The NHL has laid out its plans for a return to action, a plan that features a 24-team playoff format and eight “play-in” series’ that will determine the clubs that move on to a 16-team playoff format that will then feature the top four seeds from the Eastern and Western Conferences.
While I’ve already documented my predictions for the winners of all eight play-in series’, what I haven’t yet done is dive into the prop betting side of things.
On top of the play-in series’ odds, BetOnline also has some prop bets on the length of each series and exact results odds as well.
So, let’s highlight the top five value play-in series props where we can earn some big-time dough on some jacked up odds!
Top 5 NHL Play-In Series Prop Bets
Rangers to beat Hurricanes 3-2 (+385)
The play-in series’ will be a best-of-five, so you better hit the ice running or face a real short outcome.
That said, I see the Rangers vs. Hurricanes series going the distance, and like I predicted last week, I like the Rangers to come out on top.
New York has the league’s fifth-ranked offense, but a top-10 Hurricanes defensive unit should have something to say about that despite New York hanging a five-spot on them in their last meeting back on December 27.
That Carolina blueline will get Dougie Hamilton back after a gruesome fibula break, but will also remain without Brett Pesce due to a serious shoulder injury.
I view the Rangers as a big underdog threat in these playoffs thanks to that offense/Shesterkin combination, and while it should be close, I like the Rangers in five at a quality price.
Oilers to beat Blackhawks 3-0 (+425)
In a league chock-full of parity, the underdog in these play-in series’ cannot be overlooked, but I like the Oilers to handle the Blackhawks in short order.
Simply put, the Blackhawks are just not very good, thanks in large part to their shaky blueline.
No one allowed more than the 35.1 shots per game that the ‘Hawks did this season, and the only reason they were remotely close to a postseason spot (six points back) was the .913 save percentage they received from the combination of Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford this season.
The problem is Lehner is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights – a trade Chicago made at the deadline with their playoff hopes drifting.
Now it will be up to Crawford to keep his team above water. He did post a quality .917 Sv% this season, but still a so-so 2.77 GAA thanks to the mass amount of rubber that came his way.
It’s going to be awfully tough for this Blackhawks blueline to keep the league’s top two point-getters in check, not to mention the NHL’s top-ranked power play.
Indeed, Leon Draisaitl (110 points) led the league in scoring while Connor McDavid (97) finished second despite missing almost three weeks with a thigh injury.
Leon Draisaitl and @cmcdavid97 ranked first and second, respectively, in the 2019-20 scoring race – which marked the seventh time in the last 44 years that teammates finished first and second in the NHL in points.#NHLStats 2019-20 Regular Season Recap: https://t.co/hGmma9NJUs pic.twitter.com/bRw9vGS1bG
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 1, 2020
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was actually solid at 82.1% and part of a three-way tie for eighth league-wide, but Edmonton’s 29.5% clip on the man advantage was by far the best in the business.
The Blackhawks do have some fire power up front and Patrick Kane will still be a handful. Additionally, Edmonton’s back end and goaltending had its peaks and valleys this season.
However, I don’t have any faith in that Blackhawks’ blueline and short of a herculean effort from Crawford, I think Oil Country will get the brooms out in this one at big-time odds.
Jets to beat Flames 3-1 (+375)
Like the Blackhawks, I don’t see the Flames having much success in these playoffs.
Of the 12 Western Conference postseason clubs, only the Blackhawks posted a worse goal differential than the -5 mark the Flames put forward.
Contrarily, the Jets actually posted a +13 mark despite seeing their back end blown up in the offseason and recurring goal-scoring issues that weren’t reminiscent of preceding Jets clubs.
Their offense surged heading into the hiatus, but the Flames were plagued by goal-scoring issues for much of the regular season, a scary proposition when taking on a Vezina-caliber netminder capable of taking his team deep into these playoffs.
A Vezina nomination in the 2017-18 season preceded a down 2018-19 campaign, but Connor Hellebuyck bounced back in a big way this time around, turning in a 2.57 GAA and .922 Sv% with six shutouts in 58 appearances – the latter mark tying Carey Price for most in the NHL this season.
Winnipeg was clobbered in the possession game thanks mostly to losing core defenders Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot from their once-stout blueline, but Hellebuyck was there all season long and is the single biggest reason why Winnipeg sported a 57% playoff probability before the break, as per Hockey Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report.
David Rittich had a fine season himself in between the pipes for the Flames and was named an All-Star replacement in the process, but he struggled mightily down the stretch and is bar-none the second-best starting goaltender in this series.
I don’t see the Flames finding twine much in this series while the Jets have the star power to score goals in a hurry.
Calgary probably wins one game in this series, but that should be about it with the Jets taking this one in four as slight underdogs.
Panthers to beat Islanders 3-1 (+360)
Much was made of the Islanders magical run from a basement-feeding team to a second-place finish in the Metropolitan a season ago, all without the services of former captain John Tavares who took his talents back home to Toronto in free agency.
What didn’t made nearly as many headlines this season was their dreadful run leading up to the break.
The Isles were slipping fast in the standings thanks to a seven-game losing streak heading into the hiatus while they won just two of their final 13 regular season contests – both 4-1 decisions over the Sharks and Red Wings, the last-place teams in the west and east, respectively.
Generating offense was a struggle and their once-stout defensive game was slipping fast. They allowed 4.14 goals per game over their seven-game losing streak.
If the Islanders can’t defend, it’s going to be a struggle against the Panthers.
Florida posted the league’s sixth-best regular-season offense and the league’s seventh-ranked road offense, the latter of which is important to this prop for two seasons.
One, road offense becomes critical given the Panthers won’t be playing home games in these playoffs, but rather in one of the league-selected hub cities.
Two, the Islanders were a horrific road offense, scoring just 2.33 goals per game. That tied the Kings for 27th in the league and would represent the worst road offense of the 24 teams in the postseason.
Oh, and the Panthers were actually preventing goals at a quality rate down the stretch.
Chris Driedger – a veteran of three NHL games prior to this season – began to steal starts from the season-long struggles of Sergei Bobrovsky, and he turned in a .955 Sv% while allowing just four goals in a three-game stretch in a span of five days prior to the halt in action.
We can’t be sure Driedger starts Game 1 of this series given the team’s financial commitment to Bobrovsky – $10M annually for seven years – but the team sure looked more dangerous with Driedger in goal.
Even if Bobrovsky starts, he’s going to be on a short leash and any signs of continued struggles will lead to Driedger getting the nod moving forward.
The Panthers are the better club at this point in time and I like them to handle the Isles in four.
Canucks to beat Wild 3-0 (+525)
The juiciest of them all, I’ll up the ante here and take the Canucks in a sweep of the Wild.
Despite the apparent success of the Canucks and the perceived struggles of the Wild, the truth is the Wild finished the regular season just a single point behind the Canucks.
That said, it’s difficult to find a phase of the game where the Wild hold the advantage.
In other words, Vancouver has the superior offense, defense, power play, penalty kill and goaltending. The Wild sport slightly superior possession metrics, but not on the road, and the Wild will play these playoff games on the road.
One facet that the Wild do trump the Canucks is experience. The team is laced with veteran players who have been to the playoffs before such as Eric Staal, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, just to name a few.
However, in this scenario I wouldn’t consider that an advantage, at least not in this shortened series.
While you could question the Canucks’ youthful roster’s ability to march through a grueling postseason run all the way to the end, we’re talking about a best-of-five series where they hold advantages all over the board.
Their offense is explosive and could simply blow the Wild out of the water, especially with Minnesota ranking 29th with a .897 regular-season save percentage from their goaltending.
Their defense wasn’t elite, but Jacob Markstrom was enjoying a career-year in the Vancouver crease and is the clear-cut superior netminder to whoever the Wild would start in this series, whether it by Devan Dubnyk or Alex Stalock.
Simply put, if Vancouver’s offense shows up in this one, the Wild are in big-time trouble. At +525, I’m willing to bet on an offensive flurry from the Canucks’ young guns.