If you’re a hockey fan it doesn’t get better than the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sixteen teams will enter, but only one will emerge victorious, with team captains and jubilant teammates taking a victory lap around the ice. The myths and legends surrounding the cup loom as large as the prize itself for the NHL’s top team. It has been called “the most traveled trophy in the world” and I wouldn’t argue with that distinction one bit. If you’ve never read about the cup’s “misadventures” on those journeys I encourage you do to so – they’re what make it so legendary. You certainly don’t hear about people doing these things with the Heisman Trophy or the college football National Championship! You’re not here for those stories though — you’re here for the opening round betting odds. Let’s start with the Detroit Red Wings, who are entering the NHL Playoffs for the 25th straight year. In their opening game on Wednesday night they are actually a slight dog compared to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are the -155 money line favorite versus +135 for Hockeytown’s Heroes. I guess that goes to show just because you get there 25 years in a row you can’t be expected to win in each round, and truth be told it was a nail biter at times this year that the streak might come to an end. If they get out of the first round they’ll have to face the Panthers or the Islanders, so there are no breaks to be had in D-Town. Speaking of those two teams though their opening round is on Thursday night, with the Panthers a money line favorite at -140 versus +120 for New York. I’m honestly surprised this line isn’t wider given the Islanders are a wild card team, but that shows you how competitive the opening round can be. You won’t find too many heavy favorites in the early action of the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup. As for the rest of the East, the other wild card team is the Philadelphia Flyers, and the powerhouse Washington Capitals are one of those rare heavy favorites at -215 versus +178 on the money line. Their 56 wins are most in the league, and in only his second year Evgeny Kuzentsov is among hockey’s elite in scoring goals, standing side by side with veteran teammate Alex Ovechkin. Fear this team. By comparison the Rangers and Penguins are much more evenly matched on Wednesday night: +125 and -145 respectively. In the West keep your eye on the Dallas Stars as they are the only other sizable opening game favorite, -175 to +155 for the Minnesota Wild on the money line Thursday night. The other one seed is those mighty mighty Anaheim Ducks, who open at -155 on Friday night against the +135 Nashville Predators. The lead opens up a bit over the best of seven series though, with the Ducks emerging -175 to to +155 to take it all. It doesn’t really matter whether you get Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler at center – either one’s a scoring threat. John Gibson is a decent goalie, but he’s no Henrik Lundqvist, and the Rangers aren’t even expected to go all the way. We’ll see how that puck bounces. Other games not already mentioned in the opening round: Blues -125 Blackhawks +105 on Wednesday night (yawn) and the Kings -140 Sharks +120 on Thursday night (eh). Bet responsibly and enjoy the NHL Playoffs!
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