The Stanley Cup Playoffs began on Monday, April 17, but as of Thursday morning, no team has been able to close out their first-round series. The Carolina Hurricanes had the first opportunity to advance to the conference semifinals on Tuesday night, but they fell behind the New York Islanders 2-1 and were unable to draw level. We saw the Boston Bruins have the next shot on Wednesday night, yet they too were turned away by the Florida Panthers even though Boston was close to a -300 favorite by the NHL betting odds.
Now, the most snakebitten team in the NHL will have its turn to close out an opponent in the first round of the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs forced overtime and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 and Game 4 on the road to win three straight games, and they will now look to close out the Lightning on Thursday night. That is no small feat considering Toronto’s postseason woes and what Tampa Bay has done in each of the last three playoffs, winning two Stanley Cups and claiming the Eastern Conference title in three straight seasons.
NHL Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
New York Islanders ML (-117) vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Before the series started, I stated that I liked the New York Islanders here because they are gritty and have gone deep in the postseason in the recent past. There isn’t a lot of star power on the team, but they have solid two-way forwards like Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson.
Palmieri and Nelson have been the offensive threats for the Isles in this series. They both have two goals and three assists for five points, and that has helped this team remain competitive against one of the top teams in the NHL. However, the Isles are hoping for more out of their big mid-season acquisition Bo Horvat.
Horvat was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in late January in order to boost the Isles’ playoff hopes. New York had to give up Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty as well as a conditional first-round pick to acquire the veteran center, but the team did with the intention of making a deep run in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Horvat was shut out for the first three games against Carolina, but he scored a goal in Game 4 and added an assist in Game 5.
Carolina doesn’t look as sharp as it did in the regular season. The Hurricanes have been unable to really take it to the Isles, so I’ll back New York to force a Game 7.
Seattle Kraken ML (+143) vs. Colorado Avalanche
It’s been a fantastic first playoff series for the Seattle Kraken. The second-year NHL team has the defending Stanley Cup champions on the precipice of elimination. Seattle has been continually underrated all year, and the Kraken were massive underdogs in this series by the NHL betting odds. However, the Kraken can now knock the Colorado Avalanche out of the playoffs on Friday night.
Colorado’s top lane has performed well. Mikko Rantanen leads the Avs with seven points in five games, and the man with the big C is right behind him. Nathan MacKinnon has six points in five games, and he leads Colorado with a +6 plus/minus. Those are the only two players on the Avalanche with more than one goal though, and to make matters worse, Colorado has just one power play goal in this series. That has this team on the ropes ahead of Game 6.
Meanwhile, Seattle only has two multiple goal scorers in Jaden Schwartz and Morgan Geekie. However, the Kraken have lit the lamp three times on the power play to give the team an edge in this series.
The biggest difference to this point has been the goaltending though. Former Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer has been solid against his former team. Grubauer has a 2.61 GAA and a .918 save percentage in five games after a subpar regular season. Conversely, Alexander Georgiev has compounded the Avs’ goaltending issues. Georgiev has been considerably worse than he was in the regular season with a 3.03 GAA and a .906 save percentage.