2023 NHL Playoffs Analysis: 3 Things to Consider for Your 1st-Round Picks

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Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins stands in the crease as the fans celebrate the Bruins third goal against the Florida Panthers. Rich Gagnon/Getty Images/AFP.

The NHL postseason is a completely different beast compared to the regular season. Now, everything counts and the slightest mistake or moment of genius can have a much bigger impact on the outcome of a game or series.

Here are our top 3 things to consider in this first round of the playoffs for your NHL picks.

1. Matchups

The first round of NHL playoffs sees the top-placed team in each division face the Wild Card teams, whilst the second and third face off against each other.

This is the most important round of the playoffs. All the teams have worked vigorously hard to get to this point and nobody wants to fall on the first hurdle, especially the teams who have home advantage and safely made it into the playoffs. The teams who fought until the very end to make the postseason have nothing to lose at this stage as they almost didn’t make it.

Generally, the top teams vs. the Wild Card teams will represent a miss match, and the top teams are usually heavily favored to win the series. There are always going to be upsets in the 1st round, whether it be a Wild Card team advancing to the next round or a team coming back from 3-1 down to win the series. This is generally where you will find the biggest NHL odds.

As an example, the four Wild Card teams in 2022/23 are priced up as follows to advance to Round 2:

  • Florida Panthers: +500
  • NY Islanders: +310
  • Seattle Kraken: +250
  • Winnipeg Jets: +140

Compare these to the rest of the matchups in Round 1, where the biggest odds available is the Tampa Bay Lightning at +150 to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rarely will a team sweep the opposition 4-0 in Round 1. It might be best to target the bigger underdogs when they’re playing on home ice, or if you believe you have a significant edge, a series win.

2. Game Intensity and Momentum

Postseason hockey is a fine art. The games are very different from the regular season ones. Teams play with a lot of intensity, which can sometimes be beneficial to the underdogs as the favored teams might lack some intensity because they might have been coasting through most of the regular season.

These games are generally a lot more physical, hard-hitting, and not as tactical as they might seem. Players and teams are more reactionary than reactive. These games can be Gung Ho from start to finish. and generally, the hardest working team comes away as winners as opposed to the “best team”.

Momentum shifts in a playoff series are real. A team can be 3-0 up in the series and cruising to the next round and then one big save or one goal can provide the losing team with one moment of belief that can flip the whole series on its head. Take note of teams who are outperforming their regular season form.

3. Superior Goaltending

Despite a few teams in this year’s playoffs having par or slightly below-par offenses, they all have one thing in common: solid goaltending. At the end of the day, a team can only do so much offensively but the name of the game here is to score goals and certain teams are very good at not allowing that to happen.

Uneven matchups might not look so uneven at U.S. betting sites when we see the underdog has the much better or sometimes even hotter (more in-form) goaltender.

Let’s be real, goaltenders do and have won playoff series alone in the past. Yes, their team can help them out defensively but if the offense can’t put up goals, the goaltender has to dig deeper.

Keep an eye on the underdog teams who have a better goaltender or a goaltender who seems to be coming into his prime at this stage of the season.