After a surprising first round that saw the NHL betting favorites in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference toppled, we are onto the conference semifinals. The first two series will get underway on Tuesday night, while the other two series will start on Wednesday night. In the first game of this doubleheader, the Carolina Hurricanes will face the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey was the final team to win its first round series, yet the oddsmakers have made them slight favorites over Carolina by the NHL futures odds. Meanwhile, the most exciting second round series will pit the Edmonton Oilers against the Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton or Vegas would be favored in the Western Conference Finals, so there’s a good chance the winner of this series will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.
NHL Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
New Jersey Devils ML (+100) at Carolina Hurricanes
Things looked bleak for the New Jersey Devils after they lost the first two games at home in their series against the New York Rangers. However, a goaltender change made all the difference as 22-year-old Akira Schmid was fantastic in net over four of the next five games and blanked the Rangers twice in that stretch. Starting goalie Vitek Vanecek was torched by the Rangers, posting a 4.43 GAA and an .827 save percentage in three games. However, Schmid was 4-1 with a 1.72 GAA and a .951 save percentage.
It was an improbable performance for Schmid if you watched him as a rookie last year. He lost all four of his starts during the 2021-22 season, posting a 4.83 GAA and an .833 save percentage. However, Schmid clearly figured something out this year as he was 9-5-2 with a 2.13 GAA and a .922 save percentage as the primary backup to Vanecek. There’s no doubt that Schmid will be the starter going forward, and the Devils hope he will keep the hot hand throughout the postseason.
Scoring will be at a premium in this series. Former No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes had three goals and two assists for New Jersey in the first round, but he was one of just four players with multiple goals for the Devils. Veteran winger Ondrej Palat had two goals and three assists, while Erik Haula led the Devils with four goals and six points. Nico Hischier failed to find the net though after a regular season in which he tallied 31 goals.
The goal scoring situation for Carolina might be even more drastic. Sebastian Aho was great against the New York Islanders with four goals and three assists, but the only other player with more than four points was long-time defenseman Brent Burns. That has me backing the Devils here as a short underdog by the hockey betting odds in Game 1.
Vegas Golden Knights ML (-103) vs. Edmonton Oilers
Every game between the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers is going to be must-see TV. Vegas and Edmonton are probably two of the three best teams left in the playoffs at this point, as they both have what it takes to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The Oilers have the most frightening offense in the league, and their power play was incredible in their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings. After scoring on over a third of their power play opportunities during the regular season, the Oilers put the puck in the back of the net on 9 of their 16 power play chances in the first round.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the best one-two punch in the league. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman were two elite goal scorers during the regular season too, but the Oilers’ production seriously drops off after those four players. No one else had more than 43 points, and no other forward had more than 28 points.
Meanwhile, Vegas is very well-rounded. The Golden Knights have a lot of scoring threats with the return of Mark Stone, and they should win this series if they can hold the Oilers to around 30% on the power play. There are some real concerns about the Oilers’ defense and goaltending, so Jack Eichel and others could thrive in this series.