The NHL playoffs are finally upon us, folks. Over the next two months, you’ll have a bevy of betting opportunities in the sport. Why not start out with a bang though? We think that’s possible if you take our betting advice in the rest of this article, which includes free picks on several first-round NHL playoff series.
Playoff Series Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning
The best NHL betting sites are expecting heavy volume in this Tampa vs. Toronto matchup. Both teams are legit Stanley Cup contenders, who probably don’t deserve to exit this round, but one will have to. As it stands, the oddsmakers are pegging the Leafs as betting favorites over the Lightning:
These teams couldn’t be more opposite from one another when comparing recent history. The Bolts, for instance, have been to three straight Stanley Cup Finals. No team in the Eastern Conference has stopped them in the playoffs since 2019. Toronto is on a steak themselves, but not a good one. The Leafs have been perennial postseason chokers for two decades, having not won a single postseason series since 2004!
Honestly, we can’t get that reputation out of our heads when betting on this matchup. Toronto, for all its success this year, is still led by the same core of players — Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, and defenseman Morgan Rielly. Want to know what that group is responsible for? Count ‘em, six one-and-done playoff exits together. Six! How can any bettor not get queasy knowing that?
So you can probably guess where our money is going here — the three-time-reigning Eastern Conference champions, that’s who! The Bolts are a team that can sleepwalk through the regular season then flip the switch when it counts — and that’s right now. Tampa beat Toronto in seven games this same round in 2022, and we wouldn’t be surprised if deja vu plays out alone again.
Series Pick: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets
Did anyone else do a double-take when looking at the Vegas-Winnipeg series odds or was that just us? Despite being the number one seed, despite having home-ice advantage, and despite sweeping the regular-season series, the Golden Knights are only -170 to advance here. To us, that seems rather mispriced and should be more lopsided. Here are the full betting odds:
Look, we get it, Vegas floundered in the back half of the season. That downtrend has soured bettors and oddsmakers on the team, but there’s reason to believe the Golden Knights could turn it around: the return of forward Mark Stone. He’s expected back in the lineup for the first time since January — which coincides with the period in which Vegas lost its “edge” per se. Stone might not be 100 percent right away, but even a hobbled Stone is enough to get the team’s juices going again.
We’re hammering this Vegas line. They’re the far superior team to Winnipeg in every position, sans goaltender. And it’s not like the Jets are scorching hot either. Likewise, they played a much better first half of the year than second. Vegas is the bet to make here, without question.
Series Pick: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
The Devils-Rangers matchup is expected to be uber close, with bookies giving it the closest betting line of the first round. The Devils are favorites, but just barely. New Jersey benefits from having the better regular-season record (they finished 52-22-8) and going 3-0-1 over New York this season. Take a look at the series odds to advance to round two:
|New York Rangers||+100||-400||-400|
Despite the Devils' advantages, we believe the Rangers will come out on top. The X-factor is likely going to come down to goaltending, which matters extra in the playoffs. Without question, New York has the superior man in the net. Igor Shesterkin is one of the best goaltenders in the whole league, while Vitek Vanecek of the Devils is as average as it gets. Not only that, but Vanecek has limited playoff experience with a mere two career games played. That’s it! Much of that same inexperience plagues the rest of New Jersey's roster too.
All of these factors lead us to pick the Rangers to win. They were oh so close to a Stanley Cup Finals trip a year ago, and we sense that experience (plus the presence of Shesterkin) will put them over the top in the first round.
How To Bet On 2023 NHL Playoffs?
If you are interested in betting on the NHL playoffs, there are several betting sites available that offer a full range of wagers, including series picks, spreads in individual games, props, and more. But the sites you see listed in the table are the very best at this — per our latest sportsbook reviews. What really makes these bookmakers shine is the pricing on the plethora of these wagers. Bettors are sure to maximize value on these wagers all the way through the Stanley Cup Finals.
Last thing before we let you go: take a hard look at the lucrative sportsbook bonuses available from site to site. Some deals could be worth as much as $2500 in free play — which could effectively bankroll your NHL playoff bets for a period of time. Our favorite bonuses are detailed below. Pick one and voila, you’re next NHL playoff bets are “on the house!”