This article is part of our Handicapping the NHL series.
It's finally here! The start of the NHL postseason is less than 24 hours away and, if you're like me, you're prepared to watch every minute of the action and lay some money down. Looking ahead to this Saturday's slate of five games, below you'll find my Moneyline/Spread and over/under picks, as well as my anytime goalscorer prop on each matchup with odds courtesy of our partners at BetMGM.
New York Rangers vs Carolina Hurricanes - 12 pm ET
Heading into this matchup, I've got some questions about the Hurricanes netminding. Carolina will also be forced to give more minutes to the rest of their blue line with Dougie Hamilton (undisclosed) appearing set to miss an extended chunk of time. The Rangers sport their own impressive D-core of offensively-minded talents, not to mention MVP candidate Artemi Panarin up front. For my money, this is a good opportunity to get some value out of the Rangers at +105 compared to taking the Canes at -125. Only one of the exhibition matches featured more than five goals, so I'll take the under 5.5 at +105. The favorite for each team's anytime goalscorer is Mika Zibanejad (+135) and Sebastian Aho (+140), but I'll take the leading blue-line scorer for the Blueshirts Anthony DeAngelo (+550), who figures to quarterback the No. 1 power-play unit.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Edmonton Oilers - 3 pm ET
It's no secret that I anticipate this being a rout that ends quickly in three games. The Hawks getting Corey Crawford back is no doubt a game-changer, but he's still facing two of the most dynamic scorers in the league in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. The Moneyline value for the Oilers won't offer much return at -162, so instead, consider taking Edmonton at -1.5 in order to improve the odds (+165). Chicago isn't devoid of stars either with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and netminding is easily the Oilers' biggest weakness. As such, I'll be taking the over 6.5 at +105. It will be the aforementioned Draisaitl (+125) and Kane (+170) who top the anytime goalscorer odds, yet Dominik Kubalik is coming off his first 30-goal campaign. He was also just bumped up to the first line in his team's exhibition, which has me trending his direction at +200.
Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders - 4 pm ET
Rather than being a return to form as some hoped, Wednesday's exhibition was another nightmare outing for Panthers' netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, as he gave up five goals on 34 shots to the Lightning. On the heels of the poorest statistical season of his career in which he posted a personal-worst mark in GAA (3.23) and nearly did the same in save percentage (.900), I don't have a lot of faith in "Big Game Bob" at this point. Still, the Islanders lack a true offensive stud, which puts an Islanders -1.5 bet outside my range, leaving me to take the Moneyline Islanders at -129. Coach Barry Trotz demands a defensively-sound, two-way game from his players, which is why they've gotten by with just a 2.78 goal per game rate this year. There isn't a lot of value in taking the under at 5.5 here, but at -110 it's still the best option. For anytime goalscorers, it will be Mike Hoffman and Brock Nelson leading the way for their clubs at +230, and I'll take New York's leading sniper in Nelson (26 goals) to snag one in this matchup.
Montreal Canadiens vs Pittsburgh Penguins - 8 pm ET
Pittsburgh is loaded with stars and studs in the top six beyond its world-class centers, including the returning from injury Jake Guentzel and new man Jason Zucker, who will be moved down to the second line to play with Evgeni Malkin. The club's high-powered offense will create a matchup nightmare for the Habs. At -189 the Moneyline doesn't offer much value, so the logical move would be to jump to the spread at Penguins -1.5 for +140. However, Montreal still retains the services of Carey Price between the pipes, who is capable of stealing a game all on his own in this series. Still, for my money, it's the Penguins to cover the spread that offers the best risk versus value option here. As far as over/under, its a toss-up, quite literally as you'll get -110 either way at 5.5. Coach Mike Sullivan hasn't named a starter, but both Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are capable of keeping the game tight, so I'd hedge toward the under here. As of print time, BetMGM doesn't have any time goalscorer odds, but you can test your luck with the first goalscorer. Sidney Crosby leads the way at +900 while Brendan Gallagher is the top option for the Habs at +1400. With 43 points in 41 career playoff games, Jake Guentzel has been a beast in the postseason and will be motivated to get his season back on track after his injury stint, so taking him at +1200 is where I'll lay down my cash.
Winnipeg Jets vs Calgary Flames - 10:30 pm ET
If you're waiting until the end of the night to find some good value, you've missed the opportunity. Neither team offers plus value on the Moneyline with Winnipeg at -105 and Calgary at -115. Looking to the spread, you could go for the Flames at -1.5 and +210, but I certainly won't be beating against a Vezina Trophy candidate in Connor Hellebuyck, who won't allow this game to be that one sided. Both clubs have offensive talent in players like Mark Scheifele and Johnny Gaudreau, but to me, this game (series) comes down to goaltending, where the Jets are in a class of their own. It's nearly even money, so I'll take Winnipeg on the Moneyline for Game 1. It won't get much better playing the over/under as it's set a 5.5 at -110 for either side, though I think the netminding concerns with Calgary will have me taking the over. Similar to the previous matchup, we don't have an anytime goalscorer yet, but Elias Lindholm (+700) and Kyle Connor (+900) are the favorites to be the first goalscorer. I think I'd even be able to figure out how to score playing alongside Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Give me Connor here with those odds.