We’re down to the final four in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the finish line is in sight with semifinal series beginning on Sunday. That said, there’s still lots of time to place NHL bets if you’re so inclined.
Below is a breakdown of the two third-round playoff matchups with the latest lines, complete with player props and some thoughts on the Conn Smythe contenders.
(All betting lines are courtesy of Sports Interaction, and current as time of publication.)
No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens
The most storied franchise in the history of the National Hockey League will face the team with the least amount of history for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. The Habs are in the final four for the first time since 2014, while the Golden Knights are there for the third time in four years.
SERIES WINNER ODDS: Vegas -399, Montreal +253
Vegas: Tomas Nosek, day-to-day (undisclosed injury)
WHY YOU TAKE THE CANADIENS +253: The Habs are scorching hot heading into their series with Vegas. Montreal has won seven straight games and have not trailed for 437:53 — that’s the second-longest streak without trailing in a single playoff year in NHL history.
That stat is in no small part thanks to Carey Price, who is firmly in the Conn Smythe Trophy conversation. Price is +710 to win playoff MVP, and is 8-3 with a 1.97 GAA and .935 SV% this post-season. The Canadiens are also getting a ton of balanced scoring — Joel Armia, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli are all tied for the team lead with four goals.
The Habs boast the best penalty kill in the Stanley Cup playoffs at 90.3%, and haven’t allowed a power-play goal in their last seven games. Vegas is 14th out of 16 playoff teams on the power play by operating at just a 14.3% clip.
WHY YOU TAKE THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS AT -399: Vegas is coming off a hard-fought six-game series with the Presidents' Trophy–winning Colorado Avalanche. The Golden Knights did a fantastic job of shutting down Nathan MacKinnon as the Avs superstar didn’t score a goal in the final five games of the series.
Vegas has scored the second-most goals this post-season with 40 (3.07 per game). Led by William Karlsson, who has four goals and seven assists, the Golden Knights have five players with at least eight points.
Like the man tending the opposing crease, Marc-Andre Fleury’s play has him right in the mix to win the Conn Smythe. Fleury is 8-4 with a 1.91 GAA and .923 SV%, and is +203 to capture playoff MVP.
The Golden Knights have the depth that could be the difference in this series. VGK has 16 players who have registered at least one goal and 20 with at least one point in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
MY PICK: I think this will be a very competitive series. The Habs have done a fantastic job of playing with the lead, while the Golden Knights have a very balanced attack that could be a problem for Montreal. I’ll take this series to be decided in six games at +225.
PLAYER PROP TO WATCH: Most series points, Nick Suzuki vs. Max Pacioretty: Suzuki +175, Pacioretty -250
You’ve got to love the revenge factor for both of these players, who were traded for one another back in September 2018. Pacioretty has scored four goals and added four assists in seven games since returning from injury. Suzuki, meanwhile, has scored four goals and notched four assists in 11 games. That said, the latter has four points on the power play while Pacioretty has just one assist with the man advantage.
I think there is value here in taking Suzuki at +175 because of Vegas’s inability to score on the power play, and Montreal’s No. 1–ranked PK.
No. 3 Tampa bay Lightning vs. No. 4 New York Islanders
These teams will meet for the second consecutive season for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. The Lightning got past the Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final last season in the bubble. Tampa, of course, went on to beat the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final.
SERIES WINNER ODDS: Tampa Bay -300, New York +201
Tampa Bay: no significant injuries
WHY YOU TAKE THE ISLANDERS AT +201: The Islanders are the highest-scoring team so far in these Stanley Cup playoffs, and have scored 43 goals (3.58 per game). New York did a solid job of holding Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to just two goals and five assists combined in round one.
And while Boston’s “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak totalled 12 goals and 12 assists in six games against them in round two, the Islanders held the rest of the Bruins’ roster to a combined five goals.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been clutch all post-season, and is a dark-horse play at +2500 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Pageau has scored three goals and added 10 assists, and is a plus-11 in 12 playoff games. The Islanders were the least-penalized team in the NHL this season and must continue to avoid Tampa Bay’s red-hot power play.
WHY YOU TAKE THE LIGHTNING AT -300: The defending Stanley Cup champions have looked the part through two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tampa has a plus-12 goal differential through 11 games and currently boasts the two favourites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in Andrei Vasilevskiy (+201) and Nikita Kucherov (+579).
Vasilevskiy is 8-3 with a 2.24 GAA and .934 SV% with two shutouts in 11 games. Kucherov (+579) has been on fire since returning from hip surgery. He has five goals and 13 assists to lead all players in scoring.
The Lightning power play has been a buzzsaw this post-season. Tampa is No. 1 with the man advantage at 41.7% (15 for 36) while the Islanders penalty kill has been very suspect at 61.5% (16 for 26).
MY PICK: I think the Lightning can duplicate what they did to the Islanders last season in the bubble. Tampa’s power play will be the difference maker in the series. I’ll take the Bolts to win this series in six games at +392.
PLAYER PROP TO WATCH: Mathew Barzal is a solid bet to lead this series in goals. Though he failed to score a goal in six games versus Tampa last season in the bubble, he has been heating up lately by scoring three goals in New York’s last four playoff games.