Penguins favored against the Capitals for remainder of series

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will be attempting to push the Washington Capitals to the brink of elimination in their second-round playoff series when they host the Presidents’ Cup winners in Game 4 on Wednesday as small -120 betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Pittsburgh handed Washington their eighth loss in the past 14 games in Game 3, getting past the Capitals by a 3-2 score on the strength of a 47-save performance by rookie goaltender Matt Murray, who has been tagged with just one loss in his past 13 starts heading into Wednesday night’s Capitals vs. Penguins betting matchup at Consol Energy Center.

The loss adds to existing frustration for the Capitals, who dropped to 3-6 in their past nine games when outshooting opponents, including their past two in which they have tallied 40 or more shots on goal.

The Capitals’ recent swoon also adds to the growing pressure they face to fulfill their promise in the postseason after coming up short in each of their past four second-round appearances, and failing to reach the Eastern Conference Final since making their sole Stanley Cup Final appearance back in 1999.

For the Penguins, their win in Game 3 extends a hot streak that has seen them claim victory in 20 of their past 24 contests, lifting them past Washington to -130 favorites on the NHL series prices, and to +260 chalk on the odds to win the Stanley Cup.

While the Capitals finished a full 16 points ahead of Pittsburgh during the regular season, the Penguins have held the edge in head-to-head meetings, going 6-3 over their past nine matchups despite outscoring their Metropolitan Division rivals by a slim 28-24 margin.

Five of the last six meetings between these two clubs have been settled by a single goal, however the total has played UNDER just twice over their past nine clashes, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

Suspensions and injuries have also taken their toll on both clubs, with Penguins blueliner Olli Maatta sidelined indefinitely as a result of an illegal hit by Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who continues to miss time after being suspended for three games.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang will also miss Game 4 after being handed a one-game suspension for a hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3.

Elsewhere, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed overtime but grabbed a 2-1 lead in their second-round series with the New York Islanders with a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday night. That ended a three-game road losing streak against the Islanders for Tampa Bay, and will strengthen their odds on the NHL series prices which had sat at -130.

The Lightning and the Islanders will next meet in Game 4 of their series in Brooklyn on Friday.

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.