This is a week of transition at the Tuley’s Takes home office as we’re taking our oldest daughter off to college while we have the official start of the NHL playoffs and the winding down of the NBA restart before its playoffs.
I hope VSiN all-access subscribers and “Point Spread Weekly” readers saw our “Extra!” column on the website and in the newsletter before the start of the NHL round of 16 Tuesday. We’ll reprint part of it here, then give our takes on the end of the NBA regular-season schedule as well as this week’s MLB slate.
Tuley’s Takes on NHL
After the NHL’s revised playoff format of round robins for the top four seeds in each conference and qualifying series for seeds 5-12, the Stanley Cup tournament really got started Tuesday and Wednesday with the traditional round of 16.
Underdogs actually went 23-19 straight up in the games played in the neutral-ice bubble sites in Toronto and Edmonton, and the lower-seeded teams won four of the eight qualifying series. The 12th-seeded Canadiens (+ 190) and Blackhawks (+ 150) upset the No. 5-seeded Penguins and Oilers, respectively. The No. 11 Coyotes (+ 110) knocked off the No. 6 Predators, and the No. 9 Blue Jackets (+ 150) beat the No. 8 Maple Leafs in the only series that went the full five games.
As much as I’d like to see this as a sign of more upsets coming, I believe we’ll see a return to form in the eight first-round series for a couple of reasons.
For one, I think playing all the games at one site will work to the superior teams’ advantage. In the seven-game series we’re used to seeing, the road team (almost always the underdog) tries to split the first two games and then gets to play the next two games at home with a better chance to steal the series. It’ll also help that the top four teams in each conference weren’t idle and were able to work off the rust in their round-robin games without the fear of being eliminated. The eight series favorites should come in rested and focused. That doesn’t mean I’m not still looking for upsets, just that we need to be more selective.
In “Tuley’s Takes” two weeks ago, I touted the Blackhawks to upset the Oilers. That was a nice hit at + 150. But I’m not picking them to upset the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, the Vegas Golden Knights, who were my top pick to win the Stanley Cup at 6-1 in that same report.
The Golden Knights are clearly the better team and are the biggest first-round series favorite at -350. I’m on the Vegas bandwagon because of the two-headed goaltending team of Robin Lehner, coincidentally acquired from the Blackhawks earlier in the season, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner won his two round-robin games while Fleury won once but was bailed out by the offense in a 6-4 win over the defending champion St. Louis Blues.
The Blackhawks are the youngest team in the playoffs but led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and goalie Corey Crawford from their Stanley Cup-winning teams. They can still win a game or two. However, I think the better bet in the Chicago-Vegas series is the 1st Period Over 1.5 goals (-150). The Blackhawks play a wide-open style in which they attack the goal but don’t always get back on defense, so this leads to opportunities on both ends.
With the game total set at 6.5 goals, I believe the first period should be set at two goals, so we have a big edge here. The Blackhawks were 4-0 with this bet vs. the Oilers — and would have been 4-0 even if the total had been 2. Here’s hoping they score early and often.
Here are my other first-round takes (and passes):
Other series starting Tuesday
Lightning (-240) vs. Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets squeaked by the Maple Leafs, but I don’t expect them to get by the Lightning, who won’t take them as lightly as they did last year when Tampa Bay was the first President’s Trophy winner to get swept out of the playoffs by the Blue Jackets.
Stars (-115) vs. Flames
Calgary has the best chance of any Canadian team to survive through the first round. I passed on the Flames in Game 1, as they were only around even money, and am hoping to get the Flames at plus money later in the series.
Bruins (-160) vs. Hurricanes
The Hurricanes swept through the Rangers and are live underdogs here. Again, I’m not taking the series price but took them + 120 in Game 1. Also, with Carolina’s goaltending and defense, I’d look at Under 5.5 in each game.
Series starting Wednesday
Capitals (-160) vs. Islanders
The Islanders beat the Panthers 3-1 in their qualifying series, and I give them a great shot to upset the Capitals in this round. These teams split their regular-season games 2-2, and the combined scores were 14-14, so I’ll take the Islanders + 140 in the series as my only series bet. The Islanders are also playable at 120 starting in Game 1.
Avalanche (-300) vs. Coyotes
If you’re looking for a hot goalie to back, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper had a .950 save percentage in leading the Coyotes to the upset of the Predators. The Avalanche are pretty strong, and I still expect them to prevail in the series and won’t be fading them in Game 1. However, Kuemper can steal a game or two, and I’m expecting to back the Coyotes in Game 2 on Friday.
Flyers (-210) vs. Canadiens
The Canadiens upset the Penguins in the qualifying round, but I don’t expect them to complete a sweep of the Pennsylvania teams. The Flyers are the top team in the Eastern Conference and should dispose of the Canadiens in four or five games. Pass.
Blues (-200) vs. Canucks
The Canucks sneaked by the Jets in the qualifying round, but I expect a quick exit (maximum of five games) against the defending Stanley Cup champs, so I’ll be passing on this series as well.
Tuley’s Takes on NBA
As I’ve been writing, the best bets during the NBA restart were to fade the Lakers and Bucks in individual games since they had nothing to play for — especially after locking up the No. 1 seeds in their conferences. We had gone 6-1 ATS going against the Lakers and 4-2 ATS going against the Bucks heading into the Bucks’ game against the Wizards on Tuesday night. The only games left to fade these two teams are Thursday with the Kings against the Lakers and the Grizzlies against the Bucks. I’ll just stick with those two plays until the playoffs start.
The race for the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed is intriguing, but there’s so much uncertainty with who’s in, who’s out and who’s playing how long that I’ll pass on those and the other games.
With the playoffs slated to open Monday, I’ll do a “Tuley’s Takes Extra!” column at VSiN.com on Monday morning. Will we continue to fade the Lakers and Bucks once the games actually matter? That’ll depend on the matchups and the number of points the oddsmakers give us.
Tuley’s Takes on MLB
While hockey and basketball have been very profitable for us lately, MLB hasn’t treated us as kindly. In addition to my underdogs not barking as much as I need to show a profit, my chalk parlays haven’t connected the dots often enough. Worst of all, after declaring the White Sox a great Over team in last week’s “PSW,” they had gone 2-4 with the Over, and both those were in losses, so they’re 0-6 with my recommended White Sox/Over parlays. I trust most followers jumped off after the first two or three failures.
But we move forward ...
Wednesday underdogs: Royals at Reds and Padres at Dodgers (Padres also play the Dodgers on Thursday night).
Wednesday chalk parlay: Blue Jays over Marlins (still not a believer in Miami), Astros over Giants and Rockies over Diamondbacks.
Weekend underdogs: Brewers at Cubs (series starts Thursday), Royals at Twins, Angels vs. Dodgers, Giants vs. A’s.
Weekend chalk parlays: Yankees over Red Sox, Astros over Mariners, Reds over Pirates, Braves over Marlins.