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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.

Penguins heavy favorites against Senators for Thursday’s Game 7 matchup

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Betting against Sidney Crosby in a do-or-done game takes some guts, since the Pittsburgh Penguins’ history shows they find a way when their backs are against the wall.

With a spot in the Stanley Cup final at stake, the Penguins are a -200 moneyline favorite against the +170 underdog Ottawa Senators with a five-goal total for Thursday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The winner moves on to the Stanley Cup final against the Nashville Predators.

This season, Pittsburgh is 14-1 in 15 games when it was a favorite of -200 to -500 on the moneyline, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. They are also 14-3 in their last 17 home games against Ottawa, but one big reason this series has required Game 7 is that the Penguins are 1-7 on the puckline in their last eight games against the Senators.

It’s no secret that Ottawa, which is 27-21-2 on the road this season and 35-28-5 as the underdog, will rely on goalie Craig Anderson (45 saves in Game 6) and their execution of a 1-3-1 neutral zone trap. The Senators have a strong defense with Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci, who have helped Ottawa stay in most games..

Ottawa will try to be opportunistic and hope that the likes of RW Bobby Ryan or C Kyle Turris can produce timely goals. Ottawa has been a moneyline underdog of +150 or more nine times since the NHL all-star break. They are 4-5 in those matchups.

Pittsburgh is 37-7-6 at home this season, as well as 51-17-11 as a favorite. They are 2-0 in Game 7s under head coach Mike Sullivan (both on the road), and have outplayed Ottawa over each of the last three games.

The presence and talent of Crosby and C Evgeni Malkin might be the hole cards that give the Penguins the ability to offset several key injuries. Defenseman Justin Schultz (upper body), defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (upper body), RW Patrik Hornqvist (upper body) and RW Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body) could all miss the game on Thursday.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray has allowed only three even-strength goals in three games since taking over as the starter. The total has gone under in six of Ottawa’s last nine road games against Pittsburgh.

If Pittsburgh wins, it will be the first time the franchise has won Game 7 of a series at home after losing Game 6 on the road. Ottawa is also out to buck a historical trend as it is 0-5 all-time in Game 7s, home and away. The last was in 2012.

NHL Conference Final Odds: Penguins, Predators Series Betting Favorites

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In the wake of their latest humbling of the Washington Capitals, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are seen by oddsmakers as capable of repeating as the Stanley Cup champions.

The Penguins are listed at +175 on the latest odds to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Anaheim Ducks (+250) and Nashville Predators (+300), the opponents in the Western Conference final, are second and third on the board, while the Ottawa Senators (+450) draw in as the darkhorse.

No team has repeated as champions since the NHL’s salary-cap era began in 2005. Pittsburgh is also allowing 35.3 shots per game in the playoffs, which seems a tad high for a championship team. A club with speed and an agile, mobile defense corps – such as Nashville with Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban – would match up well with the Penguins.

Nashville also hails from the Central Division, which has produced four of the NHL’s last nine champions.

Nashville (-125) is a slight favorite against Anaheim (+105) on the NHL series prices for the Western Conference final, which begins at Anaheim on Friday. Although the Predators are in their first conference final, they come in with one of the deepest lineups, with C Ryan Johansen and RW Viktor Arvidsson among the dangerous players on a team that does offense by committee.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Nashville G Pekka Rinne has also been much more consistent than Anaheim’s 24-year-old John Gibson.

Anaheim, as long as Ryan Getzlaf isn’t neutralized, is a strong veteran team. They did have a draining seven-game series in the second round against the Edmonton Oilers where the attrition included losing depth forwards Patrick Eaves and Logan Shaw.

The fact that the total has gone over in six of the Ducks’ last nine games isn’t encouraging. The total has gone over in seven of Nashville’s last 10 road games against Anaheim, with two pushes. The Ducks are listed as small -115 home favorites for Game 1 on Friday.

In the Eastern Conference series price, Pittsburgh (-300) is a massive favorite against Ottawa (+250). The combo of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin (who is the +500 favorite on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds) and Matt Cullen, man-for-man, surpasses Ottawa’s top centers, Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Pittsburgh, which is 9-1 at home against Ottawa over the last five seasons according to the OddsShark NHL Database, will need a strong offense to cover up for its suspect defense.

It might be tempting to take Ottawa and its dynamic defenseman Erik Karlsson in the series just because their price is so inviting. Ottawa has stymied two opponents by forcing teams to get through their 1-3-1 trap before testing steady goalie Craig Anderson, but frustrating a team with as much playoff experience as Pittsburgh is a tall task.