The second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs got started with a bang last night, and now we’ve got two more series to kick off on Wednesday.
First, at 7 p.m., the New York Rangers will travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes in a building the Canes have yet to lose in these playoffs. And at 9:30 p.m., perhaps the most anticipated playoff series in years gets underway north of the border – the Battle of Alberta. Edmonton will trek to Calgary to battle with the hated-rival Flames in a series sure to be filled with fireworks.
Here are my two best bets for Wednesday night’s Game 1s.
New York Rangers / Carolina Hurricanes 1st Period Under 1.5 (+100; DraftKings)
The total for this game is currently 6 at most books, so it would make a lot more sense to take the over in the first period, right? Wrong. I don’t expect to see a ton of scoring out of the gate between two of the most defensive-minded teams remaining in the playoffs.
For starters, let’s look at the first period numbers for both teams in their 14 combined first-round games. Starting with the visiting Rangers, the over went a perfect 7-0 in the opening round against Pittsburgh, but only 15 of the 55 goals in the series (27%) were scored in the first frame. Take out the one anomaly of a 4-1 first period in Game 3, and just 23% of goals in the other six games were scored in period one.
As for the host Hurricanes, there were only nine first period tallies in seven games against Boston in the first round. Overs went 6-1 in that series, but it wasn’t because of prolific scoring out of the gate. Only 20% of all goals in the series were scored in the first period, and both teams used backup goaltenders for two of the seven games. With these teams combining for 13 overs in 14 games, the first period total is juiced way too heavily; even money on this under is a gift that we’ll be taking advantage of.
What’s more: the opening game of a series has usually leaned towards lower scoring as the two teams attempt to feel each other out. Bitterness and nastiness have yet to manifest, so expect fewer penalties and thus fewer scoring chances. Excluding Game 1 of the Nashville vs. Colorado series, which was incredibly lopsided, there were only 10 first-period goals in the other seven opening games of round one. That’s 1.4 goals per first period, and even more of a reason to take this under.
Even money is my limit here, but the public loves to bet overs. Wait until closer to puck drop, and take this one at the best value you can find.
Edmonton Oilers ML (+140; WynnBet)
Those who followed the opening round of best bets know my Stanley Cup pick is and was the Calgary Flames. So, naturally, I’m picking against them in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers. Throw out the regular season, throw out stats, throw out metrics, and throw out common sense. This is the Battle of Alberta – anything can happen. But there has to be a reason I’m picking Edmonton in Game 1. It can’t just be because I flipped a coin, right? Of course there’s a reason. In fact, there are two reasons.
The first is the best player in the world – Connor McDavid. In round one, he had some dull shifts and even a dud of a game against the Kings. But in the final two games of the series, McDavid played two of his better games not just of the season but of his NHL career. He doesn’t have much more to figure out at this level, but I think he just may have unlocked the final piece of the puzzle. He can do what he wants, whenever he wants on the ice. Even in the playoffs. Even against Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault.
Wrote about Connor McDavid's round 1 showing @EPRinkside
With him on ice at 5v5, Oilers had 71.1% of chances and 70.6% of xG. Had 94 5v5 shot contributions for the series. Played 45:11 of 106:16 possible 5v5 minutes in final two games.
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 16, 2022
McDavid totaled a combined 9.08 of GameScore in Games 6 and 7 against the Kings. For context, he had the best GameScore of any skater in any game on both of those nights, and his 5.32 mark in Game 6 was the fourth-highest rating for any skater in the playoffs this year and the highest for any player that didn’t score multiple goals. He played as a man possessed, and I expect him to keep it rolling into round two.
Why is McDavid’s stellar play so important? That brings us to reason number two – emotions. Both teams advanced thanks to Game 7 victories on home ice, but the Flames did so in overtime. And they have one fewer day of rest. The Battle of Alberta is going to send emotions through the roof, and sure the Flames will be able to feed off their home crowd. But it’s going to be incredibly tough to muster up the adrenaline right out of the gate after such an emotional high just two nights prior. And against a team with the firepower of the Oilers, a slow start is all it takes to be down three goals in a blink.
I like Calgary to win this series, and they’re still my pick to lift the Cup. But Game 1 in hockey’s best rivalry goes to the Oilers, and play them down to +135.
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