Looking for a sleeper to win the Stanley Cup? Carolina is the one team on the mind of Las Vegas oddsmakers and handicappers alike.
Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito and Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons used the word “scary” to describe the Hurricanes, who swept the Rangers 3-0 in their play-in series and are 14-1 to hoist the Cup.
“If you’re looking for a value pick outside of the top four in the East, it’s Carolina,” Esposito said. “Carolina is scary good. They have some talent, they’re balanced on both sides of the ice and they’re young, fast and hungry.”
The Hurricanes are +140 series underdogs to the Bruins in the first round in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, which Boston won in a 4-0 sweep.
“That’s going to be a scary series for Boston because they were, by far, the best team in the regular season and now they’re the No. 4 seed,” Salmons said. “Carolina’s a dangerous team. They have a lot of young players and a lot of speed. I think it will be a long series.”
Hurricanes (+140) over Bruins in series, to win East (7-1), Stanley Cup (14-1)
Handicapper Lou Finocchiaro recommends plays on the Hurricanes to not only win their series with the Bruins but also to win the Eastern Conference (7-1) and Stanley Cup.
“I regard the East as wide open, and I believe the Hurricanes have everything it takes,” said Finocchiaro (@GambLou). “The team plays with two fine goaltenders, an abundance of defensive talent in front of them and a coach in Rod Brind’Amour who has been a winner at every level of hockey.
“Because of the drubbing Carolina took last year against Boston, I like them in this series, with the pain of the sweep still stinging them.”
Coyotes (+250) over Avalanche in series
Salmons expects series upsets in the first round, and Finocchiaro is banking on Arizona to knock off Colorado.
“Colorado was the upstart last year that knocked down No. 1 seed Calgary, and now Colorado comes in riding high,” Finocchiaro said. “I give the edge to Arizona because it plays more from the goal out. (Goalie Darcy) Kuemper is good, and their defense is solid.”
Salmons also is impressed with the Coyotes.
“On the surface, it’s a mismatch. Colorado is the much faster team and much better team,” he said. “But it’s always scary when you play a team with a goalie who can make 50 saves in a game. That’s what Kuemper does.”
Here’s a quick glance by Salmons at the other first-round series:
“That series is going to be really close,” he said. “Dallas is one of those teams that likes to play every game 2-1. That figures to be a long series that either team can win.”
“The Blues are the much more rounded team, and I think they find a way to grind that series out,” Salmons said. “I’m not saying Vancouver can’t beat St. Louis. It has a ton of young talent and can score. I just don’t know if they have the pedigree to beat the Stanley Cup champions.”
New York coach Barry Trotz faces the team he guided to the 2018 Stanley Cup title over the Golden Knights.
“The Islanders are the team no one wants to play, just because of their style. They’re all defense and goaltending,” Salmons said. “Outside of the year the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, they’re renowned for choking in the first round. I wouldn’t feel confident picking the Capitals here.”
Montreal upset Pittsburgh in their play-in series behind goalie Carey Price.
“If he’s not the best goalie in the league, he’s in the top two,” Salmons said. “But Philadelphia just ran through the top three teams in the East in dominant style. The only thing that can stop Philadelphia in this series is being overconfident.”
Blue Jackets-Lightning (-210)
Columbus stunned heavily favored Tampa Bay with a first-round sweep in last year’s playoffs.
“I can’t imagine they’re going to beat Tampa again. I expect Tampa to come in with a big chip on their shoulders,” Salmons said. “Tampa is the one team in the playoffs that has a lot to prove.”