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Wow, what an exciting 1st round of games, 7 out of 8 series went at least 6 games and 2 game 7’s. I swept the East picks, even though Pitt gave us a scare. Hopefully you guys put a small play on the Habs. The West was a rollercoaster ride that ended with a crash. All 4 teams were up 2-1 and then the higher seeds took over. We went 1-12 and lost every series. We will take our net +$123 and move to the second round.
In the West:
1) SJ -100
5) Detroit -110

This series opened at SJ -140 and the early money is on Detroit. SJ advanced even though their top line did nothing. Nabakov was a little shaky but did enough to win. The Wings looked great at times, but also surprisingly got outplayed at home twice by the Coyotes. These teams are very hard to read and this has the makings of a long series. Will Joe Thornton score a goal?

Final wager: SJ risk $165 to win $150.

2) Chicago -135
3) Vancouver +115

This is rematch from last year’s 2nd round where I won money on the Hawks winning in 6. Chicago scored in bunches last round, but Niemi was less than stellar between the pipes. Luongo outplayed Quick and was the difference in their first round win. The Canucks offense was on fire in games 4-6 and have a ton of confidence. On paper, this should be the most exciting series of the 2nd round.

Final wager: Chicago risk $200 to win $150.

In the East:
4) Pitt -525
8) Montreal +400

Pitt scared me in the first round, but came back from 0-3 for the ot 4-3 win. Montreal surprised the hockey world coming back from 3-1 and winning 2 games on the road. Halak put in the performance of the playoffs in games 5-7, including 50+ saves in game 6.

Ginal wager: Nothing, staying away again because of the outrageous moneyline and I refuse to bet money on the Habs. Halak at +400 is a great value pick.

6) Boston -135
7) Philly +115

The B’s are writing thank you letters to the Canadians this morning. The match-ups continue to fall into place for this team and they are handed home ice as a 6 seed. Tuukka put in the 2nd best performance of the first round and now he goes up against a Philly team without 2 of its top scorers. This is going to be a tough fought series and expect to see some old-time hockey from these 2 old rivals. Rask vs Mt St Charles’s Brian Boucher is a clear advantage for the B’s and return of Savard should have the Garden rocking on Saturday.

Final wager: Boston risk $200 to win $150

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Western Conference Preview

1) San Jose -425
8) Colorado +325

SJ has the top seed for the second straight year. Last year they fell to the Ducks and have developed the reputation as a great regular season but bad playoff team. SJ has a potent offense but Evgeni Nabokov is not a big game goalie and his performance for the Russians against Canada proved this to be true. The Avs have a young team that started the season strong but head into the playoffs stuggling. Paul Stastny is the best of the young guns and has the ability to carry this team. The Avs are led by rookie head coach Joe Sacco from Medford.

Final wager: Avs $50 to win $165

2) Chicago -450
7) Nashville +300

I really like the offense of the Hawks. Kane and Toews are really fun to watch and their defensemen really like to attack the zone. The goaltending is what scares me on this team. Nashville is one of those teams that seems to be in the playoff picture the last few years but doesn’t have a face of the franchise type of player. The high moneyline is making me take a flyer on the Preds to pull the upset.

Final wager: Nashville $50 to win $150

3) Vancouver -240
6) LA +190

This will be the best series of the first round. I have been hyping up the Kings and I am pleased with their matchup with the Canucks while avoiding SJ and Chicago. Vancouver is solid and led by the Sedin brothers. Henrik is the better brother but they signed the same contract this year. Daniel owes him some money because Henrik should be making more. Van has the goaltending edge on paper with the Italian Canadian Roberto Luongo, but the man who replaced Broduer in the Olympics has been struggling down the stretch. Quick was playing great for LA but has also struggled down the stretch and there are rumblings of a goalie controversy in LA heading into the playoffs but Quick will get the start in Game 1. Hopefully his experience of playing at the Mullins Center will help him right the ship. LA will need Anze Kopitar to be the leader on the offense.

Final wager: LA $125 to win $240

4) Phoenix +155
5) Detroit -195

The Wings are in unfamiliar territory starting the playoffs on the road. Phoenix is one of the surprise teams of the season. Ilya Bryzgalov has been one of the top goalies in the league and has carried the Coyotes all year. I like rooting against the Wings and very rarely take them in a series.

Final wager: Phoenix $65 to win $100

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Eastern Conference Preview

The NHL playoffs have finally arrived. Here are the playoff matchups and series moneylines.

1) Washington -650
8) Montreal +450

This will be an easy win for Washington. Ovechkin is too good and the Caps are heading into the playoffs as the #1 overall seed. The -650 is the highest line I have seen in years and is bringing back memories of 282’s Detroit bet from college. This series seems like an easy base building series for the playoffs, but crazy things happen in the NHL playoffs. Just last year, the Caps as the #1 seed trailed the Rangers 3-1 before coming back and winning game 7. Goaltending was the issue last year and Theodore was pulled after Game 1, and Varlamov carried them in the playoffs. Well, this year Theodore is back between the pipes and I just can’t lay 650 on him. I would normally put a small play on the #8 seed in this situation, but Montreal is one of the teams on my short list of teams I will never bet on in my lifetime.

Final wager: Nothing, what a disappointing way to start the playoffs. This is my first no action series in years.

2) New Jersey -235
7) Philadelphia +195

Philly needed a shootout win over NYR just to make the playoffs and they were lucky enough to pass the Habs and avoid the Caps. Philly was 5-1 against NJ this season. This should be an entertaining series and NJ is one of those teams I barely wager on. I think Philly takes advantage of getting the #7 seed.

Final wager: Philly $50 to win $98

3) Buffalo -165
6) Boston +145

Are you guys ready for a series full of 2-1 finals? Rask and Miller were 1-2 in save% and Goals against this year. The Bruins were last in scoring and the Sabres top scorers are battling injuries. The B’s were 4-2 against Buffalo this year and Rask seems to be at his best against the Sabres. The B’s battled to get the #6 seed and the result was their best possible matchup of the top four seeds.

Final wager: Boston $100 to win $145

4) Pittsburgh -295
5) Ottawa +245

Pitt is in a familiar spot as they were the #4 seed last year and we all know how that worked out. Ottawa has been in the playoff fold all year but they are one of the streakiest teams in the league and are relying on rookie goalie Brian Elliott. Pitt has the goaltending edge and the playoff experience. They also have the second best player in the league in Crosby. This will be an easy win for the Pens in 5 games and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sweep. This line is high for a 4/5 series but this one has the feel of a 2/7 matchup.

Final wager: Pitt $500 to win $170

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We have been covering every sport here at bigrips and I will be giving our loyal readers an NHL playoffs preview blog next week. I have a long history of betting NHL playoff series moneylines. Years ago I would just take the plus moneyline and hope for the upset. The moneylines were so large on the favorites where one upset could turn into a profit. I rode #8 seed Edmonton all the way to game 7 of the Finals. They started that run +400 over the Detroit Red Wings. Talking about Detroit, I need to mention one of the worst bets of all time. It was made by the current 282 while in college. I remember calling it into the bookie and saying win $20 on Detroit for the series. The bookie laughed at me and almost didnt take it. Like I said the lines were outrageous back then and Detroit was -800 so it was risk $160 to win $20. All of our hockey fans will remember JS Giguere turning into Ken Dryden and sweeping the Wings.

Moving on the last few years the moneylines have evened out and there haven’t been as many first round upsets. The underdog strategy was not turning a profit so I have been going with the teams that I like. I watch a lot of NHL on the Fly on the NHL Network. This show is a must watch for any hockey fan. For those who have never seen it, they show highlights of every game, but turn it into a 5 minute segment. Instead of having a sportscaster, they use the actual announcers from the game and they show goals, great saves, fights, and if there is a shootout, every shootout attempt.

There are 5 days left in the regular season and 13 of the 16 teams have clinched playoff spots. The Avs clinched the final spot in the West last night. The other 7 teams are SJ, Chi, Van, Phoenix, Nashville, LA, and Detroit. Seeding in still up for grabs. Right now my sleeper team of the West is the LA Kings. They have Umass goalie Jon Quick, the best young center no one has heard of Anze Kopitar, and a great young defensive pairing of Drew Daughtry and Jack Johnson.

In the East, Wash, NJ, Buff, Pitt, and Ott have clinched and Mon, Philly and the B’s are holding on to the last 3 spots with only the NYR with any chance. NYR-Philly play a home and home series to end the season. Washington clinched the #1 seed, but all of the other seeds are up for grabs. If the B’s make the playoffs, I don’t want to see them matched with the Caps.

I will be back next Tuesday with the playoff pairings, moneylines, and predictions.

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