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NHL Playoffs First Round Predictions

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2024

The 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Saturday, April 20, with 16 teams vying for the NHL’s ultimate prize.

Unlike some other leagues, the first round of the NHL playoffs is no sure thing. Last year, the record-setting Boston Bruins lost to the Florida Panthers at the first hurdle.

This year, we’ve got some compelling first-round matchups to look forward to.

Let’s examine some of the matchups and make our best bets for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL odds used for these NHL first-round predictions are current as of Thursday, April 18, and courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

NHL Playoffs First Round Best Bets

Bruins Win Series (-125) vs Maple Leafs

An Original Six showdown in the opening round? Sign me up.

The Bruins have won six straight postseason series against the Maple Leafs dating back to 1969, including recent first-round wins in 2013, 2018, and 2019.

That’s a damning omen for a Toronto team that also went winless in four games against Boston during the regular season.

The Bruins are the better defensive team and have superior goaltending in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, who are both better than Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov.

And while the Maple Leafs offer much more on offense, with NHL top goalscorer Auston Matthews (69) leading the way, I prefer to back a hard-nosed defensive squad in the postseason.

It’s hard not to take Boston at this price, especially given its home-ice advantage and Toronto’s putrid playoff history.

Rangers Win Series 4-1 (+250) vs Capitals

The Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers will start their postseason against a familiar foe: the Washington Capitals.

These franchises have met in the postseason five times since 2009, with the Rangers winning the last three series in seven games. The Capitals won the other two, one of which also went the distance.

While New York never seems to do anything easily in the postseason, I’m taking them to win this series in five games.

There is a bigger talent discrepancy between these two teams than in years past, and the Rangers’ depth down the middle and on defense should be major difference-makers.

Plus, New York boasts a massive experience advantage between the pipes, with two-time All-Star Igor Shesterkin set for his third straight postseason trip.

His opposite number, Charlie Lindgren, who happens to be the brother of Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren, has never appeared in an NHL playoff game.

While the teams split their season series 2-2, I expect New York to make relatively quick work of a Washington squad that finished the season with the worst goal differential (-37) of any playoff team.

Jets Win Series (+115) vs Avalanche

Looking for a first-round upset? Winnipeg is worth a flier.

The Jets aren’t getting much respect in the betting market against the Avalanche despite having home-ice advantage (and an impressive one at that) and sweeping Colorado during the regular season.

In that three-game sweep, Winnipeg outscored the Avs 17-4.

The Jets boast the best defensive record in the Western Conference, which could very well quell Colorado’s top-ranked offense, led by likely NHL MVP Nathan MacKinnon.

The Avalanche have a special teams advantage and more recognizable stars, but the Jets have a veteran core that has been here before and a distinct edge between the pipes with likely Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck.

Give me one of Canada’s four representatives in the postseason field to advance as my NHL bet of the day.

Over 10.5 Overtime Games in Round 1 (-115)

There’s nothing better than overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so why would you want to root for less of it?

Last year, each first-round series had at least one game go to overtime, and 14 contests were decided by a sudden-death goal.

That total was reasonably comparable the previous two years, as the 2022 first round featured eight overtime games and 2021 featured 16.

With only one or two matchups looking relatively lopsided, I’m taking the Over on overtime games as we should at least get to 11.

Best NHL Playoffs Odds Today

Author

John Arlia

Before joining The Game Day, John served as the National Writer for the United Soccer League, where he primarily covered the USL Championship out of the league’s headquarters in Tampa, FL. A devout soccer fan, John attended the men’s World Cups in Brazil and Russia and can’t wait for the 2026 edition to come to North America. Having also written for Sporting News Canada since getting his master’s from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, John has acquired a diverse sporting background, but considers football, golf, and soccer his three strong suits.

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