This article is part of our NHL Picks series.
After a Stanley Cup Playoffs first round that saw five Game 7s, the second round will kick off Tuesday and RotoWire's AJ Scholz brings a preview of each series, including updated Stanley Cup odds courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Eastern Conference Matchups
Florida Panthers (-170) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (+150)
Game 1 Tuesday, 7:00 PM ET
In the first round, both teams went deep into their respective series to advance, with the Panthers dispatching the Capitals in six while the Bolts knocked out the Leafs in seven. In the postseason, the normally invincible Andrei Vasilevskiy has been made to look mortal, as he posted a .897 save percentage, the worst of any goalie still in the playoffs. Still, the Leafs' offense has been top-five in the league all season, so he's hardly the first netminder to feel their wrath. For their part, the Panthers' offense can certainly rack up goals and has been led by Carter Verhaeghe (six goals and six assists) in the playoffs. An injury to Brayden Point (leg), who is out for Game 1, will force the Lightning to shuffle up their top-six as well.
NHL Best Bet for Panthers-Lightning
While the above blurb may outline plenty of reasons to utilize the Panthers in this matchup, I'm firmly cemented in the camp of betting on Tampa Bay until they don't win, which hasn't happened since being swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's nine straight series victories and two championships. Add in the fact that you can return +150 value here and there is no way I'm going against the Bolts to win the series.
Carolina Hurricanes (-190) vs New York Rangers (+160)
Game 1: Wednesday, 7:00 PM ET
Among the top-10 players in playoff points, two of them come from the Blueshirts in Mika Zibanejad (11 points) and Adam Fox (10 points). That duo also worked together on a power-play unit that converted at 31.6 percent in the Rangers' seven-game series versus the Penguins, giving them a combined eight points with the man advantage. Both teams had to go the distance and win a Game 7 to advance, with New York having two games go to overtime, including the series clincher. Frederik Andersen (lower body) remains unavailable for the Hurricanes but that hasn't seemed to matter thanks to Antti Raanta and his .927 save percentage
NHL Best Bet for Hurricanes-Rangers
Offensively, the Rangers have the deeper team thanks to goals by 13 different skaters, with Chris Kreider's five tallies leading the way. New York's third line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko hasn't been the most productive but their speed will be hard to match up against and could be the difference-maker in this series. In addition to taking the Rangers to win the series at +160, I don't mind snagging Kreider to lead the series in goals at +450.
Western Conference Matchups
Colorado Avalanche (-400) vs St. Louis Blues (+300)
Game 1 Tuesday, 9:30 PM ET
While the Blues went six games against the Wild in a series that saw no game decided by fewer than three goals, the Avs walked over the Predators in a four-game sweep that included a pair of contests in which Colorado put up seven goals. Perhaps the biggest shift in the postseason came in Game 4 for St. Louis when the club decided to put Jordan Binnington between the pipes and he led the team to three straight wins to close the series. Still, the Avalanche were the Stanley Cup favorites heading into the playoffs and that certainly hasn't changed after a first-round sweep.
NHL Best Bet for Avalanche-Blues
At -400, there is no reason to take Colorado on the series line as the risk is too great for little reward. Instead, I would turn to the exact series outcome where you can get the Avs at +275 to win 4-1. That's securing all three games at home, which should be manageable for a team that went 32-5-4 in Denver during the regular season, then steal one of Game 3 or 4 on the road.
Calgary Flames (-250) vs Edmonton Oilers (+200)
Game 1 Wednesday, 9:30 PM ET
The Battle of Alberta is going to be a heated contest that figures to be the most entertaining series heading into the second round. Additionally, you've got the immovable object in Jacob Markstrom who posted a .943 save percentage and 1.53 GAA in seven games versus the Stars squaring off with the unstoppable force of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl who combined for 23 points in seven games versus the Kings. Perhaps the biggest question mark will be how healthy is Draisaitl's ankle which almost kept him out for Game 6.
NHL Best Bet for Flames-Oilers
While the aforementioned matchup between Calgary's goaltending and Edmonton's offense should headline the series talking points, the Flames are no slouches in the offensive zone, led by Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk who recorded eight and six points, respectively. I don't love giving up -190 on the series line, but you can turn some value by taking Calgary -1.5 games at +110.
Stanley Cup Odds
The top of the board here hasn't really changed, though the Avs are now +190 to win the Stanley Cup, down from +330 before the playoffs started. Similarly, the Panthers remain the second favorites at +380 (previously +550). For longshots, you are looking at the Oilers (+1200), Rangers (+1300) and Blues (+1700). If you want to look just at Conference Winner, you'll have to give up some juice with Colorado (-120) but can still get decent value from the Panthers (+155) to win the East.
Stanley Cup Best Bet
I was on the Avs to win before the Stanley Cup Playoffs started and that hasn't changed, especially since Darcy Kuemper will be ready to play in Game 1 versus the Blues after a scary eye injury. Cale Makar racked up an impressive 10 points in just four games while Nathan MacKinnon led the team in goals with five. The offense is firing on all cylinders and Kuemper was solid before getting hurt. No reason to walk away from Colorado now.
Stanley Cup Longshot Bet
Similarly, my "dark horse" won't change here either as I remain on the Lightning, even though they need to go the distance to get past the Leafs. If Vasilevskiy can bottle up his Game 7 performance, in which gave up just one goal on 31 shots, he should be able to handle the Panthers' offense just as well. They'll return +650 to lift Lord Stanley's Cup while also coming in at +300 to win the Eastern Conference.