NHL Best Bets

The Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off today, which means that we have officially entered the best time of year. A couple of series prices really stand out to me, and this year’s postseason feels as wide open as ever, so let’s look at some NHL Playoff Series best bets.

Tampa at Florida 

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have one of the best new rivalries in the NHL. These two teams have grown to hate one another, and this first-round series will certainly show that. 


The Panthers appeared to be the NHL’s consensus number one team a couple of months ago, but their finish to the season was not as impressive as what we saw around the new year. Since March 1st, the Panthers have skated to a record of 12-8-2, but it feels that most people aren’t concerned, which they shouldn’t be. Florida has a very good hockey team, but I think a lot of people are underestimating the Lightning. 

This Tampa Bay group knows how to win come playoff time. Despite a first-round exit at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs last year, this team has gone to three straight Stanley Cup Finals, winning two of them. While they might not be the same exact team as the men who won back-to-back cups, they still have a ton of weapons that can find an extra gear come playoff time. 

One area that Tampa has the complete edge over Florida in is the power play. Even though the Panthers have a strong penalty kill, this Lightning power play is on fire. Over Tampa’s last 20 games, they skated to a 27.4% on the man-advantage and their penalty kill was at a phenomenal 93.3%. The Bolts should dominate the special teams affair in this series. 

The one area of concern for the Lightning is their depth on defense compared to the Panthers. Florida has a very strong blue line, but what Tampa might lack in defense, they make up for in goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best playoff goaltenders of all time, as his numbers in the postseason are outstanding. Over his playoff career, Vasilevskiy is skating to a 2.37 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He can be the difference maker. 

One guy Tampa can always rely on come playoff time is Brayden Point. To me, he is the x-factor in this series. 

I’m hoping this series goes to seven games, but I love Tampa as the underdogs. 

NHL Playoff Best Bet: Tampa Bay Lightning +150 to win the series

Colorado at Winnipeg

The Winnipeg Jets are perhaps the league’s hottest team heading into the playoffs. The Jets won eight straight games to end their regular season. They have one of the strongest defensive cores and goaltenders in the entire postseason. 

There is no doubt that Connor Hellebuyck will be the league’s Vezina Trophy winner as the best goaltender in the NHL this season, but what Winnipeg has done to slow teams down offensively has also been impressive. Not only do the Jets own home ice in this series, but they also swept the season series against the Colorado Avalanche, winning all three games and outscoring them 17-4. 

Colorado’s finish to the season is a bit concerning. Over the course of their final eight games, the Avalanche went 3-4-1 while allowing 4.13 goals against per game, and their special teams were awful. Colorado’s power play was at 19.1%, but their penalty kill was even worse as it was skating to a 59.3% rate. The biggest worry for Colorado is Alexandar Georgiev, who went 7-4-2 in his last 14 starts and skated to a .886 save percentage with a 3.53 goals against average. That’s not going to cut it, especially when you have Hellebuyck on the other side. 

The Jets can also score goals. This offense can keep up with Colorado as they have weapons like Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Gabe Vilardi, Sean Monahan, Tyler Toffoli and Nikolaj Ehlers. Not to mention Josh Morrissey on the backend. This team can hurt you. Over their eight game winning streak, the Jets were scoring 4.38 goals per game and were only allowing 1.88 goals against. 

For some reason, they’re the underdog in this series. The Avalanche are dangerous, but the Jets are more well-rounded. 

NHL Playoff Best Bet: Winnipeg Jets +115 to win the series

Toronto at Boston 

In what should be the most exciting first-round series, it is time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to exorcise some demons. The Boston Bruins are Toronto’s kryptonite, but this year feels like the year where the Leafs might actually be the better team. 

Boston certainly has the edge in goal with Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. They probably have the better blue line as well, but Toronto’s depth at center and with their forwards might be the difference maker in this series. 

The Maple Leafs’ top-six forwards are much scarier than Boston’s outside of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, but over the last 30+ the Bruins haven’t played very consistently. In their last 33 games to end the season, Boston went 16-11-6, which is below .500 hockey if you think about it, and they have struggled to put teams away offensively. Over the course of those games, the Bruins were only averaging 2.79 goals per game, while their power play was at 16.1%.

Aside from this past week, the Leafs were playing some pretty solid hockey down the stretch. In this same span, they went 21-12-2 and were scoring 3.89 goals per game. That said, this feels like it’s Auston Matthews time to shine. After tallying 69 goals in the regular season and 107 points, Matthews has become a very dangerous, complete player. I think he is going to put this team on his shoulders. He and John Tavares are much better down the middle than Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle, who are Boston’s top two centers. 

Ilya Samsonov will have to step up in goal and play his best hockey to compete with Ullmark and Swayman, but Matthews, Tavares, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner finally feel like they can break through. 

This series will be electric. I think Toronto can pull it off. 

NHL Playoff Best Bet: Toronto Maple Leafs to win the series +105

April Record: 19-8 (+9.04 units)

2023-24 record: 148–140 (-21.50 units)