2024 NHL Playoff Odds: First-Round Series Bets

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Written By Evan Scrimshaw | Last Updated
NHL playoff odds

With the 2024 NHL playoffs starting Saturday, eight first-round matchups have various degrees of intrigue. The Carolina Panthers begin the postseason as the favorites in Stanley Cup odds. But when the President’s Trophy-winning Boston Bruins lost in the first round last year, it was just the latest example that anything can happen in playoff hockey. That means NHL playoff odds are full of exciting bets.

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NHL First-Round Series Playoff Odds

The series below are listed in order of the bracket; if you were to start in the Western Conference top left, work your way down and then over to the Eastern Conference right side of the bracket from top to bottom.

The winners of the first two series listed would face each other in the second round. The winners of the third and fourth series listed would meet in the second round, and so on through the bracket. The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are a fixed bracket with no re-seeding.

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars

Series Analysis

This series requires throwing out every metric. Vegas’ whole strategy this year has been to load up on talent that isn’t cap-compliant, knowing that the salary cap turns off for the playoffs. With Mark Stone likely coming back likely for Game 1 and trade deadline acquisition Tomas Hertl back already, this team is radically different than the roster they’ve had up to now.

That said, Dallas is returning essentially the same team that made the Western Conference Finals last year. They’re fourth in 5-on-5 expected goals and won the West. I think everyone will likely be using Vegas as a place to pick an upset, but the lack of continuity and home ice for the Stars is enough for me to bet Dallas.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Winnipeg Jets

Series Analysis

It’s probably the hardest series to handicap; this is a complete coin toss.

The Avalanche, 2022 Stanley Cup champs, have lost talent over the years and suffer from incredibly shaky goaltending. Meanwhile, Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck is putting up an incredibly quiet .921 Save% and not showing signs of that fading.

Colorado is slightly better 5v5, ranking eighth by expected goals as opposed to Winnipeg’s 12th, but that difference could mean nothing if Hellebuyck is on his game.

Winnipeg hasn’t made the playoffs since the Canadian bubble of 2021, while the Avalanche lost in the first round in 2023 after winning the Cup. It’s a stay-away of a series for me, if there’s ever been one.

Nashville Predators vs. Vancouver Canucks

Series Analysis

Finally, an opportunity to pick an upset, and the Canucks are going down. They’re not good. They rode six players scoring goals on 20% or more of their shots until February. They racked up a ton of points in the process, and the combination of that good luck, Edmonton sucking for a month, and Vegas’ injuries mean they won the Pacific. This team sucks.

Their season-long stats don’t look that bad – eighth in 5v5 expected goals versus Nashville’s sixth. But since the All-Star Break, this team is 13th in the league against a Nashville team that’s closed on a 21-7-3 heater. The Canucks are a great overperformance of pre-season expectations. They’re not that good.

Nashville +1.5 games and their series moneyline are both excellent bets.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers

Series Analysis

The Kings are shaping up to be my biggest divergence from the rigorous statistical approach governing this analysis because I frankly don’t see it. They’re third in expected at 5v5, 25th in shooting percentage at 5v5, and they generally have the fancy stat profile of a contender. But I plainly do not see them winning this series or even more than a game.

The Oilers are top of the league in expected goals at 5v5, have the best power play in the league, and Leon Draisaitl steps up when the moment gets brightest. In 28 playoff games in the last two seasons, Leon has 20 goals and 50 points. Oh, and the Oilers have Connor McDavid.

The Oilers have knocked out the Kings in the last two seasons. They’re gonna do it again.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers

Series Analysis

A rematch of the 2022 second round, the Lightning are trying to make what could be one last run this year. Except this year its problems have compounded in a way they haven’t previously. 19th in 5v5 expected goals, Tampa Bay has been saved by being second in shooting percentage this year. While some of that is Steven Stamkos’ established skill, the Lightning is shooting above its heads. In the playoffs, regression is likely when goals are harder to find.

On the other side, Florida is fourth in 5v5 expected goals and two goalies above a .915 Save%. The Panthers are built for playoff hockey, as last year’s run to the Cup Final showed, and they’re my pick to win the Cup. They’ve shown nothing to suggest that they should lose in the first round, especially not to a Lightning team as reliant on unsustainably high shooting splits as they are.

Florida to win the series is a bet for me.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins

Series Analysis

The Bruins did everything they could to engineer a repeat of the matchup that won the series in 2013, 2018, and 2019. Tanking the end of the season, the Bruins wanted to get into Toronto’s side of the bracket. The question then turns to whether it was worth it.

18th at 5v5 expected goals against the Leafs’ 14th, the Bruins are sixth in the league in Goals Against.

The Bruins’ goalie tandem sported .916 and .915 Save percentages this year, both in the top 12 of goalies who played more than 15 games. The Leafs need to hope Ilya Samsonov’s late-season form is more predictive.

At the end of the day, these two teams are evenly matched by the metrics, but outside of last year’s collapse, the Bruins step up when needed, and the Leafs shrink. The Bruins have owned the Leafs, winning the last seven games back to last year. This is the Bruins’ series to lose, and they’re not about to lose it.

Bruins only being -125 is laughable. Bruins -1.5 games is also worth a bet at the price.

Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

Series Analysis

The Capitals are the sixth-worst team in the league by goal differential. Their leading goal scorer only scored 31 goals. Washington only had two players score more than 20 goals, and it is generally one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs. The advanced stats aren’t much better, ranking 25th in 5-on-5 expected goals.

The Rangers have legitimate concerns for a team that won as many games as they did. They’re 21st in 5v5 expected goals and reliant on elite goaltending.

But Washington ain’t gonna be the team that does much. Rangers -450 to win this series will be attached to multiple other series bets I like for series parlays.

New York Islanders vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Series Analysis

The Islanders got into the playoffs through the failures of the Red Wings and Flyers, and while they have been better under Patrick Roy, it won’t matter. The Hurricanes are second in expected goals at 5v5, and the Islanders are 18th. Frederik Andersen is rocking a .932 Save% since returning from blood clotting issues earlier this season for Carolina.

The Islanders did make two conference finals in 2020 and 2021, but since the end of the increased variance COVID seasons, they’re not the same team. New York has a better chance of taking this series to six games than the Capitals do, solely on the back of Varlamov’s .918 Save %, but Carolina should win.

Best of luck betting the NHL Playoff odds!

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