NHL Series Picks: Penguins vs. Bruins Odds and Predictions

Doc Moseman@DocsSportsCorrespondent IMay 28, 2013

BOSTON, MA - MAY 25:  The Boston Bruins celebrate an empty net goal in the third period by Gregory Campbell #11  against the New York Rangers during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 25, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeated the Rangers 3-1 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Just about every week, if you spend enough time going through all the various prop bet odds that can be found on the website of any of the major sportsbooks out there, you should be able to find some serious value in one or two interesting things to wager on. This week, my top prop bet is the series price for the upcoming matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals.

We are still waiting for the Western Conference Semifinals to wrap things up sometime this week before this best-of-seven series gets underway, but BetOnline has already opened the Bruins as +175 underdogs and Pittsburgh as -205 favorites on its series price money line.

It is easy to see why Boston is the underdog given the fact that the Penguins are probably the deepest and most talented team in the entire league. Pittsburgh opened the season as favorites to win the East as well as the Stanley Cup Finals, and they've done everything to back it up so far by eliminating the No. 8 New York Islanders in six games and the No. 7 Ottawa Senators in five.

That being said, the value to me in this prop bet sits with the No. 4 Boston Bruins. They should not even be in these playoffs anymore after falling behind 4-1 in Game 7 of their opening-round series against Toronto. That was the actual score in the third period with less than 10 minutes to play before the Bruins staged one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nathan Horton cut the deficit to two goals just before the 11-minute mark of the final period; Milan Lucic made it a one-goal game at the 18:38 mark of the third, and Patrice Bergeron tied the game at 4-4 just 23 seconds later. Bergeron found the back of the net again in overtime to send Boston to the conference semifinals against the No. 6 New York Rangers.

Momentum is a big part of any sport, but I think even more so in the NHL. The Bruins used that incredible sudden change in events against the Maple Leafs to roll over the Rangers in their next series by a combined score of 16-10 over the course of just five games. They out-shot, outhit and just plain outplayed New York in that series. Three of the games were decided by one goal, and they managed to win two of them to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead that basically punched Boston’s ticket to the conference finals.

It will be a major challenge to get past Pittsburgh in the next series, but the Bruins' “never-say-die” mentality could be just enough to even the playing field between the two teams. Boston is averaging 3.16 goals a game in the postseason after tallying just 2.6 goals per game in the regular season.

Even more important has been the play of Tuukka Rask, who has gone the distance for Boston in goal. He has stopped 363 of the 391 shots he has faced for a save percentage of .928 and a goals-against average of 2.22. The weight of keeping the high-flying Penguins from lighting up the scoreboard will be squarely on his shoulders, as it is doubtful that the Bruins can go toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh if this turns into a shootout. But he has already proven that he is up to the task through his play in the first two series.

While a small play on Boston to win this series outright is in order, there may be even some more value in the odds for the overall length of the series once those are released as well. I like the Bruins stealing one of the first two games on the road and then successfully defending their home ice to win this series in six games.