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Capitals Favored Over Penguins as NHL Playoffs Reach Second Round

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Two of the NHL’s biggest stars will face each other in the postseason for the first time since 2009 when Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals play host to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday in Game 1 of their second-round set as -130 betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The red-hot Penguins have emerged as Stanley Cup contenders following their first-round victory over New York, outscoring the Rangers by a 21-10 margin in their 4-1 series win.

Pittsburgh has now won 18 of their past 21 games heading into Thursday night’s Penguins vs. Capitals betting matchup at Verizon Center, and have clawed their way to the top of the Stanley Cup odds, joining Washington as +375 favorites to raise the hardware in mid-June.

Crosby played a key role in Pittsburgh’s first-round success, tallying eight points in five games. Crosby and Ovechkin last went head-to-head in the second round of the 2009 playoffs; the Penguins took the series in seven en route to a Stanley Cup championship.

This year, however, the Capitals hold the edge in NHL series prices with -130 odds. Washington has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs during Ovechkin’s decade in the nation’s capital. Pittsburgh sports +110 odds on the series prices to return to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013.

In other Stanley Cup playoff action, it’s a dead heat on the series prices between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, who each sport -110 odds ahead of Game 1 of their second-round series at American Airlines Center on Friday night.

The Blues needed seven games to eliminate the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks in their first-round series, and are 6-1 in their past seven dates with Dallas, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

However, the Stars’ 5-4 loss to Minnesota in Game 5 of their first-round series marked their only defeat in their past nine home dates, and Dallas trailed only Washington during the regular season with 28 victories on home ice.

Elsewhere, the New York Islanders continue to surprise, taking a 1-0 lead in their second-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-3 victory on Wednesday night.

The Islanders entered Game 1 as +123 underdogs on the NHL series prices at the sportsbooks, but should be sporting much more favorable odds when they hit the ice at Amalie Arena for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.

Pittsburgh Penguins among road betting favorites in Wednesday NHL action

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One reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have won the last two Stanley Cups is their killer instinct in the early stages.

With the NHL playoffs at the midpoint of the first round, the Penguins are a -140 moneyline favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com against the rival Philadelphia Flyers with a 6-goal total for Wednesday’s Game 4 matchup.

The OddsShark NHL Database shows that the Penguins are 8-4 in their last 12 road games during the playoffs in April. Pittsburgh, which is ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, has also scored exactly five goals in four of their last five road games against the Flyers.

Philadelphia, which is just 4-8 in its last 12 home games as a moneyline underdog of +120 to +150, has issues with two of its key forwards. Captain Claude Giroux has zero goals and one assist in the series’ three games, while center Sean Couturier (undisclosed) was injured after colliding with a teammate in practice on Tuesday.

The total has gone over in 11 of the Penguins’ last 13 road games. The total has also gone over in six of the Penguins’ last eight games against the Flyers.

The Tampa Bay Lightning (-144) are favored against the New Jersey Devils (+130) for their Game 4 matchup on Wednesday. However, Tampa Bay is only 5-5 in its last 10 games as a road favorite and two core players, right wing Ryan Callahan (shoulder) and left wing Tyler Johnson (held out of practice Tuesday) are question marks. The Devils are 8-4 in their last 12 games. The total has gone over in five of the Devils’ last six games.

Bettors have to weigh recency against sample sizes with the Nashville Predators (-165), who are deep into minus money against the Colorado Avalanche (+149), even though Colorado won in Game 3 of the series on Monday.

Nashville has lost three of the last four games when it was a road favorite and has given up the first goal in each game of this series. However, the Predators are 11-4 in their last 15 games as a road favorite. The Avalanche and center Nathan MacKinnon are 8-2 as a home underdog since Christmas. Each defeat was against Nashville, but only one of those 10 matchups was against a non-playoff team.

The total has gone over in eight of Nashville’s last 10 road games against fellow Central Division teams. The total has gone over in seven of Colorado’s last nine home games against Central teams.

And the San Jose Sharks (-169), the only home team which is favored on Wednesday, are trying to complete a sweep against the Anaheim Ducks (+152). The Sharks’ best defenseman, Brent Burns (undisclosed), has an injury situation to monitor, but they are 11-4 in their last 15 home games against Anaheim. The Ducks are 0-4 in their last four games as an underdog on the road.

The total has also gone over in seven of Anaheim’s last 10 playoff games when it was an underdog on the road.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Capitals, Holtby heavy favorites hosting Rangers on Wednesday night

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Each team has its No. 1 goaltender due back from injury, but recent trends suggest that’s more likely to help the Washington Capitals than the New York Rangers.

The Metropolitan-leading Capitals are the -260 favorites on the NHL odds and the Rangers come back as +215 underdogs with a 6-goal total for their matchup on Wednesday night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Late regular-season NHL games between Stanley Cup contenders such as the Capitals and also-rans such as the Rangers are prone to becoming moneyline mismatches. Washington, which is 9-1 in their last 10 home games as a moneyline favorite of -200 to -500, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, has only gone deeper into minus money on home ice four times in the last three seasons. The Rangers are 3-7 in their last 10 games as a moneyline underdog of +150 or higher.

The Rangers, whose 33-35-8 record includes a 12-20-4 road mark, are playing out the string and evaluating younger players, such as Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. This will be their fifth consecutive road game where the opponent’s line was -200 or lower. New York lost the previous four and total finished over in all four matchups.

Veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist (upper body) has missed three games in a row but is expected to start for New York. Lundqvist is 21-12-4 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .908 save percentage against the Capitals during his career.

The Capitals are 45-24-7, including a stellar 26-9-2 home record, as they push to finish at the top of their division. Veteran left wing Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 45 goals, has helped Washington go 8-2 in its last 10 home games against Metropolitan Division rivals. Washington coach Barry Trotz, whose team is on a six-game home win streak, has a healthy lineup at his disposal.

Washington has won by at least two goals in five of its last 10 games as a home favorite of -200 to -500, so the minus-1.5 goals puck line contains some value.

Washington goalie Braden Holtby (lower-body injury) is expected to start after being spelled by Philipp Grubauer when these same two teams played in New York on Monday. Over his career, Holtby is 9-9-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .918 save percentage against the Rangers.

The teams’ over/under splits are nearly identical, with the over holding a 19-17 mark in Rangers’ road games and a 19-17-1 mark in Capitals’ home games.

The total has gone under in five of New York’s last six home games when it was a moneyline  underdog of +200 or higher. The total has gone under in six of Washington’s last nine home games when it was a moneyline favorite of -225 to -500.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.