Upcoming Match-ups

Opening Series Prices for All NHL First-Round Playoff Matchups

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in NHL Hockey

Updated May 28, 2020 · 10:23 AM PDT

Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the biggest favorite in the NHL's Qualifying Round opening odds. Photo by Michael Miller (Wiki Commons).
  • The NHL announced its Return-to-Play plan  featuring a 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs
  • There will be a 16-team, eight-series Qualifying Round and a Seeding Round Robin for the top-four teams in each conference
  • See below for the opening odds and a preview of the Qualifying Round matchups

The NHL regular season is officially over and the league now plans to proceed with a 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs. The Return to Play Plan will include the top-12 teams from each conference, and begin with a 16-team, eight series Qualifying Round and a Seeding Round Robin for the top-four teams in each conference.

The Qualifying Round will feature best-of-five series and since the seeding is based off regular season points percentage, the matchups have already been set.

NHL Qualifying Round Series Prices

Team Odds to Win Series
Columbus Blue Jackets +140
Toronto Maple Leafs -160
Team Odds to Win Series
Montreal Canadiens +170
Pittsburgh Penguins -190
Team Odds to Win Series
New York Rangers +130
Carolina Hurricanes -150
Team Odds to Win Series
Florida Panthers -120
New York Islanders +100
Team Odds to Win Series
Winnipeg Jets -110
Calgary Flames -110
Team Odds to Win Series
Chicago Blackhawks +130
Edmonton Oilers -150
Team Odds to Win Series
Arizona Coyotes +105
Nashville Predators -125
Team Odds to Win Series
Minnesota Wild +120
Vancouver Canucks -140

Odds as of May 26th.

Both the Qualifying Round and the Seeding Round Robin will be held at two hub cities yet to be named. No firm return date has been established, but the goal is to begin training camps by mid-July.

In the East

It’s no surprise that the biggest favorite in the Qualifying Round is the Pittsburgh Penguins at -190. The Pens have the shortest 2020 Stanley Cup odds among Qualifying Round teams, and will welcome back sniper Jake Guentzel to the lineup. Guentzel was averaging over a point a game before suffering what appeared to be a season ending shoulder injury in December. The NHL’s extended hiatus has given him time to heal and his return will only strengthen an offense that also features stars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

Pittsburgh’s opponent Montreal may have the advantage in net with former Vezina winner Carey Price, but that’s just about it. The Pens had a +28 goal differential compared to a -9 total for the Habs, and this matchup has the biggest point disparity (15) of any Qualifying Round series.

Elsewhere in the East, Toronto Maple Leafs fans must be salivating at the thought of a playoff opponent not named the Boston Bruins. Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and has been eliminated by the Bruins in three of its past four playoff appearances.

They’ll take on the  Columbus Blue Jackets as -160 favorites in a clash of two opposing styles. The Blue Jackets ranked third in goals against this season, while the Leafs finished third in goals for.

The New York Rangers vs the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers vs the New York Islanders round out the Qualifying Round series in the East. It should be noted that the Islanders are the only higher seed that opened as an underdog.

Out West

Going off the odds alone, the Qualifying Round series should be much closer out West than in the East. The Edmonton Oilers are the biggest favorites at -150, but they’re not the slam dunk the Penguins are. Edmonton relies almost exclusively on Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid for offense, and if the Chicago Blackhawks can limit those two, this series could get interesting.

Chicago took two of three from the Oilers during the regular season and held McDavid and Draisaitl goalless in both victories. They’ll need three Herculean defensive efforts like that to pull off the upset.

Elsewhere, the Winnipeg Jets versus the Calgary Flames projects to be the most competitive series as each team opened with -110 odds. The Jets have a major advantage in net with Connor Hellebuyck, and boasted a much better goal differential (+13 to -5).

The Flames however, could benefit from the extended break. Captain Mark Giordano had just returned from a hamstring injury when play was paused, but reports were he was less than 100 per cent. Fellow d-man Travis Hamonic, who ranked behind only Giordano in time on ice, battled various injuries throughout the year but should also be back at full strength. If Calgary is going to make any noise in this year’s playoffs, they’ll need to rely heavily on those two.

The Arizona Coyotes versus Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild versus Vancouver Canucks round out the West’s Qualifying Round series. Vancouver is the second biggest favorite in the West despite finishing with just a single point more than its opponent Minnesota.

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