NHL Playoff Series Picks: Eastern Conference
- Updated: April 15, 2014
The road to the Eastern Conference title is in all likelihood going to go through Boston and the Bruins are solid favorites to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s not going to be particularly easy for Boston, but the team is built for the playoffs and are the ones to beat.
The first step to claiming the Prince of Wales Trophy as the top team in the East begins on Wednesday, as the Eastern Conference semifinals begin with Tampa Bay clashing with Montreal and Pittsburgh taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Thursday, Boston will begin its series with the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will hit the ice.
Montreal vs. Tampa
These two teams are pretty even and it’s no surprise that 5 Dimes has both -110 to advance from the series. The big news here is the injury to Tampa’s goaltender Ben Bishop and how much time he will miss. Even though backup Anders Lindback finished the season strong, he still posted the worst save percentage of any goalie with over 20 appearances for the year, giving the Canadians a definite advantage in goal.
Steven Stamkos is back after missing more than half the season, which is good news for the Lightning, who were solid at home during the year and close to a .500 team on the road. The Canadians didn’t enjoy the same home ice advantage, but were a bit stronger on the road than Tampa Bay.
Price is a bit better than Bishop, but in a different league than Lindback, so will have to side to the Canadians to take this series.
Columbus vs. Pittsburgh
The Penguins opened -175 to win this series and have been bet up all the way to -235, with Columbus being +195. The Penguins owned the regular season series, taking all five games from the Blue Jackets, which is one reason for the line move.
Evengi Malkin is officially listed as questionable, but he was one of the last players off the ice in an optional skate on Sunday, so he is likely to return after a foot injury. The news isn’t quite as good for the Blue Jackets, with both Nick Foligno and R.J. Umberger expected to miss the start of the series.
The Blue Jackets might have a small advantage in the nets, with Sergei Bobrovsky against Marc-Andre Fleury, who is battling some playoff demons, but the Penguins are better in every other facet of the game. It won’t be a breeze against a physical Columbus team, but expect the Penguins to advance.
Detroit vs. Boston
The Red Wings deserve plenty of credit for making the playoffs after injuries to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk this season, but they aren’t being given much of a shot in this series, as Boston is -285 and Detroit is +243. Datsyuk is back, but Zetterberg is likely to miss much of the series and Jonathan Ericsson is expected to miss it all, which isn’t the kind of news a team wants when playing the Bruins.
The return of Datsyuk is huge for Detroit and the Red Wings are playing their best hockey of the season, but this is a tough match-up for them. The Bruins can roll out four lines and the Red Wings aren’t the deepest team defensively.
Detroit won’t go down without a fight, but the Bruins should be too much for the Red Wings in this series.
Philadelphia vs. New York
Two teams who aren’t particularly fond of each other will do battle in this series, which sees the Rangers-145 and the Flyers+125. The teams split their four games during the regular season, with the home team winning every time.
Steve Mason is expected to be back in goal for the Flyers, which would be a definite advantage. Mason was 2-1 with a .937 save percentage against New York, while Ray Emery was 0-1 with an .886 save percentage. Ryan McDonagh is expected to return to action for the Rangers and will most likely to asked to shutdown Claude Giroux, but it’s unknown how his shoulder will hold up and expect Philadelphia to do what it can to test it out.
Henrik Lundqvist came on strong after a slow start and will need to be at the top of his game against a deep Philadelphia team that is more than capable of pulling off a mild upset. I’d look to take the Flyers with the potential of hedging the bet as the series moves on.