NHL Playoffs 2022: Bruins vs. Hurricanes prediction, odds, picks

For the first time in quite a bit, the Boston Bruins will enter a postseason tournament as an outsider. The B’s are currently sitting at +2000 to win the Stanley Cup and are slight underdogs in their Round 1 series against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes have a home-ice advantage, though, so this line does imply that bookmakers would make the Bruins the favorite in a neutral venue. 

And while the surface-level numbers would suggest that Carolina should be the favorite — the Canes finished nine points and 41 goals ahead of the Bruins in the standings — the underlying metrics show this to be a razor-tight matchup between two terrific hockey teams.

Also read: Every team’s odds to win the Stanley Cup

NHL Playoffs Series odds: Boston -105/Carolina -115

Odds provided by BetMGM

No team in the NHL does a better job suppressing quality scoring chances quite like the Bruins. According to Natural Stat Trick, Boston led the NHL in expected goals against and high-danger scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5. Additionally, no team allowed few shots on goal at 5-on-5 than the Bruins.

For years the Bruins have been the NHL’s premier defensive outfit; this season was no different. And perhaps it’s never been more important for Boston to enter a postseason in good defensive form. Whereas in years past the B’s had one of the NHL’s most reliable goaltenders, Tuukka Rask, backing up this stalwart defense, this season it will be Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman in goal. Neither Ullmark nor Swayman has started an NHL game in their career.

Charlie McAvoy
NHLI via Getty Images

In all likelihood, we will see Ullmark start Game 1 in Carolina. A few months ago, that would have been a red flag for the Bruins, but the 28-year-old Swede has been in good form over the past month, posting a .934 save percentage and a +5.82 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) over his last 14 games.

It’s no sure thing that Ullmark will carry that momentum into the playoffs, but if the Bruins do their thing defensively, he should have every chance of succeeding. 

And in another matchup, perhaps the goaltending matchup would be a big deal. But Carolina has its own issues in the blue paint with Freddie Andersen on the sidelines. Andersen was one of the NHL’s strongest goaltenders all season long but is not likely to be available for the first handful of games this postseason. That means Antti Raanta or rookie Pyotr Kochetkov will have to do the heavy lifting in goal. Raanta is a fine backup and posted a .912 save percentage and a +8.5 GSAx in 28 games.

While the defense drives the bus for the Bruins, the opposite is true of Carolina. Only Florida produced more shot attempts, expected goals, and high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 compared to the Canes.

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Plenty of people will point to the season series, which was dominated by Carolina, as a reason to back the Canes as short favorites, but it’s also possible that the season splits are actually keeping the price down on the Bruins, who have been one of the NHL’s best teams over the last four months.

Since Jan. 1, the Bruins have gone 37-16-3 with a +33 goal differential and a league-leading 57.5% expected goals rate. That record wasn’t good enough to close the gap between the B’s and the three teams ahead of them in the Atlantic, but it did show that these are the Bruins we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past five seasons.

Carolina is a terrific hockey club and has home-ice advantage, but the wrong team is favored in this best-of-7 series. Not only do the Bruins have value to win this series, but they’re also worth a punt to win the Stanley Cup at +2000, and targeting Boston players in the Conn Smythe markets could be a wise move, as well.

NHL Playoffs bets: Boston wins the series -105; Bruins to win Stanley Cup +1800 (BetRivers); Charlie McAvoy to win Conn Smythe Award +18000 (FanDuel)

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