation.
Sure, the Jets have plenty of experience as playoff team in recent years, but you can bet that the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith will do everything they can to get back into the postseason after back-to-back playoff-less seasons and whispers of a rebuild throughout that time.
The Blackhawks are also getting elite-level goaltending this season from Robin Lehner who owns a .922 Sv% on the season for a team that allows a ton of shots on goal.
They’ve managed to get where they are – three points back of a playoff spot – despite plenty of injuries up and down the lineup.
They rank 18th on offense and 16th on defense and their possession numbers are weak. It’s not the ideal combination.
However, someone has to get in if a Pacific team is going to miss out. The Jets and Wild have better odds, but I think the playoffs make an unforeseen run and get back into the dance.
Prediction: Make Playoffs (+170)