The Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals got underway this weekend and the two series favorites have taken an early edge with impressive wins. The following is a closer look at each of the two series along with some up-to-date betting trends that will help to handicap this week’s games.
No.7 Washington Capitals vs. No.1 New York Rangers
Washington opened this best-of-seven semifinals series as a +150 underdog despite knocking-off the defending champion Boston Bruins in dramatic fashion with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7 as a 158 road underdog. The Capitals were actually underdogs in all seven games in that series. They came into Game 1 against New York as 129 road underdogs and fell 3-1 after the Rangers tallied two goals in the third period.
If Washington is going to have any chance to win this series it is going to need another strong effort from players such as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who combined for nine points against the Bruins. The Capitals will also have to rely on back-up goalie Braden Holtby, who was pressed into service due to injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. He has been rock-solid so far with a goals-against-average of 2.31 and a .931 save percentage through Game 1 of this series.
New York appears to be picking-up steam after being pushed to the limit by Ottawa in the first round. It needed a 2-1 victory as 169 home favorites in Game 7 to send the Senators home for the season and five of the seven games in this series were decided by just one goal.
Brad Richards leads the Rangers in scoring in the postseason with three goals and three assists along with six other players that have at least four points. While New York has struggled at times to find the back of the net, they have been in every game due to the stellar play of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Through eight playoff games, he has posted a 1.61 GAA and .945 save percentage, but most importantly, he has been able to come up with the huge saves when he needed to the most.
The Capitals are 5-2 in their last seven games as road underdogs but 0-6 in their last six conference semifinal games. The total has gone ‘over’ in seven of their last nine games in the conference semifinals
The Rangers are 2-6 in their last eight conference semifinal games but 21-10 in their last 31 home games as favorites. The total has stayed ‘under’ in four of their last five playoff games as favorites.
Head-to-head, the home team is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings and the total has gone 5-1-4 in the last 10 games in New York.
No.6 New Jersey Devils vs. No.5 Philadelphia Flyers
New Jersey needed a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over Florida as a 109 road favorite in Game 7 of its first-round series to advance to the conference semifinals. This was another tight series with four games being decided by a goal including the final two in overtime. The Devils rallied to tie Game 1 in this series on a Petr Sykora goal halfway through the third period, but fell 4-3 in overtime as 145 road underdogs.
Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk each have three goals and three assists in the playoffs, but it has been the play of center Travis Zajec that has made a major difference. He leads the team with four goals and three assists, but was shutout in Game 1 of this series. Veteran netminder Martin Brodeur has been affective but not at his best with a GAA of 2.28 and .917 save percentage in eight playoff games.
The one thing that Philadelphia has consistently done throughout its 4-2 series win over Pittsburgh and in Game 1 of this series is put the puck in the net. Claude Giroux leads the team with 15 points and Danny Briere has 10 points including the game winning goal in Game 1 of this series.
The Flyers have averaged 4.86 goals-per-game, but have given-up an average of 4.14 goals in seven games. Ilya Bryzgalov has really struggled at times with a GAA of 3.70 and a .873 save percentage and at this point, has to be considered Philadelphia biggest liability to a long run in these playoffs.
The Devils are 10-4 in their last 14 games overall but just 1-5 in their last six playoff games as underdogs. The total has ended as a ‘push’ in three of their last four playoff games as underdogs.
The Flyers are 1-4 in their last five conference semifinal games but 13-5 in their last 18 games as favorites. The total has gone ‘over’ in six of their last eight games at home.
Head-to-head, New Jersey is now just 8-17 in the last 25 meetings and 3-10 in its last 13 games in Philadelphia.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.