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Who would have ever guessed that the Edmonton Oilers would be one of the biggest favorites on the board in a playoff series?
The Oilers, who were wildly inconsistent in the 2019-20 season and enter the qualifying series with a record of 37-34-9 (or 37-43), are a big favorite over the Chicago Blackhawks mostly because the Blackhawks are one of the last teams to get into the playoffs. Only one team that’s in the qualifying round has fewer points than the Blackhawks. However, the Blackhawks were hot before the break. Is it possible that there’s some value with them against the Oilers, who are mostly new to this whole playoffs thing? Let’s take a closer look.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers
Odds: Blackhawks +134, Oilers -164 at FanDuel Sportsbook
The Blackhawks are very lucky to be in the playoffs. If we were going by any standard system, this team would have missed the cut by six points (currently 12th in the West). However, it is worth noting that they were absolutely brutal in the early parts of the season but turned it around right before the hiatus.
The Blackhawks started the season with just 12 wins in their first 33 games. Even in late February, this team was just 27-28-8. However, they entered the break winning five of their last seven games, which is what brought them closer to the playoffs. They’ll not only have an edge in experience but they could have an edge in net. Veteran goaltender Corey Crawford was not great this season but kicked it up a notch after the All-Star break, posting a .927 save percentage.
This team needs to find a way to play better in front of him and help him face less shots. The Blackhawks allow 35.1 shots-against per game this season and that’s the most in the NHL.
There’s no question that the Oilers have some remarkable talent. Leon Draisatl finished the regular season with 110 points – the most points in the NHL – and Connor McDavid was right behind him with 97 points. The challenge for this Oilers team is that this duo is mostly it. In terms of points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had 61 this season but after that, no other player on this team had more than 34. The Oilers are going to sink or swim with their top line, and that’s part of what makes betting them a risk.
The other concern here is between the pipes. The Oilers are probably going to use Mikko Koskinen as their lead netminder and he did play well at times down the stretch of the season. He had a .934 save percentage after the All-Star break. The issue is that he’s been unreliable throughout most of the year. The other option is 38-year-old Mike Smith, who has had some good moments but is clearly in the twilight of his career.
These teams mostly mirror each other as they’re both top-heavy with one good line of offense, questionable depth, questionable blue lines, and who knows what they each get out of their goaltenders. That being the case, I simply can’t lay this type of juice with the Oilers. They should be favored but maybe in the -130 range. I just can’t trust them, so I’ll take a shot with the Blackhawks.
Pick: Blackhawks +134
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