In a world where everyone has an opinion on the NBA’s most valuable player, Mock Drafts making it to Version 8.0 by Draft Day and Skip Bayless still having a platform to gives his takes, who can we even trust for straightforward, unbiased sports information? For most sports, we’re still looking but for everything and anything National Hockey League, Daniel Negreanu’s word is gospel.
The NHL post-season starts tonight and before the first puck is dropped, we got Negreanu’s picks, and a few bets, for what should be an exciting opening round to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
New York Rangers (+1.24) over Montreal Canadians
Negreanu expects this to be one of the closer series in the opening round and to go the distance. The Rangers, despite the better regular season record, won’t have home ice, because Montreal won the softest division in hockey but Negreanu believes the Rangers are a slightly better overall team. He also thinks their goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, will play “lights out” and that is why Negreanu is picking and betting on the Rangers to win. New York Rangers in 7.
Ottawa Senators (+1.80) over Boston Bruins
Negreanu has been a hockey fan forever and he says that in 20-plus years of looking at NHL lines, he’s never seen a line this “bonkers.” The Senators offer the best value of any first-round match ups, by far, and that is why Negreanu is all-in on Ottawa. They have home ice, swept the season series with the Bruins and match up extremely well with a depleted Boston team. Negreanu’s only warning, other than the potential trap that every sports bettor dreads, if you are new to hockey and want to see an exciting playoff series, this one should be avoided. Ottawa Senators in 7.
Calgary Flames (+1.47) over Anaheim Ducks
The last of Negreanu’s bets comes in the Western Conference match up between the Flames and Ducks, two teams that are built very differently. The young Flames may lack some size but they make up for that in speed and skill, something the Ducks don't have. They live up to their old namesake, as a mighty, big, strong and tough team but the NHL, according to Negreanu, has favored teams with skill and speed more and more over the last few years. Just ask the LA Kings, a team that missed the playoffs and Negreanu thinks the Ducks will be joining their California counterparts on the sidelines after the first round. Calgary Flames in 6.
Pittsburgh Penguins over Columbus Blue Jackets
The bets are off for the rest of Kid Poker’s Playoff Puck Picks but that isn’t stopping us from, uhhh, making picks! The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby, pictured above, have been hit with a few big injuries this year and it looks like they are finally starting to get back to full health. Negreanu thinks they are ready to rumble in opening round and should handle a star-lacking and struggling Blue Jackets team. Pittsburgh Penguins in 6.
Minnesota Wild over St. Louis Blues
It’s usually not how you start, it’s how you finish but even though they faded late in the season, Negreanu still likes the Wild to advance out of the first round. They won’t have an easy go of it though. The Blues have been playing inspired hockey since trading away star defenseman Kevin Shattenkir and if that level of motivation continues, the Wild hot start won’t count for much. Minnesota Wild in 6.
Edmonton Oilers over San Jose Sharks
If learning curves are necessary to win in the playoffs, the Oilers don’t stand much of a chance, as they have virtually no playoff experience. They do have one of the best young players in the league though, Connor McDavid, pictured below, and have been playing extremely well over the last six weeks. The Oilers are matched up against a drained and not-as-young Sharks squad, one that Negreanu doesn’t think has enough left in the tank to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone out of the opening round. Edmonton Oilers in 6.
Washington Capitals over Toronto Maple Leafs
Not much was expected of the Maple Leafs this year and they were one point away from a favorable first-round matchup. Instead, they get the Capitals, who are stacked and have a lot to prove. Even though the Leafs can score with the best of them, they won’t have enough to keep up with Alexander Ovechkin and Co. Negreanu isn’t expecting a close series here. Washington Capitals in 5.
Chicago Blackhawks over Nashville Predators
Negreanu likes the Blackhawks “to go all the way” but their first-round matchup will likely be their toughest test on the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Nashville is a good team that boasts one of the deepest blue lines in the league and if Pekka Rinne, Nashville's goaltender, gets hot, that could spell trouble for Chicago. In the end, the Blackhawks are always “magical” in the playoffs and know how to win. Chicago Blackhawks in 6.