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.

Blackhawks, Penguins leading the way on updated Stanley Cup odds

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When poring over the latest 2017 Stanley Cup futures, it’s important to remember that only four franchises – all in major U.S. markets – have raised the NHL championship trophy over the last eight seasons.

As a parity-driven league, the NHL would probably prefer that to change, but it’s not surprising that the Chicago Blackhawks at +700 and the Pittsburgh Penguins at +800 have the top odds to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Six months out from the Stanley Cup final in June, they might be the safest, if lowest-reward picks available.

The Blackhawks, led by reigning Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane and center Jonathan Toews, are leading the Central Division. One red flag with Chicago is that their penalty killing is nearly the worst in the league, which could be an Achilles heel in the playoffs. Sidney Crosby, of course, is scoring at a practically career-high rate for the Penguins, who are also pushing for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Beyond that big two, though, several other teams possess value. Now that star goalie Henrik Lundqvist can take more nights off thanks to the emergence of understudy Antti Raanta, the New York Rangers (+1000) might be better equipped for the long haul of a two-month playoff run. The Rangers have made the third round three times during the Lundqvist era.

The Montreal Canadiens, with franchise goalie Carey Price, are now listed at +1100 on those NHL betting lines by virtue of a strong start. No franchise from Canada has won the Cup since Montreal did in 1993, but that trend is overdue to end. The defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks are also finding their form with defenseman Brent Burns leading the team in scoring,

The presence of 19-year-old wunderkind Connor McDavid has pulled the Edmonton Oilers (+1200) up the board, but it might be too soon to tell whether Edmonton’s endless rebuild has finally come to fruition.

Some of the longer shots worth monitoring include the Minnesota Wild (+1800), Columbus Blue Jackets (+2500, after opening at +10000 in preseason) and Boston Bruins (+2800). The Wild boast the best goal differential in the Western Conference and have been fortified by the goaltending of Devan Dubnyk and the leadership of center Eric Staal.

While playoff success is alien to Columbus, a breakout from center Sam Gagner and a balanced attack have them high up on most experts’ playoff rankings. Boston has also managed to stay competitive in the tough Atlantic Division despite having one of the NHL’s lowest shooting percentages. When those bounces start to go the Bruins’ way, they could be very dangerous.

Quartet of teams tied atop updated odds to win Stanley Cup

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Four weeks into the season, there has been major movement on the 2017 Stanley Cup odds.

Four teams – the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals – share the top odds at +900 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

And the teams trending the most in each direction are the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton, which is on the upswing thanks to generational talent Connor McDavid, has seen its odds come down from +7500 to +1000. The Kings, who did not record a win in regulation time until their 12th game, have seen their odds rise from +850 at the outset of the season to +2500 on those NHL betting lines.

The Oilers have not made the playoffs since 2006, but one only need look at the recent success of the Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane) and Penguins (Sidney Crosby) to know a team which spends years amassing high draft picks can hit its stride very quickly. The Oilers have one of the NHL’s most productive offenses, which is going to keep them in a lot of games. Their odds still carry a lot of value.

Results in hockey are much more random than in other team sports. It is not surprising that most of the teams at the top of the board have a PDO – a team’s shooting percentage combined with the save percentage of its goalies – well above 100. Teams tend to regress or rise toward the mean over time. According to the PDO tables at SportingCharts.com, the New York Rangers (+1000), Blackhawks and Canadiens are all having a high degree of puck luck early in the season.

In Montreal’s case, one couldn’t be faulted for betting on a team which now has franchise goalie Carey Price fully healthy. Washington, led by captain Alex Ovechkin and bolstered by goalie Braden Holtby, is off to a strong start that is sustainable. Each seems to have the most solid case among the leaders.

The teams which currently possess value include the Dallas Stars (+2000) and the aforementioned Kings (+2500). Dallas has started slowly, but if the Stars get an upgrade in goal to back up their skilled attack, they could be poised for a run in the Western Conference.

The fact that the Kings have been snakebit scoring-wise during a small sample of games does not mean a team with premier defenseman such as Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin could not be a dangerous playoff team. The Kings were the No. 8 seed when they won their first Cup in 2012. At this juncture, they have a lot of value.