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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 home betting favorites against Blues as NHL season begins

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who typically take care of business as a big moneyline favorite on home ice, face an already banged-up team in their season opener.

The Penguins are a -200 moneyline favorite against the St. Louis Blues (+165) at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in one of the featured betting matchups on the NHL’s opening night on Wednesday.

The Penguins, who are also the favorite on the odds to win the Stanley Cup, are 7-3 in their last 10 regular-season home games as a moneyline favorite of at least -175. They are also 14-6 in their last 20 home games in October.

St. Louis went 12-5 in its final 17 road games last season but is missing several regulars due to injuries, including D Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), C Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and LW Alexander Steen (hand). That could make it easier for the Penguins, whose only reported injury is to LW Patric Hornqvist (hand), to focus on stopping Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko, the offensive leader for St. Louis.

The total has gone under in five of the Blues’ last six road games.

Elsewhere on Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks (-160) are favored against the Philadelphia Flyers (+130). The Sharks finished last season as a shaky play at 3-6 on the puckline in their final nine home games, but C Joe Thornton and C Logan Couture were hampered by injuries at that time.

The Flyers, who are 2-7 in their last nine road games against the Pacific Division, are hoping to have D Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body) on the ice on Wednesday night.

The total has gone under in the Sharks’ last five home games in October.

The Winnipeg Jets (-120) are a slight home favorite against the Toronto Maple Leafs (-110). The Leafs, with a cadre of young stars led by C Auston Matthews, are overdue for a turn in fortune against Winnipeg. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games against Winnipeg, including an 0-5 streak in their last five road games.

The total has gone over in Toronto’s last five road games against Winnipeg. Last season the Jets, led by RW Patrik Laine, were seventh in the NHL in goals scored but allowed the fourth-most, so that trend might continue.

And the Edmonton Oilers (-160), led by Connor McDavid, are favored against the Calgary Flames (+130). While the Flames are more about offense by committee than star power with LW Johnny Gaudreau, C Sean Monahan and C Mikael Backlund leading the way, they are 8-3 in their last 11 road games against the Oilers.

Calgary’s Achilles heel was goaltending last season, but it has added veteran G Mike Smith. The total has gone under in nine of Edmonton’s last 13 home games against Calgary, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

 

Edmonton Oilers close gap on Pittsburgh Penguins on Stanley Cup odds

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The Stanley Cup futures board might appear to be based on the “don’t bet against Sidney Crosby” principle, but it also reflects the disparity between the NHL’s two conferences.

With the regular season beginning next week, Sid the Kid and the two-time reigning champion Penguins remain the +750 betting favorite to lift the silver chalice in 2017/18, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

But since the board opened in June, the price on the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid have come down to +800. Of course, the Oilers would have to get through the tough Pacific Division in the playoffs, and likely a tough Central Division club in the conference final.

The Penguins have freed up salary-cap space by seeing off G Marc-Andre Fleury. Being in the Eastern Conference, which isn’t as deep as the West, also means a better chance of getting through three series to make the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) might not have the depth to skate through such a gauntlet.

No fewer than six teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, 2017 runner-up Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals – are being offered at +1400. Losing two-way C Ryan Kesler to hip surgery makes it best to take a wait-and-see approach with Anaheim.

From among that group, Nashville, due to its defense and goaltending, and Tampa Bay, due to having stars such as D Victor Hedman and C Nikita Kucherov as well as a clean bill of health for C Steven Stamkos, are justifiable plays.

McDavid (+150) is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as most valuable player, followed by Crosby and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 20-year-old phenom Auston Matthews (+850). Being in the league’s largest media market could goose Matthews’ chances, although the Leafs aren’t quite a contender yet.

The playoffs and regular season are practically two different sports in the NHL, so laying chalk in division props is not a must. Pittsburgh (+225) is favored on the odds to win the Metropolitan Division, but the lower-profile Columbus Blue Jackets (+450) with their all-American defense pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, could make it interesting. Washington (+300) is probably due to take a step back.

Tampa Bay (+275) is favored to win the Atlantic Division. The Montreal Canadiens (+350) might be too reliant on goalie Carey Price, while Toronto (+375) had almost everything go right last season on the goaltending and injury fronts while squeaking into the playoffs.

There could also be some big-star bias inherent in Dallas (+275) and Chicago (+300) topping the Central Division board. Nashville (+350) is deeper defensively and in goal than both of those teams.

Edmonton (+225) has the low price in the Pacific Division, and as a younger team are more likely than the Anaheim Ducks (+275) to go all out for first place. Their rivals, the Calgary Flames (+600), might actually be Edmonton’s biggest barrier to regular-season supremacy, with both the Los Angeles Kings (+500) and San Jose Sharks (+450) being aging teams.