Latest NHL Playoff Picks, Odds and Matchups
We have already seen a quarter of our shortened NHL season fly by. The season so far has been an exciting octagon style matchup with every game. We are seeing what happens when close-proximity rivals are put even closer, with more matchups and with a shorter leash in terms of playoff participation.
NHL Playoff Matchups and Odds Updated Weekly
Teams were put into four different divisions for the 2021 NHL season, which has resulted in a makeup of regional teams put together as well as the Canadian division. Four teams out of each division will be making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.
With most teams playing roughly a quarter of the 56-game schedule already gone, we have some early ideas about who those four teams will be. Let’s also take a look at the playoff matchups if the season ends now.
NHL Playoff Matchups if the Season Ended Today
The first quarter of our NHL season has truthfully not been too surprising in its results. The top dogs are on top, and while there are one or two small surprises, the playoff predictions look roughly the same as before the season started.
It does vary by division of course. And while none of the divisions are currently locked up, we can already get a clearer picture of which teams are going to be contending and which teams may already be done after around 17 games (sorry Detroit and Ottawa).
Here is the full playoff picture if no more games were to be played this season.
- #1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. #4 Chicago Blackhawks
- #2 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #3 Florida Panthers
Doesn’t Qualify: Columbus, Dallas, Nashville, Detroit
- #1 New York Islanders vs. #4 Boston Bruins
- #2 Washington Capitals vs. #3 Pittsburgh Penguins
Doesn’t Qualify: Philadelphia, New York (R), New Jersey, Buffalo
- #1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. #4 St. Louis Blues
#2 Colorado Avalanche vs. #3 Minnesota Wild
Doesn’t Qualify: Anaheim, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose
- #1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #4 Montreal Canadians
- #2 Edmonton Oilers vs. #3 Winnipeg Jets
Doesn’t Qualify: Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa
The first round will be played by teams in the same division, and will be a regular seeded draw. The number one team vs the fourth best, and the second and third teams playing each other. There are no wild card games, so the top four teams will immediately go.
Right away looking at the matchups, it's not hard to want the season to end now. Each division with the exception of the Central has some of the best matchups that could be chosen. With 30-something odd games left, we will have to wait and see how these spots change.
Updated: March 23, 2021
A Quarter Down, Which Teams are Going Through
The playoff matchups that we see now, however enticing they may be, will likely change before the season is over. With roughly three quarters of the season left, even the top spots are far from being a lock.
Three of the divisions currently have a gap of four points or less between the final playoff spot and the teams just outside of it. With the differences in games played being pretty drastic thus far, it’s difficult to make a prediction on who exactly will go.
That isn’t going to stop us however from trying to pick one team from each division that is not completely obvious to make the 2021 playoffs.
Central Division - Dallas Stars
At the start of this season, Dallas would have been one of the favorites to finish top four in the Central Division. However, due to a whole mess of problems including covid cases, power outages and just about everything else, the Stars have started late and played less.
Now, however, the team is back on a regular schedule and despite the difference of five games, are still only six points behind two of the current top four teams. The team is certainly better on paper, and as the rest of the season plays on we suspect Dallas will usurp one of those two teams.
East Division - Pittsburgh Penguins
The division out East is already starting to pull away with its playoff spots, with five teams currently in the running. The hierarchy has certainly been established quite early, except for those final spots where we are already predicting will come down to Washington vs. Pittsburgh.
Both teams are experiencing similar stories this year. Aging star players and not really the rest of the pieces needed to immediately continue their legacies. When rumors of Crosby being traded are circulated, you know the situation is as serious as it gets.
With both teams having the same problems and pretty much the same season so far, it's safe to assume only one of them will end up making it. We are going with Pittsburgh. They are just the better team overall, and if the goaltending gets figured out, the Penguins may actually have a shot at even making a small run.
West Division - Arizona Coyotes
East Coast, West Coast. Both divisions are shaping up pretty much the same on both coasts. However, in this division we have three of the best teams in the NHL, each of which will likely (should) have a lock on a playoff spot this year. Still, for now it remains close and difficult to choose.
In fact, even with those three teams it remains the division with the most uncertainty. We are actually going to keep the top four the same by choosing Arizona to be the fourth team into the playoffs. It will be devilishly close though between the Coyotes and Anaheim, and more head-to-head matchups in the future will help to reveal the better of these two.
North Division - Winnipeg Jets
The Candian division is the only one with four teams who should clearly make the playoffs. However, with the season still early the division is still relatively close, and Calgary are just outside the top four with more games in hand.
The Edmonton Oilers have played the most games out of the division, but are only sitting in fourth with only a few points separating them and Calgary. Winnipeg sits in third and has been thoroughly impressive in this heated division of rivals.
The Jets have beaten Calgary three times already this season, along with splitting a game apiece against Edmonton. The team has been solid thus far, and with fewer games played than most of the division, should retain its playoff spot when the season ends.
Legalbet and Sportsbook Picks
We took some risks at the beginning of the season by making some early picks for the Stanley Cup winners. Currently, two of the four are in playoff spots (Chicago and Colorado), while we do not talk about the other two (New Jersey and Detroit).
The real question is how have the sportsbooks changed their picks from the beginning of the season to now, with a quarter of the games played? Let’s take a quick look at the odds on the favorites to be Stanley Cup champions then and now.