Alright, so I’m a bit late to the party, but I want to make some picks so that you all out there can take my advice… and then bet the opposite (insert crying emoji). Here is a dual-action look at the NHL’s second round and the NBA’s conference finals:
(1) Florida vs. (3) Tampa Bay
Florida comes in as the betting favorite, but Tampa Bay is the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion. The Cats are resilient but could not overcome the Bolts last year. My hunch is that they are a scrappier and deeper team than a year ago, and bring enough physicality to finally end the Lightning’s incredible two-year run. Pick: Panthers in 7.
(1) Carolina vs. (2) New York Rangers
What heart the Rangers showed in rallying from 3-1 down to beat the Penguins, but this might be as far as they get considering the Hurricanes are rested and loaded and also won three of four in the regular season vs. New York. It feels like the Rangers could be spent after that opening round series, and Carolina put up a flurry of goals at home in the first round against Boston. Pick: Hurricanes in 6.
(1) Colorado vs. (3) St. Louis
On paper, the Avalanche are supposed to win, and win big. But in reality, the Avalanche being -420 seems like a huge overestimate by the oddsmakers. St. Louis is battle-tested and it seems like they are much more dangerous as an underdog (see: 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs). Colorado has had a long layoff after sweeping Nashville, and all the pressure is on them to win the Cup because of their talent on paper. But I’m going all-out for one upset here, and this is it. Pick: Blues in 7.
(1) Calgary vs. (2) Edmonton
The battle of Alberta should be a fun one. Both teams are deep and battle-tested, but the Flames have been one of the best teams all year and should be buoyed by surviving a first-round tussle with pesky Dallas. Edmonton needed seven with a Kings team they should have disposed of quicker, and while this should be a good series, I’ll take the favorite here. Pick: Flames in 6.
(1) Miami vs. (2) Boston
The Heat may have home-court, but it feels like Boston’s time, and the oddsmakers have them at -175. Boston survived two elimination games against the Bucks, while the Heat did what they were supposed to do against the 76ers. After years of getting close, look for the Celtics to finally break through and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Pick: Celtics in 6.
(3) Golden State vs. (4) Dallas
We need at least one underdog team in the final four to keep things interesting, right? The Mavericks are in the Western finals for the first time since winning it all in 2011, but they will have their hands fuller than ever against a Warriors team starting to resemble the one that won three titles in a four-year span from 2015-18, reaching the NBA Finals five straight seasons. After an embarrassing Game 5 loss, the Warriors showed what they were made of against a younger and more inexperienced Grizzlies team, and it feels like the same lessons will apply against Dallas. Pick: Warriors in 6.