NHL Opening Round Matchups: Best Opening Round Series & Biggest Snoozefest

The National Hockey League Players’ Association executive board voted to approve a 24-team, conference-based playoff format for a potential restart of the 2019-20 NHL season this summer.

Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

We’re still a long way away from getting 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff hockey in our lives, as this week would have likely been the start of the conference finals. However, it’s looking more and more likely that we will indeed be getting hockey in some format towards the end of July and into August and September if things continue to move in a positive direction. The plan right now is to jump right into the playoffs after a few weeks to get the players somewhat acclimated to game action. Let’s hope the return to play plan moves quickly, and of course, safely.

Take a look at what the matchups would look like:

I get that this isn’t optimal for the top teams in the NHL that put themselves in great position to make a deep run prior to league’s season halt. However, if the players can get a decent training camp under their belts, it will be glorious for gambling and DFS. Not sure why the Penguins are worried about Carey Price, whose Montreal Canadiens are 31-31-9 with a -9 goal differential. Pittsburgh would likely be the biggest favorites of any team playing in the opening round, and would get extra game action compared to the 1-4 seeds who won’t be play immediately.

Even getting a few more games of Mika Zibanejad and the New York Rangers, or Taylor Hall’s Arizona Coyotes is a great chance for us to gamble while watching some hockey, even if the quality is TBD. I’m already looking forward to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl knifing their way through the Swiss-cheese Chicago Blackhawks defense for a few games.

Best Opening Round Matchup: Hurricanes vs. Rangers

A decent amount of star power plus the huge New York market makes this a series to keep an eye on, whether you just like hockey or are playing DFS. Mika Zibanejad proved himself to be one of the top forwards in all of the NHL this season, scoring 75 points in 57 games while Artemi Panarin added 95 in 69 games. The Rangers rank last in the NHL in expected Goals Against per 60, making them a DFS gold mine. If the Rangers could pull this off, it’ll likely be due to a great performance in net by rookie Igor Shesterkin, who had a .932 save percentage in 2019-20.

The Carolina Hurricanes have been a wet dream for hockey fans that enjoy advanced analytics over the last few years, as they attempt as many quality shots as any team in the league. They lead the league in expected Goals For per 60 minutes, so they shouldΒ be able to generate enough scoring chances to ultimately win this series, but in a 5-game set, the Rangers are a pretty scary team. There’s so much to like regardless of why you tune into this series. You like DFS? Stack up the Hurricanes against the bad Rangers defense, or play contrarian Shesterkin against the chalk Canes stack. Betting? Think of the live-betting opportunities when the Rangers get up early and are going to face an avalanche of 50 Canes shots for the rest of the game. The sweats will be fantastic! This series rocks.

Biggest Opening Round Snoozefest: Canucks vs. Wild

The Wild are going to try to squeeze the life out of the Canucks all series. They have the second-lowest xGA/60 in the NHL, and are probably the better team even though they’re the lower seed. Home-ice advantage could make some of the Vancouver home games somewhat exciting, as they could get their top line in favorable spots that could make get fun for DFS. But whenever games are played in the Xcel Energy Center, you might want to fire up Netflix, Hulu or literally anything else. There’s little mainstream star-power in this series, and neither team is a real contender in the West. Pass.

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