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What I Learned – 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview & Odds: Canadiens vs. Penguins

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How Do Opening Round NHL Playoff Qualifying Series Work?Compensating teams that were battling for the final playoff positions, when the season was paused on March 12, the 2020 NHL playoffs have been expanded from 16 to 24 teams. The top four Eastern and Western Conference clubs earned a BYE to the quarterfinal round. Those teams are playing round robin tournaments to determine the top four seeds during the second round. The remaining 16 teams are playing eight qualifying series and the winner’s advance to the quarterfinals.All games will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto during the first three rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Qualifying round series are best-of-five sets and the remaining playoff rounds will be traditional best-of-seven series. Based on regular season win percentages, Pittsburgh is the No. 5 seed in the East while Montreal is the No. 12 seed. Once the round robin and qualifying series are complete, the remaining eight teams in both conferences will be re-seeded.Pittsburgh vs. Montreal Qualifying Series ScheduleGame 1 – Saturday, Aug 1: Montreal @ Pittsburgh 8:00 PM ETGame 2 – Monday, Aug 3: Montreal @ Pittsburgh 8:00 PM ETGame 3 – Wednesday, Aug 5: Pittsburgh @ Montreal 8:00 PM ETGame 4 – Friday, Aug 7: Pittsburgh @ Montreal Time TBD *Game 5 – Saturday, Aug 8: Montreal @ Pittsburgh Time TBD ** If NecessaryMontreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Series PreviewLoaded with NHL playoff experience, Pittsburgh returns to the postseason for a 14th straight season. That’s currently the longest active streak of any team as Washington and Nashville are next with six. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have won three Stanley Cups together and have been a dynamic duo during the Penguins playoff streak. Pittsburgh (40-23-6) finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and third in the Metropolitan Division with 86 points.After failing to qualify the last two years, Montreal is back in the playoffs for the second time over five seasons. The Canadiens (31-31-9) finished fifth in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the East with 71 points. Montreal benefits the most from the field being expanded to 24 teams as the Habs were ten points out of a playoff position when the regular season was cancelled. Carey Price owns a 2.53 goals against average over 60 playoff games for the Canadiens.These teams met three times during the regular season and Pittsburgh won two of those contests. Carey Price made 33 saves and Montreal won the first meeting 4-1 on the road in December. Brandon Tanev scored in overtime and Pittsburgh won the second meeting 3-2 on the road in January. Pittsburgh won the third meeting, 4-1 at home in February, as Jason Zucker scored twice and Sidney Crosby had three assists. Pittsburgh has won eight of the last 11 meetings.Pittsburgh played 69 regular season contests and averaged 3.25 goals per game (GPG) on offense while allowing 2.84 GPG on defense. Montreal played 71 games and averaged 2.99 goals GPG on offense while allowing 3.11 GPG on defense. The Penguins scored 42 goals on 211 power play chances and Montreal lit the lamp 33 times during 186 opportunities. The Penguins overall talent, plus a wealth of playoff experience, will be too much for Montreal.Series Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins -195Odds via DraftKings SportsbookGame 1: Canadiens vs. Penguins Three-Way OddsWhile prices are subject to change, FanDuel and DraftKings have posted a mix of Game 1 betting odds. The three-way odds below illustrate the importance of best price odds shopping. Montreal and TIE options have added value at DraftKings while Pittsburgh is priced slightly better at FanDuel. This prop is decided at the end of regulation time and TIE is the winning side if the game goes into overtime. Penguins win Game 1 in regulation time.Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins -110Odds via DraftKings and FanDuel SportsbookQualifying Series Prop Betting OptionsA variety of prop betting options are available prior to and during the Montreal vs. Pittsburgh qualifying round. Predicting the total games in this series, without having to pick the winning team, is one of the props. FanDuel has posted four and five total games as close favorites and a three-game series sweep by either team is the underdog. While Pittsburgh is a heavy favorite – Montreal has enough talent to avoid being swept. Bet on this series ending in four games.Series Total Games: 4 (+150)Odds via FanDuel SportsbookMORE FROM SI GAMBLING

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