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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 only team below 10/1 on 2018 Stanley Cup odds

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Anyone confident that the Pittsburgh Penguins can three-peat as Stanley Cup champions should probably wait until their price increases. With NHL free agency beginning this weekend, Sidney Crosby and the two-time defending champion Penguins are listed as +750 favorites on the 2018 Stanley Cup futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Penguins have the luxury of almost $20 million in salary cap space to work with as they seek to upgrade the supporting cast around Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, so there’s a chance they could be in a position to make another Cup run. That being said, their price against the 31-team field is actually lower than it was at the outset of the recently completed playoffs.

Given the parity of hockey, it’s best to see if the Penguins’ price swells back up into the 10/1 range once the season is underway in October.

The Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) and Edmonton Oilers (+1200) share second spot on the board. Chicago’s price seems like a red herring, given that the Blackhawks have gone out in the first round of the playoffs two seasons in a row and still have salary-cap issues that forced them to jettison one of their best forwards, Artemi Panarin.

The Oilers, of course, are getting reigning MVP Connor McDavid locked down on an eight-year contract, but their rabid fanbase could be in for some nervous times amid rumors that teams might try to sign star center Leon Draisaitl, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet.

Five teams draw in at +1400: the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Ducks are a bit on the old side, but the defending Western Conference champion Predators came within just two victories of a Stanley Cup despite losing two dangerous forwards, Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen.

The Rangers could be an interesting play if, indeed, they end up signing Kevin Shattenkirk, who is the only impact defenceman set to hit free agency.

The Lightning, provided they get a full season out of C Steven Stamkos, who’s complemented down the middle by Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point, could be in line for a bounce-back season. They missed the playoffs in 2017 after winning five playoff series over the previous two years. As for Washington, Alex Ovechkin and company had their best opportunity to win the Cup this past spring, and got shut out in Game 7 at home against Pittsburgh.

The Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs are each listed at +1600 on the Stanley Cup betting lines for 2018.

Some darkhorses at online gambling sites include the St. Louis Blues (+2800), who reached the second round last season before being ousted by Nashville and will have a new 1-2 punch next season with Vladimir Tarasenko being complemented by Brayden Schenn. While Edmonton is the highest Canadian team on the board, the Calgary Flames (+3000) look good on paper after dealing for veteran goalie Mike Smith and also adding D Travis Hamonic to support an impressive group of young forwards that includes Johnny Gaudreau.

 

 

Penguins home favorites against Predators for Game 5 of Stanley Cup final

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In what’s been a strictly home-ice Stanley Cup final, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been bet up into a heavy favorite against the Nashville Predators for the likely series-turning Game 5.

The Penguins are a -155 moneyline favorite against the +135 underdog Predators with a 5.5-goal total for Thursday’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Penguins opened at -139 on the moneyline, but they are also riding a trend of being 9-3 in their last 12 home playoff games.

That means there is betting value in taking the Predators, who are a respectable 5-5 SU on the road during the postseason. Nashville has topped Pittsburgh in five-on-five shot attempts in all four games of the series. The main pregame question revolving around the Predators involves the health of D P.K. Subban (ankle), who is part of the shutdown pair that has held Penguins C Evgeni Malkin without a goal for three consecutive games.

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne also allowed eight goals on 36 shots during the two previous games at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena.

The Predators have had the run of play during the series, largely by virtue of a blueline led by Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Subban. They also managed to win Game 5 on the road in the third round against Anaheim, although that came in a rink where they were 4-4 in their most recent eight games, which tops a 1-6 record in their last seven road games against the Penguins.

The Penguins are 8-3 at home in these playoffs heading into Thursday’s Game 5 matchup, but have been increasingly reliant on C Sidney Crosby as the final has unfolded. Reliable sources of offense such as RW Phil Kessel and RW Bryan Rust are on six-game goal droughts, while Pittsburgh’s power play has been powerless through the first five games.

However, any physical limitations with Subban could be a boon to Malkin. Left wing Jake Guentzel (playoff-most 13 goals, including four in as many games versus Nashville) will also be looking for a bounce-back after missing some top scoring chances during Game 4.

Pittsburgh’s defense is mostly a patchwork outfit; Crosby actually led the Penguins in ice time in Game 4, which is rare for a forward. While there’s been speculation about a goalie switch, Matt Murray is most likely to start.

The total has gone OVER in five of Nashville’s last seven games against Pittsburgh for totals bettors, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The Predators will host Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final on Sunday night.