NHL Western Conference 1st-round betting preview: Chalk rules the West
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The NHL wasted no time jumping from the play-ins to Round 1, so we won't either.

Let's get right into these Western Conference matchups.

Chicago Blackhawks (+225) @ Vegas Golden Knights (-278)

The Blackhawks did well to upset the Oilers, but Edmonton doesn't hold a candle to Vegas. The Knights are unbelievably deep from top to bottom. They get production from all four lines, are stacked on the back end, and have two goaltenders capable of carrying this team to the Cup.

The Knights are a powerhouse when it comes to puck possession and pose a huge mismatch for the Blackhawks, who will need to play flawless hockey to even stand a chance. The issue for Chicago is that their weaknesses on the back end will be exploited by Vegas' depth - something Edmonton lacked. Corey Crawford is capable of some big nights, but he can't steal a series for the Hawks.

I hate the idea of laying -278, and it's not something I'll be doing personally. However, if you're looking to make a series bet here there's just no justifying a flier on the Hawks.

Pick: Knights (-278)

Arizona Coyotes (+205) @ Colorado Avalanche (-250)

I was on the Coyotes in the first round as one of my favorite series bets, but that was a byproduct of it being a good matchup for them against the Predators. A date with the Avalanche is anything but.

Arizona allowed 2.65 expected goals against per game versus Nashville - only the Blackhawks had a worse mark in the play-in round. Colorado's loaded forward group will feast in this series, while the Coyotes' offensive shortcomings will be amplified against an Avs blue line with no real weakness.

Unless Darcy Kuemper stands on his head - which is certainly possible given the season he's had - there's just no other edge the Coyotes hold here to inspire much confidence they can pull off the upset. The Avalanche have eyes on making a legitimate Cup run and Arizona simply lacks the firepower or depth needed to deny them.

Pick: Avalanche (-250)

Calgary Flames (+100) @ Dallas Stars (-118)

It's hard to put much stock in the Flames' play-in win over the Jets, who were playing significantly shorthanded from the jump. There's nothing about this club that jumps off the page - they do nothing particularly well, and nothing particularly bad. They were a middling team all season and remain average. They may have beat the Stars twice in the regular season, but won't give Dallas too much trouble in this series.

Playoff hockey suits the Stars, who were among the best defensive clubs all season. They have depth and star power at every position, rarely getting the respect they should. Dallas was fifth in the NHL this season in expected goals for percentage at five-on-five - the Jets were dead last - and created the fifth-most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes, while allowing the seventh-fewest over the course of the regular season. The Stars were also second in the NHL at five-on-five save percentage, armed with a pair of excellent goaltenders capable of giving Calgary's scorers fits.

The Flames went out without a whimper in the first round last season and there's little evidence to suggest this year will be any different. The Stars are an absolute bargain at this price, and are my favorite series bet.

Pick: Stars (-118)

Vancouver Canucks (+165) @ St. Louis Blues (-200)

These two teams couldn't be more different. The Blues possess the sort of experience and grit that's really lacking from the Canucks. Vancouver has plenty of star power up front, but their lack of depth at forward and on defense leaves a lot to be desired.

The Blues are also the only one of the top four seeds Vancouver doesn't hold an edge over in goal. Jacob Markstrom is capable of stealing a few games for the Canucks, as we saw against the Wild, but Jordan Binnington can steal an entire series.

Vancouver will be a popular underdog pick in Round 1, but this team has a lot of people fooled. There are too many deficiencies on the roster and to its game, and the Blues are well-equipped to exploit them.

Pick: Blues (-200)

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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NHL Western Conference 1st-round betting preview: Chalk rules the West
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