| Tue 10/04/2018 - 05:02 EDT

NHL Playoff Picks: Ranking Western Matchups by Upset Factor

NHL Playoff Picks: Ranking Western Matchups by Upset Factor

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Western Conference Series by Upset Factor

A benefit to this relatively new playoff format is how it immediately matches up division rivals resulting in some high-level matchups off the bat. But another boon is the upsets. Since this format took place, at least one division winner has lost to a wild card team.

Upsets are sure to happen but the degree of each matters on the match-up. We look into each of the four Western Conference playoff series and rank them on the likelihood of an upset (odds via SportsInteraction).

4) Nashville Predators vs Colorado Avalanche

Series Odds: Nashville (-533); Colorado (+384)
Season Series: 
4-0 Nashville; 0-3-1 Colorado

Colorado snuck into the playoffs with a win over St. Louis last Saturday and they boast the best player in this series: Nathan Mackinnon who is in Hart trophy discussion with a career-best 97 points in 74 games. But they are still dwarfed by the dominant Predators. 

Nashville is the deepest team from top to bottom but their blueline corps is what sets them apart. Led by superstar P.K. Subban, the Predators have surrendered the second-fewest goals and have the most points from its defencemen. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is quietly having another Vezina-worthy season.

The Avs have statistically better special teams but there was no contest when the teams faced in the regular season. Nashville won all four games and outscored Colorado 17-8. In fact, Nashville has won ten straight against Colorado and the playoff experience between both couldn't be further apart.

In a few years, Colorado could be where Nashville is. But right now, Nashville will take 'em to school.

Nashville Predators (-533)

3) Winnipeg Jets vs Minnesota Wild


Series Odds: Winnipeg (-226); Minnesota (+183)
Season Series: 
3-1 Winnipeg; 1-3 Minnesota

If we were ranking the series by rivalries, this would be at the top. The geographic rivals loath each other and despite a 3-1 edge for Winnipeg, two of those victories were decided by one goal. It's unfortunate for Minnesota who lost top defenceman Ryan Suter as his loss could be a difference maker in what should be a tightly-contested series.

Outside Nashville and Tampa Bay, Winnipeg has the deepest team. They've been mired in injuries but continued to truck and their three centres: Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele, and Paul Stastny ranked them fourth-best on 5-on-5 sets via Corsica. If they have an Achilles heel it's their lack of playoff experience. 

Winnipeg has yet to win a playoff game but provided goaltender Connor Hellebuyck continues playing well, the Jets will do better than just winning a game. The Wild are ranked 11th in goals scored but have recently stagnated offensively. They'll have to find ways to pressure Winnipeg more.

While Minnesota is arguably just as talented as Winnipeg, the Jets have the better playmakers and the deeper blueline. They should outlast Minnesota over six games.   

Winnipeg Jets (-226)

2) San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks


Series Odds: Anaheim (-132); San Jose (+110)
Season Series: 
3-0-1 San Jose; 1-1-2 Anaheim

The battle of California hits a new chapter as longtime rivals Anaheim and San Jose square off. Despite their extensive playoff histories, the Ducks and Sharks only met in the playoffs once: in 2009 when they upset the top-seeded Sharks. While different teams now, the aged stars of both teams remember that series well

Anaheim struggled through injuries. Heading to the playoffs, they went on a roll but lost top defenceman Cam Fowler and starting goaltender John Gibson. The Sharks are getting Joe Thornton back and have also been on fire thanks to new acquisition Evander Kane who has injected some game-breaking scoring.

The almost-healthy Ducks are significantly better than they were months back. Ryan Getzlaf is still just 32 despite his grizzled NHL career and he'll again have to shoulder Anaheim's scoring load as the Ducks' fifth-ranked D can only hope to contain San Jose for so long.

The Ducks will be scrappy, but San Jose is healthier and has more methods of scoring. It will be a gruelling series, but the Sharks should edge the Ducks. 

San Jose Sharks (+110)

1) Vegas Golden Knights vs Los Angeles Kings 


Series Odds: Vegas (-132); Los Angeles (+110)
Season Series: 
2-1-1 Vegas; 2-1-1 Los Angeles

As impressive as the Golden Knights were this season, they're still unproven and the odds indicate they are far from a sure thing. The Kings, coincidentally, have a strong history as underdogs and were the first and only eighth-seed to lift the Stanley Cup. This could be the toughest series to call.  

The Golden Knights represent the new-age NHL: fast and killers on the transition. Vegas isn't only good on offence but adept at defence as well. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is having a solid season. But if it's one aspect that can neutralize the Knights, it's what the Kings are good at: playing big and heavy. 

This isn't the old lumbering Kings but a mixture of the speedy and prolific style today and the grinding defensive monsters of old. A bounce-back year from centre Anze Kopitar and the return of goal-scoring machine Jeff Carter only makes them more dangerous.

Vegas is a feel-good story and the greatest NHL expansion team but the Kings are the match-up that could give them fits. An upset is brewing here.

Los Angeles Kings (+110)

Best Canadian Sportsbooks for NHL Playoffs

There is no better time to be a hockey fan than the NHL Playoffs. Each game airs on Sportsnet and CBC while these online bookmakers serve Canadians looking to get some action on the games. 

Read the reviews to learn more about each book.

Category : NHL

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