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NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Round 1

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins were the runaway favorites to come out of the East and compete for Lord Stanley's mug a little over a month ago, but the balance of power evened out a bit in the NHL’s Eastern Conference during the final month of the shortened campaign.

Here's our Eastern Conference playoff preview:

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 8 New York Islanders

Season series: Penguins won 4-1 SU, 2-2-1 over/under

Season prices:  Penguins -600, Islanders +400

Why bet the Penguins: The Penguins have been the Stanley Cup favorites since odds were released and appear to be the beasts in the East. Even injuries to key cogs Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and captain Sidney Crosby didn’t slow the Pittsburgh attack down the stretch. The Pens have taken the last four meetings with the Islanders by a combined score of 16-5 and Crosby is on the mend.

Why bet the Islanders: The Islanders are huge underdogs in the series and have nothing to lose. John Tavares will be considered for the Hart Trophy after accumulating 47 points in 48 games and they can lean on the playoff experience of veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.

No. 2 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators

Season series: Tied 2-2 SU, 2-2 over/under

Season prices: Canadiens -200, Senators +160

Why bet the Canadiens: The Canadiens can rely on three lines to produce offense. Eight of Montreal’s nine forwards that make up those lines tallied at least 25 points during the regular season. The Habs will also feel like they have home advantage in every game of the series, as their raucous supporters will surely make the short trip to Ottawa to drown out Ottawa’s notoriously weak fan base.

Why bet the Senators: Craig Anderson. The Ottawa netminder led the league with a 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage. Also, the return of reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson (Achilles) to the lineup has given the squad a huge morale boost heading into the playoffs.

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Rangers

Season series: Tied 1-1 SU , 0-1-1 over/under

Season prices: Capitals -115, Rangers -115

Why bet the Capitals: The Caps aren’t getting much respect for prevailing out of the weak Southeast Division, but that could work to their advantage. Washington has failed miserably in past seasons in the role of the favorite and has been building some serious momentum down the stretch. The Capitals picked up wins in 11 of their final 13 games and Alex Ovechkin seems to have his head back in the game after a slow start.

Why bet the Rangers: The Rangers also thrived down the stretch, snatching wins in 10 of their final 14 contests (10-3-1). New York has a distinct advantage in goal with Henrik Lundqvist, who finished the season with a 2.05 GAA and .926 save percentage. These squads played an unforgettable second-round series in last year’s playoffs where every game but the first was decided by a single goal.

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs

Season series: Bruins won 3-1 SU, 1-2-1 over/under

Season prices: Bruins -280, Maple Leafs +210

Why bet the Bruins: The Bruins took all six meetings with Toronto last season, outscoring the Leafs 36-10. And Boston took three of four from Toronto this year. The Bruins struggled down the stretch, but this physical team is built for the playoffs and has the ability to wear down any opponent.

Why bet the Maple Leafs: The Bruins are losers of seven of their last nine and have had very little rest down the stretch. Sunday’s finale with the Senators was their sixth game in eight days, which could work to the Maple Leafs' advantage. Toronto is playoff-bound for the first time since 2004 and has nearly 10 years’ worth of frustrations to take out on its opponents.

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