NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions for 2018
Odds courtesy of William Hill.
Boston Bruins (-143) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (+115)
The first-round playoff series everyone expected months ago will officially begin on Thursday as the Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
The Bruins finished second in the Atlantic Division and head into this highly anticipated series holding home-ice advantage. Boston posted 50 wins to close the regular season — 1 more than the Maple Leafs — and is the -143 favourite to win the series.
Both of these clubs have been strong on home ice all season long as the Bruins have only dropped 8 games at TD Garden and the Leafs 10 at Air Canada Centre. The question is which one of these Original Six teams can play better on the road? The Leafs are early +115 underdogs, but expect that line to change drastically as the money will come pouring in on Toronto.
Boston generates more than 50% of its offence from its top unit, while the Leafs are one of the few teams in the NHL to have three 30-goal scorers. Toronto’s depth will prevail in the end.
Series Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 games (+115)
First 4 Games
April 12 @ Boston, 7 p.m. (CBC, NBCSN)
April 14 @Boston, 8 p.m. (CBC, NBC)
April 16 @ Toronto, 7 p.m., (CBC, (NBCSN)
April 19 @ Toronto, 7 p.m., (CBC, NBCSN)
Tampa Bay Lightning (-286) vs. New Jersey Devils (+220)
Despite sputtering to the finish line, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to hold on to first in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing themselves home-ice advantage through the opening three rounds of the post-season. Following a 54-win campaign, the Bolts will now face the second wild-card team, the New Jersey Devils in the first round.
Tampa Bay enters this series as heavy -286 favourites, but the club will have to better than it did in the final 10 games of the season, finishing 5-4-1 and barely holding on to first in the Atlantic Division. The Devils, who are making their first appearance in the playoffs since 2012 when they reached the Stanley Cup Final, are enticing +220 underdogs. If this series comes down to goaltending, the Lightning will definitely have the edge with Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Vezina Trophy candidate posted a 44-17-3 record with a 2.62 GAA this season. New Jersey will roll with backup goalie Keith Kincaid, who has zero playoff experience. Look for the Lightning to end this fairly quickly.
Series Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning in 5 games (-286)
First 4 Games
April 12 @ Tampa Bay, 7 p.m. (Sportsnet)
April 14 @ Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. (Sportsnet 360, NBC)
April 16 @ NJ, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet)
April 18 @NJ, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet)
Washington Capitals (-175) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (+140)
An 8-2-0 run in the final 10 games of the season allowed the Washington Capitals to finish first in the jam-packed Metropolitan Division and draw the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Capitals have had Columbus’ number all season long, winning 3 of the 4 meetings, but as we’ve learned in the past, the playoffs are a different animal all together.
The Caps, who finished with a 49-26-7 record on the season, head into their opening round series as -175 favourites against the Blue Jackets. This is just the fourth time in franchise history Columbus has reached the Stanley Cup playoffs and second consecutive year the club has qualified. It is extremely important to note that the Blue Jackets have never advanced out of the first round.
Last season, the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins needed five games to eliminate the Blue Jackets. Can Washington have the same success against Columbus? The Caps boast one of the best offensive teams in the league and it will show in this series against the Jackets.
Series Pick: Washington Capitals in 6 games (-175)
First 4 Games
April 12 @ Washington, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet 360)
April 15 @ Washington, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet 360)
April 17 @ Columbus, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet 360)
April 19 @ Columbus, 7:30 p.m. (Sportsnet)
Pittsburgh Penguins (-275) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (+200)
The defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins begin their quest for a third straight Stanley Cup title — a feat that has not been accomplished since the Islanders won four in a row in the early 80’s.
The Pens, who finished second in the Metropolitan with a 47-29-6 record, earned home-ice advantage and are the heavy-275 favourites to defeat the Flyers. Philly was one of the hottest teams down the stretch, posting a 6-1-1 record in its final 10 games of the regular season.
If the regular season matchup is any indication, this series could be done and over with sooner than later. Pittsburgh swept the season series 4-0 as the Pens went on to post a record of 26-11-3 after Jan. 1. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are heating up and that doesn’t bode well for the Flyers.
Series Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games (-275)
First 4 Games
April 11 @ Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (CBC, NBCSN)
April 13 @ Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (CBC, NBCSN)
April 15 @ Philadelphia, 3 p.m. (CBC, NBC)
April 17 @ Philadelphia, 7 p.m. (CBC, NBCSN)
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