12 Apr Stromme’s Picks: NHL and NBA Playoff Futures
By: Mike Stromme
I honestly love this time of year! Baseball season is in full-swing, the NBA playoffs are just around the corner and, oh yeah, the toughest pro championship in North America kicks-off tonight.
The NHL playoffs are, in a word, intense. Players giving it all on every shift, playing through broken bones and missing teeth. That’s what spring time is all about, baby!
Anyways, here’s are my picks for the Stanley Cup, the NBA Championship, both conferences in each league and a few NHL series picks for the first round.
Stanley Cup Winner:
Columbus Blue Jackets, +1200:
People seem to forget that the Columbus Blue Jackets were neck and neck with the odds-on favourite and public darling, Washington Capitals. No, I’m not thrilled with the way ‘Lumbus performed down the stretch (3-5-2 in their final ten games), but there’s still a lot to like here.
The Jackets still have some scoring punch with Dubinsky, Atkinson and Jenner. Wennberg and Werenski are a couple of exciting young players. Guys like Brandon Saad and Scott Hartnell are some vets that have been on a few deep playoff runs and Sergei Bobrovski can easily steal a series or two.
The last time the Blue Jackets made the playoffs, they were clear underdogs to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nobody really gave them a shot, but they grinded out the series to six games. During that series, Nationwide arena was a hornet’s nest (no pun intended). It was easily the best home ice advantage in hockey. I expect more of the same this run.
This is a very generous price for a team that accumulated over 100 points in the regular season and locked-up a playoff spot well in advance.
Western Conference Champion:
San Jose Sharks +800:
The Sharks are a team littered with playoff experience, have a goaltender who has a tendency to get hot and have a bitter taste in their mouth from the way things ended last season.
This might be the last significant run for the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Let’s face it, they’re not getting any younger. This group has had way too much playoff heartbreak over the past half decade or so, they’re salty, pissed, and ready to finally turn one last playoff run into something special.
While I think the young upstart Edmonton Oilers will give them some trouble in the first round, it will be the experience of the Sharks that prevail in the end.
The Golden State Warriors have won a championship, the San Francisco Giants have a couple of rings, it’s time for the San Jose Sharks to finally join the Bay Area parade team.
First Round Series Picks:
Columbus Blue Jackets +120:
For all the reasons stated above, I think the Jackets will make a run. It all starts with taking care of a divisional foe that ousted them a couple of seasons ago in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pengiuns might have Sidney Crosby, but there’s not Kris Letang and Geno Malkin has been hurt for most of the year. Sure, Sid could take this series over single-handedly, he’s that good. I just don’t think it will happen this year.
New York Rangers +120:
Statistically speaking, this Canadiens-Rangers series is a bit of a coin flip. But I’m going with the size, experience and grit of the New York Rangers over the Montreal Canadiens.
Not to discredit what the Habs have done this season, they’ve had a tremendous year; 103 points and a division title is nothing to shake a stick at. I just feel as if the Rangers matchup well here come spring time.
Playoff hockey tends to slow down, the Canadiens have too many finesse players in their top six (Pacioretty, Radulov, Gallagher etc.) that can be shut-down by the Ranger defense. We’ve seen the Canadiens struggle in the playoffs before against teams that play the style of hockey Alain Vigneault-led hockey teams like to play.
In a series that is destined to go six or seven games, give me the team getting plus-money.
San Jose Sharks +120:
Like I said above, I think the Sharks make a run and win the West this year. Taking down a young Oiler team is the first step. While I think the Oilers put up a fight in this one, the experience of the Sharks will be the deciding factor. I’m more than willing to back a team that went to the final just one year ago as a dog against a team that hasn’t been back to the playoffs in 10 years.
There’s not too much other value out there when it comes to series-long wagers. But for what it’s worth, I think the Anahiem Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild all advance to the second round. Three of the four have tons of playoff experience, and even guys like Eric Staal and Zach Parise have each been on teams that have gone on a run before, with Staal actually winning a cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.I would make them plays, but I’d rather not lay the chalk; there’s no value. However, a four-way parlay of the four series winners would be just over +500 if you’re interested.
Since there’s still a few seeds to be decided as the regular season dwindles down, I won’t have any series wagers like I did for the NHL, but we can sure as hell talk futures!
San Antonio Spurs +600:
The Spurs should take care of business through the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets or Thunder might give them a bit of trouble in the second round, but I think they’ll prevail. If the Warriors come through the other side of the bracket, I’m trusting Popovich to come up with a soloution for Curry, Durant and the rest of the Warriors.
Do I feel great about it? Not particularly, usually talent trumps X’s and O’s at this level of basketball, but +600 seems like great value for a team that has all the right pieces needed for a deep run into the spring.
Toronto Raptors +4000:
This one, much like the play above, is more of a value play than anything. The Raptors made a ru
n last season, they took the Cleveland Cavaliers to game six in the East final last season and seemingly have a deeper team this year than they did a year ago.
I feel like the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker will pay dividends this time of year. If it weren’t for Russell
Westbrook and James Harden’s resepective monster season, I feel like DeMar DeRozan would be in the MVP conversation. Kyle Lowry is back and healthy just in time, and 40-1 is just way too long of odds for a team this deep.
I don’t think it will hit, but the Raptors will make a run long enough for some hedging opportunities.
Eastern Conference Championship:
Toronto Raptors +1000:
For all the reasons mentioned above, I think the Raptors have a legitimate shot at winning the East. I also don’t trust the playoff experience (or lack of) of the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing garbage backetball down the stretch. The Washington Wizards are a tremendous offensively-minded team, but don’t like to play defense.
I’m sure I’ll eat my words if the Raptors bow-out in the secound round. But I’m more than willing to take a shot at this price.