NHL Odds: Betting Preview for First Round Playoff Matchups

After a delayed start to the 2020-21 NHL season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin on Saturday, May 15. While some series will have a later start due to games being postponed during the regular season, the league will begin its annual postseason in just over a day.

Like many major sporting events, the NHL playoffs attract a sports betting crowd that wants to add more excitement to the most thrilling hockey action available. Keeping that in mind, BetOnline has released odds on each playoff matchups. Some of the opening series are expected to be pretty close, meaning the action could go either way.

Here are some betting previews for the opening round matchups of the 2020-21 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL Playoff Odds: Central Division Matchups

Odds via BetOnline as of Friday, May 14

Carolina Hurricanes (No. 1) vs Nashville Predators (No. 4)

  • Regular season record: Hurricanes (36-12-8) vs Predators (31-23-2)
  • Season series: CAR (6-2-0), NSH (2-5-1)
  • Moneyline odds: Hurricanes (-255), Predators (+215)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Carolina Hurricanes are -255 favorites to defeat the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the postseason. The Hurricanes dominated the Predators 6-2-0 in the regular season and finished with the third-best overall record in the league. It’ll take a lot for Nashville to pull off the upset, however, they do have some momentum. The Predators beat the Hurricanes two games in a row to end the regular season, so don’t call it impossible.

Florida Panthers (No. 2) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 3)

  • Regular season record: Panthers (37-14-5) vs Lightning (36-17-3)
  • Season series: FLA (5-2-1), TBL (3-5-0)
  • Moneyline odds: Panthers (+130), Lightning (-150)

This series is expected to have the first upset of the NHL postseason as the No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning are favored to defeat the Florida Panthers at -150 odds. One major factor that could be leading to these odds is the fact that the Lightning are expected to have Steven Stamkos AND Nikita Kucherov back in the lineup for Game 1. Both men are two of the best players in the league, so it’s unsurprising to see their return leading to a shift in the odds.

NHL Playoff Odds: North Division Matchups

Odds via BetOnline as of Friday, May 14

Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 1) vs Montreal Canadiens (No. 4)

  • Regular season record: Maple Leafs (35-13-7) vs Canadiens (24-21-11)
  • Season series: TOR (7-2-1), MTL (3-6-1)
  • Moneyline odds: Maple Leafs (-310), Canadiens (+260)

There’s no other way to put it: the Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the Montreal Canadiens throughout the regular season. From top to bottom, the Leafs have a better roster than the Canadiens. Toronto has the greatest goal-scorer in the league right now in Auston Matthews and it’s unlikely that Montreal will have an answer for him.

Edmonton Oilers (No. 2) vs Winnipeg Jets (No. 3)

  • Regular season record: Oilers (35-18-2) vs Jets (29-23-3)
  • Season series: EDM (7-2-0), WPG (2-7-0)
  • Moneyline odds: Oilers (-200), Jets (+170)

In another series that involved one side dominating the other along the 2020-21 NHL season, the Edmonton Oilers are favored to eliminate the Winnipeg Jets from the postseason. Connor McDavid just had one of the best regular seasons in the last 30 years, so it’s hard to think out how the Jets could possibly contain him.

NHL Playoff Odds: East Division Matchups

Odds via BetOnline as of Friday, May 14

Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 1) vs New York Islanders (No. 4)

  • Regular season record: Penguins (37-16-3) vs Islanders (32-17-7)
  • Season series: PIT (6-2-0), NYI (2-4-2)
  • Moneyline odds: Penguins (-145), Islanders (+125)

There really wasn’t a division that was a close as the East was last season. Despite being the No. 1 and 4 seeds respectively, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders were only separated by six points this season. While the season series went to the Penguins, it’s important to remember that the Islanders went to the conference finals last season and are poised to go further this year.

Boston Bruins (No. 2) vs Washington Capitals (No. 3)

  • Regular season record: Bruins (33-16-7) vs Capitals (36-15-5)
  • Season series: BOS (4-2-2), WSH (4-4-0)
  • Moneyline odds: Bruins (-165), Capitals (+145)

In what’s expected to be another tight series, the Boston Bruins are favored to beat the Washington Capitals at -165 odds. The teams were pretty even throughout the season, each scoring four wins against the other. However, the Bruins do have the superior defense, having given up just 136 goals on the season whereas the Capitals allowed 163.

NHL Playoff Odds: West Division Matchups

Odds via BetOnline as of Friday, May 14

Colorado Avalanche (No. 1) vs St. Louis Blues (No. 4)

  • Regular season record: Avalanche (39-13-4) vs Blues (27-20-9)
  • Season series: COL (5-3-0), STL (3-5-2)
  • Moneyline odds: Avalanche (-380), Blues (+310)

No team is more of a favorite in the first round of the NHL playoffs than the Colorado Avalanche at -380 odds. They’ve been one of the more dominant teams all season and have been Stanley Cup favorites for most of the campaign. Meanwhile, despite being the underdogs, the St. Louis Blues enter the matchup on a hot streak, winning their last three games in a row by a combined score of 13-4. It might be difficult to put those numbers up against the Avalanche but never say never.

Vegas Golden Knights (No. 2) vs Minnesota Wild (No. 3)

  • Regular season record: Golden Knights (40-14-2) vs Wild (35-16-5)
  • Season series: VGK (3-4-1), MIN (5-1-2)
  • Moneyline odds: Golden Knights (-228), Wild (+198)

The Minnesota Wild drew one of the more difficult matchups in the postseason as they’ll face the only 40-win team on the season in the Vegas Golden Knights. Fortunately, the Wild played well against the Golden Knights in 2021, going 5-1-2 against them in the regular season. The playoffs are a different beast but don’t be surprised if the series is closer than the odds imply.

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Devon Platana
After graduating with a Masters degree in Journalism, Devon joined USGS to improve his sports writing skills. As a lifelong sports fan, one of Devon’s favorite things to do is analyze statistics across all sports.