2012 NHL Conference SemifinalsThe second round of the NHL playoffs may be hard-pressed to top the first, where three of the four Eastern Conference series went to seven games and both Stanley Cup finalists from a year ago were bounced early.
The Western Conference series have been set for a while, as Phoenix plays Nashville and St. Louis squares off against the L.A. Kings. The Eastern Conference match-ups were determined on Thursday and the New York Rangers will meet their playoff nemesis, Washington, while the Philadelphia Flyers battle against division foe New Jersey.
Stanley Cup OddsAfter the first round of the playoffs were in the books, most sportsbooks released updated odds to win the Stanley Cup. We'll look at the odds posted at The Greek.
NOTE: All odds are listed in money line format. If the money line is a new concept for you, read Understanding Money Lines.
Odds to Win the 2011-12 Stanley CupSt. Louis+375
New York Rangers+425
The biggest surprise here is probably Philadelphia being the lowest-price team in the Eastern Conference. This is especially interesting, as the Rangers are bigger favorites to defeat Washington than the Flyers are to eliminate New Jersey, meaning the No. 5 Flyers would be favored in a series with No. 1 New York.
There are no real surprises in the West, as St. Louis and Nashville are expected to advance, although the Predators should have an easier time than the Blues.
From a value standpoint, Nashville at +425 is a logical choice. When on his game, Pekka Rinne is the best goaltender in the game and the Predators have two top-notch defensemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
In the East, I don't see the two favorites having as easy of a time as might be expected and if you're looking for a longshot, you could do worse than either Washington or New Jersey.
Series PricesIn the playoffs you also have the option of wagering on the winner of each individual series, so we'll look at those here.
Nashville -160, Phoenix+140The Predators opened -135 and have since been bet up to -160 on the money line. I have to believe the move is the correct one and still like the Predators at those odds. While I absolutely hate to play favorites on the money line, Nashville is the logical side in this series.
St. Louis-170, Los Angeles+150The St. Louis Blues allowed an NHL-fewest 165 goals on the year and face the team which allowed the second-fewest in Los Angeles, which surrendered 179.
Jonathan Quick pitched two shutouts in three appearances against the Blues and was on top of his game in knocking off Vancouver. The Blues rode their goaltending advantage all season long, but don't really have that here, so we'll take a shot on the Kings.
New York-200, Washington+170The Capitals and Rangers meet once again in the playoffs, although this time it's New York which finds itself as the big favorite. The Capitals are dangerous underdogs in this spot and at generous odds are worth a stab, as Henrik Lundqvist was 2-1 against the Caps, but had just an .859 save percentage and a 3.00 GAA.
Philadelphia-175, New Jersey+155As many of you know, I'm a die-hard New Jersey fan, although that didn't stop me from taking the underdog Flyers to knock off the Devils in the first round two years ago, which they did with ease. But this time I'm going to ride my Devils as large dogs. The teams split their six regular season games, but Ilya Bryzgalov was a beast against the Devils, going 3-0 with two shutouts. Martin Brodeur was just 1-3 against the Flyers with a 2.26 GAA, while Johan Hedberg was 2-0 despite a 3.36 GAA.
Bryzgalov was terrible in the Flyers' opening-round series against Pittsburgh, but the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury was even worse, playing one of the worst playoff series in recent years, allowing 4.63 goals per game with an .834 save percentage. There's no denying Brodeur isn't what he once was, but he's highly unlikely to play as bad as Fleury.
This is simply a price play on the Devils with the hope that their aging stars like Brodeur, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora can make one final big push.
Best of luck.