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2019 NHL Playoffs Futures Betting Preview

It's a great time of year to be a sports bettors as the playoffs in both the NHL and NBA are about to get going, and for both leagues, it's a two-month grind towards the ultimate goal of winning a championship. Without question the quest for the Stanley Cup is more physically demanding for the players, and with much more parity in the NHL to begin with, the NHL playoffs can turn into a magical time of year for hockey fans and bettors.

All of that parity also means that finding success in the NHL playoff market can be tough, but it never hurts to have a few futures tickets in your pocket with the hopes that at worst, some possible hedging opportunities arise. With that in mind, here are some plays for this year's playoffs with the goal of cashing at least a few units by mid-June. First Round Series Winner – Favorite Best Bet:

Pittsburgh Penguins (-151) over New York Islanders

The Penguins shot at a three-peat last year came up short when they lost to eventual champion Washington in the 2nd round, but after all that hockey played for their core group of guys over the previous few seasons – in the NHL and internationally – getting that longer off-season could be something that pays off this spring.

The Crosby-Malkin core isn't getting any younger in Pittsburgh these days and they know that they've likely only got a few more legitimate cracks at another Stanley Cup in the coming years, and that they'd better make the most of those opportunities.

Pittsburgh and New York split the season series two games apiece, and while they haven't met since early December, it was those final two meetings that went the Penguins way. Against an Islanders team that's got way fewer playoff battles under their belt on the whole, and no real dominant line to count on to produce when the going gets tough, even having home ice isn't going to save the Islanders from another 1st round playoff exit in the franchise's long history of doing just that since the glory days of the early 1980's. First Round Series Winner – Underdog Best Bet:

Dallas Stars (+155) over Nashville Predators

The Dallas Stars made a point this year to tighten up things tremendously on the defensive end after years of their run-and-gun style lead to long summer vacations. It worked enough to get them a Wildcard spot in this year's playoffs, and that type of focus in your own end is a tried and true blueprint for finding success in playoff hockey.

And yet, even with that defensive focus, this Stars team is still loaded up front with skilled goal scorers who have been deep in the playoffs before throughout their careers (Seguin, Spezza, Zuccarello, Radulov,) and if they see an offensive spike during this series with the Predators – a team that prides themselves on defense as well – then this could be a series that the Stars easily steal.

With two of the best three teams in the league in terms of goals allowed per game squaring off here, with a +155 price tag, it's not hard to root for a few bounces to go the Stars way in what should be a tight series filled with 3-2 type of games. Conference Winner Futures Best Bets:

Calgary Flames to win West (+350)
Pittsburgh Penguins to win East (+700)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have dominated the entire league this year and are the popular (and easy) choice to go the distance, and it's really hard not to like their chances to at least get to the Eastern Conference Final. But at +125 to win the conference, there isn't a whole lot of value in backing that type of play now.

Enter the play on Pittsburgh at +700 as with the bracket format you know a team coming from the Metropolitan side of things will be opposing Tampa (or someone else) with a berth in the Stanley Cup Final on the line, and should it be a Penguins/Lightning matchup, well then some nice hedging opportunities will arise.

I don't think you can ignore the Penguins pedigree at this time of year, and while they are all a year older and that means many more hockey miles on their body, off a relatively long summer a year ago, Pittsburgh is more than capable of making a deep run again this year. You already know my thoughts on them getting by the Islanders in Round 1, and with Washington or Columbus up next after that, I don't believe either of those teams will be able to get past Crosby and company this year.

Out in the West, it is the #1 seed I'm backing with at a near 4-1 price tag, as Calgary may not have the experience that many other teams do in this 'tournament', but their speed and scoring ability is what led them to the top of a very physical Western Conference, and while playoff hockey is 'heavier', as long as the Flames get solid goaltending throughout, they should be the first Canadian team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals since the Vancouver Canucks did it in 2011. Stanley Cup Winner Future Bet:

Pittsburgh Penguins to win Stanley Cup (+1400)

If all goes according to this plan and we do get a Calgary/Pittsburgh Final, the Flames will follow suit in terms of what happened to the 2011 Vancouver Canucks team, hopefully without the riots afterwards. It might not take seven games for the Flames to fall to Pittsburgh, but at +1400, the time is now to potentially cash in on what may end up being the last hurrah for Crosby and Malkin.

For every team not named Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh's arguably got the easiest path to the Conference Finals, and from there it's just a matter of them showing up and knocking off the President Trophy winners.

It's well known that the President's Trophy winners don't exactly have the best track record in terms of winning the Stanley Cup – has only happened twice since the 2002-03 season, and only once in the past five years have they even made it to the Conference Finals. This Penguins franchise is responsible for eliminating two of those past winners (Washington in 2016 and 17), and the only other President's Trophy team to win the award by a margin of 20+ points in the standings – 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings – fell in the Conference Finals to eventual Stanley Cup winner Colorado.

Pittsburgh could follow that same script this year, giving Crosby hist 4th Stanley Cup – two more than his mentor Mario Lemieux – and cementing this organization as the best in the league during the latter half of this decade.

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