We’re down to the final four in the NHL and the last four teams remaining are also the last four teams to win the Stanley Cup. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the NHL betting favorites to win it all but there are three other teams that will have plenty to say about that. Here’s a look at the East and West conference finals.
Boston Bruins @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Odds: Penguins -195
Some people aren’t sure what to make of the Boston Bruins. In Round 1, they probably should have lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In Round 2, they crushed the New York Rangers. How good are they?
Some people feel that both the Leafs and the Rangers provided a very easy path to the conference finals for the Bruins and that their matchup with Pittsburgh will be a stiff upgrade in competition. That’s very true.
This is a classic matchup of defense and goaltending versus offense as the Pens were the highest-scoring team in the NHL this season while the Bruins allowed the second-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference. However, when you take a closer look, the trends are not in Boston’s favor.
While the Pens scored an average of 3.4 goals per game in the regular season, that number has actually increased quite a bit in the playoffs. They are averaging nearly a goal more per game at 4.3. Meanwhile, the Bruins started the season as one of the best defense teams in the league but have slowly faded. They allowed just 1.60 goals per game (second-best) in February, 2.24 in March (third-best) and 2.36 in April (13th in NHL). Although the hapless Rangers couldn’t get anything going against the Bruins, the Maple Leafs managed 2.6 goals per game.
The Bruins once-strong edge on defense and in net has weakened and the Pens scoring has strengthened. That’s not good news for the Bruins. Also, the Pens have won six straight in this series and eight of the last 11. It’s hard to see the Bruins being able to stop them here. Take the Pens.
Pick: Pens in 6
Los Angeles Kings @ Chicago Blackhawks
Odds: Blackhawks -150
The Kings are the reigning Cup champs but they’ve had a number of issues in the playoffs so far. Yes, they’ve looked good at times but they’ve also struggled scoring (two goals per game) and have lost five of six road games.
The Blackhawks have also been up and down, and the story of this series will be whether their offense can overcome the Kings goaltending. Looking back to the regular season, we should have the answer to that question as the Blackhawks scored 12 goals in three meetings with the Kings.
There will be a lot of traveling in this series from the east to the west, but hockey betting fans should see that home-ice advantage is the difference. Look for the Blackhawks to take this in seven games as each team protects home ice all the way through.
Pick: Blackhawks in 7