NHL Playoffs First Round Betting Tips

Elias Lindholm #28 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings Derek Leung/Getty Images/AFP

Every Stanley Cup Playoffs are different and if you expect to show a profit on making NHL picks, you have to be flexible in your thinking.

It starts with understanding that the postseason is COMPLETELY different than the regular season. In fact, the NHL Playoffs are different from any other major sport.

In all the other sports like the NFL, MLB and NBA, the conference format is the best team against the lowest team to qualify.

Learn More: Best NHL Playoffs Betting Strategies

In the NHL it is mostly division-driven. The two division winners play those that were the wild card entrants or last clubs to reach the postseason. That follows traditional methods. However, instead of 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5, the teams with the second and third place finishes within the division do battle.

While this happens sometimes in other sports playing a team within your division, hockey guarantees it and there have been scenarios based on the records, where a team advancing to the conference final or the Stanley Cup Final, actually had an easier path after their first-round matchup.

Now that we have established how hockey is unique, let’s dig further into how to wager on the first round which starts next Monday, May 2nd.

The Opening Few Games are Often Wildly Unpredictable

Because the best players other than the goalie are on the ice for less than half a game, that generally makes playoff hockey more competitive. In a game-by-game situation facing teams, you know very well, that the ability to make the right adjustments by the coaching staff is crucial.

Because the scoring is one at a time, much like soccer, one team could dominate the action for a couple of periods and end up tied 1-1 with five minutes left in a game. From a betting perspective, that is one of the best and worst parts of trying to beat the NHL odds.

If you have researched all eight first-round opening games, other than 1 vs. 8 there is a possibility of an opening contest upset elsewhere.

Learn More: Learn How to Successfully Bet on NHL Player Props

If you believe you have at least a 50-50 chance for an upset in those battles, don’t be afraid to lock in an underdog. If you normally bet $100 a game, follow this strategy. Make a wager of 80 percent of your normal bet on the underdog. If correct, take your winnings and be satisfied going into Game 2 of that series, because the home team will probably be hell-bent on evening up the series on home ice. Don’t get greedy.

If you lost your initial wager in a series, be ready to go with your normal wager or even bump it up to 120% for Game 2 on the underdog. What we see time and again is the team that loses makes the better adjustments, has increased focus, plays with more passion and ties the series.

Learn More: What’s a Unit in Sports Betting, How to Use It?

Before making a Game 2 wager, know the injury reports and other pertinent information that could place you in a less advantageous position. Essentially you want the second matchup to look like the first.

The last two years we’ve had a non-Covid playoff. When you take out the No. 1 seeds, Game 1 underdogs were 7-5 and those Game 2 revengers were 3-3, meaning they made a profit both ways as underdogs.

Game 3 and Beyond

If a squad is going home down 0-2 and is not more than a -125 favorite, this utterly desperate club will go all out for a victory and could be a solid wager. Do teams get swept? Yes, they do but that is a rarer occurrence. A good reason to pass on an 0-2 home team is if they were thoroughly outplayed and lost both road games by three or more goals.

Otherwise, in Game 3, more traditional hockey handicapping applies, with your best opportunity in Game 4, looking to back the team that lost the prior contest for many of the reasons we mentioned.

Learn More: How to Find Success Betting NHL Games Late in the Season?

Once a series reaches Game 5, you should know if the series is virtually even by numbers (not the series record) understanding what goalie and defense is playing better. On offense, is the scoring balanced or is a club completely reliant on their top scoring line and which could be slowed in the later stages of a series?

This is where your normal handicapping skills have to take over to find winners. However, if typical outcomes have applied, you should be showing a decent profit at this point and the rest is up to you. And remember to check back for more betting strategy at the OddsTrader blog. Happy betting!

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