NHL Playoffs picks, odds: Expert predictions for Caps-Rangers, Bolts-Panthers, Avs-Jets and Preds-Canucks

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NHL Playoffs picks, odds: Expert predictions for Caps-Rangers, Bolts-Panthers, Avs-Jets and Preds-Canucks

We have four games on the docket as we continue in the early days of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Rangers drew first blood on Sunday against the Washington Capitals with Matt Rempe scoring in the win. He’s become quite the story since being called up to the Blueshirts. Rempe now has as many goals in the playoffs as he did in the regular season. But will Game 2 see him score again? Or will he fight? Rangers fans only care as much if his actions contribute to the Capitals’ destruction. The Capitals weren’t getting much love from our prognosticators entering the postseason and another loss won’t give them any favours, even if they have Games 3 and 4 at home.

Down south, we await part two of the Sunshine State battle between Tampa Bay and Florida. Carter Verhaeghe and the Panthers won the opener but if that game was any indication, there’s too much talent on either side to think that series will end in four or five games. But stranger things have happened, including the Lightning sweeping the Panthers in an extremely close series in 2022.

While on the subject of Verhaeghe, our very own Shayna Goldman wasted no time propping him up compared to Kyle Connor. If you listen to The Athletic Hockey Show, you may remember Shayna and I going back and forth on who’s the better player between the two. I tried to make the point that Connor’s stats still look good in fewer games.

But, to quote Adrien Broner: “I ain’t gon’ lie, I’m getting cooked!”

Finally, the Avalanche needs some goaltending help. Alexandar Georgiev allowed seven goals on 23 shots in a 7-6 loss. This means Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t so perfect in that series opener either. But the Jets certainly will take a 1-0 series lead over playing from behind.

And we’re still in awe at the emergence of Dakota Joshua in a Game 1 win over the Nashville Predators and its ensuing aftershocks. Canucks Twitter even lost it when their owner, Francesco Aquilini, roasted himself with a callback to a tweet that made him the laughingstock of his own fanbase. Emotions tend to ride high when you’re hosting playoff games for the first time in nine years.

Odds are from BetMGM and update live. Buy tickets to see your favorite team on StubHub.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers — Game 2

How to watch: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, SN

Rangers lead series 1-0

Series odds: Rangers -1000, Capitals +650

Key takeaways 

  • Alex Ovechkin was a non-factor in Game 1 of the series. It was the fourth time in his playoff career he was held without a shot on goal and the second time it happened against the Rangers. The Capitals are 0-4 in those games.
  • Since June 2022, Chris Kreider has scored in his last three Game 1s. In his previous two Game 2s in the playoffs, Kreider has recorded two-point games in both games. Yes, that’s a ton of twos.
  • If Igor Shesterkin is in goal during the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s a good chance he’s on his game. In his last 24 playoff appearances, Shesterkin has had just one game where he had a save percentage below .900. He also hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a playoff game since May 9, 2022, when he allowed six goals in a 7-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • John Carlson’s next playoff goal will be his 20th all-time, putting him eighth all-time among Capitals playoff goalscorers. It would also be his first playoff goal since May 7, 2022, against the Florida Panthers.
  • You know about the Capitals minus-37 goal differential being the worst for a playoff team since the 1990-91 season when the Hartford Whalers (minus-38) and the Vancouver Canucks (minus-72) made the postseason. How did those two teams fare that spring? Hartford and Vancouver each won two games in their opening-round series before falling to a team that lost in their respective conference finals.

Expert picks

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers  — Game 2

How to watch: 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, SN360

Panthers lead series 1-0

Series odds: Panthers -400, Lightning +310

Key takeaways 

  • Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn’t allowed more than two goals in each of his last three playoff appearances. He has one win in those three games.
  • Nikita Kucherov has to be on his game to give the Lightning a chance in this series. But he hasn’t scored a goal in his last six playoff games. He has four assists in that span.
  • Carter Verhaeghe scored in Florida’s Game 1 win over the Lightning, his third-ever goal scored against his former team in 11 career playoff games against them.
  • Aleksander Barkov picked up two assists in Game 1 against the Lightning, but he still hasn’t scored a goal in his last eight playoff games. He hasn’t scored a playoff goal since May 20, 2023, against the Carolina Panthers.

Expert picks

Colorado Avalanche at Winnipeg Jets — Game 2

How to watch: 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, CBC

Jets lead series 1-0

Series odds: Jets -165, Avalanche +140

Key takeaways 

  • Connor Hellebuyck was on the hook for six goals allowed in his team’s Game 1 win over Colorado, the second time he’s allowed six in a playoff game since April 15, 2018, when the Minnesota Wild scored that same amount in a 6-2 win. Hellebuyck has only allowed fewer than three goals in a playoff game just twice in his last 12 postseason appearances dating back to May 2021.
  • Mikko Rantanen has 30 goals and 89 points in 71 career playoff games. He is four goals away from tying Milan Hejduk who ranks fourth all-time in Avalanche playoff goals.
  • Kyle Connor’s two-goal performance against Colorado was the third two-goal game he’s ever had in the playoffs. It’s the first time he’s scored twice in a playoff game since April 14, 2019, against the St. Louis Blues.
  • Cale Makar had a three-point game in the loss to the Jets on Sunday, but it also continued a strange streak. Dating back to last spring against Seattle, Makar has played his fourth consecutive playoff game where he notched exactly four shots on goal. The feat has happened in five of his last six postseason games.
  • Over the last 13 years, the Jets have scored seven in a playoff game twice. That is more than the NFL’s New York Jets, who haven’t reached the playoffs since the 2010 season.

Expert picks

Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks — Game 2

How to watch: 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2, SN

Canucks lead series 1-0

Series odds: Canucks -275, Predators +220

Key takeaways 

  • Dakota Joshua’s two goals and an assist in Vancouver’s Game 1 win are his first-ever playoff points. It’s also the second time he’s ever recorded a three-point game, in the playoffs or regular season. He scored a goal and added two assists in a 4-2 win over Chicago earlier this season on Feb. 13, 2024.
  • Nashville is the fourth different franchise Ryan O’Reilly has scored a postseason goal for, including Colorado, St. Louis and Toronto. O’Reilly is two goals away from matching his total playoff goal output for Toronto and Colorado (3).
  • Elias Lindholm scored the Canucks’ first goal of the playoffs in Sunday’s win. It’s the third straight time he’s scored his team’s first goal of a playoff series dating back to 2022 when he was still a member of the Calgary Flames and they played against Dallas and Edmonton.
  • Sunday’s loss to Vancouver was the fourth consecutive time Juuse Saros allowed four goals in a game including his final three games of the regular season. Sunday’s loss is also Saros’ third consecutive playoff loss. Saros only has three Stanley Cup playoff wins and hasn’t won in the playoffs since May 2021 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • The Predators drew headlines for playing their best hockey once their planned trip to the Las Vegas Sphere to see U2 was canceled. That was back in February after they lost badly to the Dallas Stars in a regular season game. But if you want to feel old, none of the players on the Predators roster were born when U2’s most successful album, The Joshua Tree, was released in 1987. Preds head coach Andrew Brunette was 13 years old then.

Expert picks

(Photo of Nathan MacKinnon: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)