NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Preview & Predictions

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    Western Conference: Final Season Standings with Futures Market

    SeedTeamRecordPointsTo Win West
    R1 / R2 / R3
    To Win Cup
    R1 / R2 /R3
    C1Colorado Avalanche56-19-7119+270 (R1)
    -120 (R2)
    -240 (R3)
    +320 (R1)
    +210 (R2)
    +120 (R3)
    C2Minnesota Wild53-22-7113+800+1700
    C3St. Louis Blues49-22-11109+1000 / +800+2000 / +1700
    P1Calgary Flames50-21-11111+270 / +250+700 / +600
    P2Edmonton Oilers48-27-6102+750 (R1)
    +650 (R2)
    +195 (R3)
    +1600 (R1)
    +1400 (R2)
    +550 (R3)
    P3Los Angeles Kings44-27-1199+3500+5000
    WC1Dallas Stars46-30-698+2200+5000
    WC2Nashville Predators45-30-797+1800+3500

    C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. P2 Edmonton Oilers
    Series Odds: Avalanche -240 / Oilers +195
    Game 1: 8:00pm EST – Tuesday, 5/31
    Key Injuries:
    – D Samuel Girard (COL) suffered a broken sternum in Game 3 of Round 2 and is out for the remainder of the playoffs

    Regular Season Meetings (Colorado 2-1)
    March 21 – Colorado W 3-2 OT at home
    April 9 – Colorado W 2-1 SO on the road
    April 22 – Edmonton W 6-3 at home

    NHL Playoffs: Team Stats Leaders
    Points (Goals / Assists)
    26 – EDM Connor McDavid (T1) – 7G / 19A
    26 – EDM Leon Draisaitl (T1) – 7G / 19A
    15 – EDM Evander Kane (T3) – 12G / 2A
    13 – COL Cale Makar (T8) – 3G / 10A
    13 – COL Nathan MacKinnon (T8) – 8G / 5A
    COL Darcy Keumper – 2.44 GAA (5th), .904 Sv% (11th)
    EDM Mike Smith – 2.70 GAA (T7), .927 Sv% (5th)

    Series Outlook: The ‘Battle of Alberta’ wasn’t much of a battle as the series underdog Oilers cruised by the Flames winning 4-straight, 2 on the road, advancing to the Western Conference Finals before the Avalanche. But now we have a new battle between a pair of greats Connor McDavid & Nathan MacKinnon (The MacBattle? Who’s the Mack? — We’ll keep workshopping it). As the -400 series favorite, Colorado was able to avoid a Game 7 vs. St. Louis with 2 late 3rd period goals in Game 6 to advance. The beauty of playoff hockey is that odds are truly irrelevant; any team can win any night. Despite the Flames and Avalanche being series favorites, we saw a combined 3 OT games, 5 1-goal games, and a home team record of just 4-7. The 1-5 home record between the Avs/Blues was particularly surprising as both teams were dominant at home in the regular season, but no team more than Colorado who finished the regular season with a 32-5-4 home record. If they didn’t coast through the final couple weeks of the season with the top seed in the West comfortably in hand, they might’ve matched the ’95-’96 Red Wings for best 82-game season home record of all-time at 36-3-2. Remember that team? Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey, Nicklas Lidström, Keith Primeau, Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon. Sheesh! Anyways back to this preview…

    Regular Season Matchup Analysis: We actually have a solid 3-game regular season sample between these teams to look at — all games were played in the final month of the season.
    Game 1 – It was a playoff atmosphere on March 21st in Denver at the Ball Arena when who else but MacKinnon scored the game winner in OT. It was a terrific evenly matched game as both teams had nearly the same number of shots, hits, faceoffs won, and blocked shots. The only difference was penalties against the Oilers (12-min to 6) and the Avs took advantage with 2 power-play goals. The Oilers were able to tie the game twice at 1-1 and 2-2 but after a scoreless 3rd period, they were unable to take their first lead in the game with an OT winner. Both current starting playoff goalies were in net too; Mike Smith (EDM) stoped 28 of 31 shots and Darcy Kuemper (COL) stopped 23-25 shots. The usuals stacked the box score, for Colorado Mikko Rantanen scored a pair, Cale Makar had 2 apples, plus Nate’s game winner. For the Oilers Draisaitl, Kane, McDavid, and Yamomoto all had a goal or assist.

    Game 2 – Another playoff style battle came on April 9th, this time at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The story here were the goalies as it took a shootout to settle a 1-1 tie (both scored in the 3rd). Kuemper was the games 1st star with a ridiculous 49 saves on 50 shots (yup, that’s how you beat Edmonton on the road). For the Oilers it was Mikko Koskinen, not Mike Smith, who saved 33 of 34 shots. On offense the games deciding factor was who else but MacKinnon, who scored the Avs only regulation goal and also the game winner in the shootout on a nasty backhand dangle.

    Game 3 – The Oilers dominated the Avalanche at home on April 22nd in the final week of the NHL regular season by a final score of 6-3. I’m not taking anything away from the Oilers here but context is important — Edmonton was looking to clinch a playoff birth with a win while Colorado had already put things in neutral as they were in the middle of losing the final 6 of 7 games of the season. Edmonton got the job done though when they needed it. Newly acquired in January, Evander Kane had a hat-trick all in the 2nd period and was quoted after saying he thought the chemistry with his line-mates had reached a season high. Keumper had a bad performance surrendering 5 goals (2x more than his 2.54 GAA) while Mike Smith was back in net turning in a strong 34 save night on 37 shots against the powerful Avalanche offense.

    Colorado averaged 3.76 goals per game during the regular season (4th in the NHL). The Avs offense is extremely dangerous with 7+ legitimate scoring threats that most teams would welcome to their 1st line. Leading that group is Rantanen and MacKinnon who finished with 36 and 32 goals, respectively. Makar is the best 2-way defenseman in the league, he’s always a threat to score. The Oilers were extremely top heavy in the regular season, relying on McDavid and Draisaitl to produce 30% of the teams points. The playoffs have put a spotlight on how truly dominant they are as they both have 26 points, 11 more than the next. That next man though is Kane who has an NHL Playoffs leading 12 goals. His production has been a huge supplement to McDavid & Draisaitl. Both of these teams won’t have any problem generating offense, so the key storylines in this one will be who can get the first road win and hold onto home ice along with goaltending. Kuemper (2.54 GAA / .921 Sv%) started 30 more regular season games than Smith (2.81 GAA / .915 Sv%) but both are playing equally well through the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. The majority of analysts will take the Avalanche to win the series, and rightfully so as they’re -240 favorites, but this Oilers team has all the pieces to compete with them until the end — buckle up!

    Series Predictions

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