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Bettors Edge Handicapping the NHL Conference Finals

This Saturday both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals get underway with Game 1 of a best-of-seven series. In the East, the No.4 Boston Bruins face the No.1 Pittsburgh Penguins while in the West it will be the defending champion Los Angeles Kings taking on the No.1 Chicago Blackhawks as the No.4 seed in the conference.

Starting in the East, Pittsburgh has been opened as a -190 favorite on BetOnline’s most recent money line for this series with the Bruins listed as +165 favorites. The money line for Saturday’s Game 1 has the Penguins listed as 168 home favorites with Boston a 153 underdog on the road. The total line for this game has been set at 5.5.

What makes the Penguins so attractive as a favorite is not only the fact that they have clearly been the class of the Eastern Conference all season long, but they are playing at a very high level coming into this series. After a slow start against the New York Islanders in the opening round in which the series was tied 2-2, Pittsburgh has now won six of their last seven games including a 4-1 series victory over Ottawa in the conference semifinals. With the most potent offensive attack in the league, the Penguins outscored the Senators 22-11 in the five games. Pittsburgh is 8-1 against the Bruins in the last nine meetings and keeps that edge going by eliminating Boston in six games.

Turning to the Western Conference Finals, Chicago was head and shoulders above the pack in the regular season but found itself in a 3-1 hole against Central Division rival Detroit in the conference semifinals. Quickly returning to form, the Blackhawks reeled-off three straight wins including a dramatic 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7 to advance to this round.

Los Angeles relied on a shutdown defense to get past San Jose in seven games in its conference semifinals matchup by holding the Sharks to a total of 10 goals while posting just 14 goals of its own. Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick struggled at times during the regular season, but much in the same way he found his form during last season’s run to a Stanley Cup title, he has been rock-solid between the pipes in the playoffs this time around as well.

This series has seven games written all over it as it will be a classic battle between the Kings’ defense and a potent Chicago attack that was ranked second in the NHL in scoring this season with an average of 3.1 goals a game. The Blackhawks struggled to score early in the series against Detroit, but they found the back of the net when they needed to the most with 10 goals in the final three games of that series. In the end, home ice prevails again with Chicago advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in seven games.