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Morning Coffee: NHL East playoff race heats up


Congratulations to the UCONN Huskies men’s basketball team.

Last night, the Huskies became the third team to win back-to-back national championships since the tournament expanded in 1985, joining the 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils and the 2006-07 Florida Gators.

UCONN’s title run was a bettor’s dream come true.

Anybody who wagered on the Huskies to win the title at +370 pre-tournament at FanDuel or selected them as their champion in a March Madness bracket is a winner.

Meanwhile, if you bet on UCONN throughout the tournament you couldn’t lose.

For the second year in a row, the Huskies were a perfect 6-0 against the spread.

That’s 12 straight covers in the NCAA tournament over a two-year stretch. 

That means that in addition to beating their opponents, UCONN exceeded all expectations by covering the spread in each those wins, including last night’s 75-60 win over Purdue as a 6.5-point favourite in the national championship game.

If only every bet was as easy as UCONN has made it in back-to-back NCAA tournament title runs.

With the NCAA tournament in the books, the attention shifts to the final stretch of the NHL regular season, with some important points on the line tonight.

In the NHL’s Eastern Conference, there are seven teams separated by six points in the standings with a little over one week left in the regular season.

Six of those seven teams are in action tonight, as the Eastern Conference Wild Card race heats up.

This is the Morning Coffee for Tuesday, April 9th, 2024.

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Race Heats Up

The Pittsburgh Penguins secured a crucial point in last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Pittsburgh, which has secured at least one point in nine straight games, moved into a tie with the Detroit Red Wings for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Penguins are also one point back of the New York Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division with four games remaining on their regular season schedule.

Pittsburgh will host the Red Wings on Thursday April 11th.

The Penguins visit the Islanders in their regular season finale on Wednesday April 17th.

Tonight, Sidney Crosby and company will be watching patiently as the Eastern Conference playoff picture becomes a little clearer with three key games circled.

Detroit will host the Washington Capitals in a showdown with major implications.

The Capitals are one point back of the Red Wings and Penguins for the final Eastern Conference Wild Card.


Detroit is currently -145 on the moneyline at FanDuel.

Washington is +125 to pull off the upset win on the road.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers will attempt to snap their seven-game slide against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Flyers are currently -138 to win in Montreal.

Philadelphia is one point back of Detroit for the final Wild Card and two points back of New York for third in the Metropolitan Division with one more game played.

The Islanders will host the Rangers tonight.

The Isles are currently +108 to win on home ice.

Additionally, the New Jersey Devils will host the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the Buffalo Sabres will visit the Dallas Stars in two more games with Wild Card implications.

Both the Devils and Sabres are currently five points back of the Red Wings with one more game played.

While they are technically still alive in the playoff race, both are far back enough that neither one is featured in FanDuel’s odds to make the playoffs market this morning.

As it stands, there are five teams with odds to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference race.

Eastern Conference - To Make Playoffs

Team Odds
New York Islanders  -215
Detroit Red Wings  -140
Pittsburgh Penguins +144
Washington Capitals  +300
Philadelphia Flyers +450

The Flyers are the biggest longshot at +450.

That number translates to an 18.2 per cent implied probability.

On the heels of seven straight losses, Philly is still just one point back but with just four games remaining.

The Flyers might need to go 4-0 the rest of the way to have a chance, with games against the Habs, New York Rangers, Devils, and the Capitals the rest of the way.

Washington is currently +300 to make the playoffs.

That number gives them a 25 per cent implied chance.

The Capitals still have five games left to make a push, and a win in Detroit tonight would give them a major boost.

After tonight, Washington will play the Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and then the Flyers in their regular season finale.

The Capitals must make tonight’s head-to-head with the Red Wings count, in addition to the game in hand they have in hand on their competition.

After going 6-0-3 in their previous nine games, the Penguins are down to +144 to make the playoffs at FanDuel.

That’s down from 12-to-1 odds to get in just eight days ago.

Pittsburgh will host Detroit on Thursday, followed by games against the Bruins, Nashville Predators, and the Islanders to close out the regular season.

If the Penguins go 4-0, they will make the playoffs.

At the same time, the Red Wings are also in control of their path to the playoffs.

Detroit plays Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Montreal twice to close out the season.

If the Red Wings go 5-0 with wins over the Capitals and the Penguins, they’ll lock up the eighth seed in the East.

Detroit is currently -140 to make the playoffs at FanDuel – a 58.3 per cent implied probability.

Finally, the Islanders are -215 to make the playoffs at FanDuel.

That number translates to a 68.3 per cent probability.

The Rangers could certainly play spoiler against their New York rival with two head-to-head meetings remaining.

The Islanders will also host the Habs and visit the Devils before wrapping up their regular season against the Penguins on April 17th.

If they can upset the Rangers tonight, the Isles will be in an excellent position with four games to go.

According to Stathletes, the Islanders, Red Wings, Penguins, Capitals, and Flyers all have a better than 20 per cent chance to make the postseason.

I’m particularly interested to see what happens to Washington, which is currently 3-to-1 to get in.

The Penguins have already shown us that a lot can change in just one week.

With just over a week left in the NHL regular season, the Eastern Conference playoff race is set to heat up once again tonight.