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Sharks Underdogs Against Penguins Heading into Stanley Cup Final

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The San Jose Sharks are gunning for a third straight road win on Monday as they get set to make their first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 as +135 betting underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Crucial road victories in Games 2 and 5 powered San Jose to a six-game series win over the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final, lifting their league-best road win total this season to 33 games heading into Monday’s Sharks vs. Penguins betting matchup at Consol Energy Center.

After posting 28 road victories during the regular season, the Sharks have continued their road warrior ways in the postseason, winning five of nine away from the SAP Center, and have surrendered just five total goals over their past three road contests.

Goaltending has played a crucial role in the Sharks’ march to the Stanley Cup Final, with Martin Jones rising to the occasion during his first NHL playoff run, leading the Sharks to underdog series wins over the Blues and the Los Angeles Kings.

With Jones holding opponents to just 13 total goals over his past seven outings, the Sharks’ skaters have been able to focus on offense, outshooting opponents in five of their past seven while racking up 27 total goals, pushing the total OVER in each of their past three games.

Game 1 marks Pittsburgh’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since their last championship victory in 2009. It has been a tale of two seasons for the Penguins, who struggled to find the net during an early-season string of mediocrity which culminated in the firing of coach Mike Johnston.

The Penguins have been a different club under bench boss Mike Sullivan, finishing the regular season on a 27-10 run, including wins in 14 of their final 16 games according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

Pittsburgh needed seven games to get past the wounded Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, but get the nod from oddsmakers as a solid -155 favorite to take Game 1, and is a slim -120 favorite on the NHL series prices.

Young goaltending has also played a crucial role in the Penguins’ playoff success, with 22-year-old Matt Murray taking over in place of injured veteran Marc-Andre Fleury to record 11 of the club’s 12 postseason wins, improving to 20-7 on the season.

The clubs split a pair of games this season, each posting road wins, but San Jose has dominated historically, winning 15 of 20 meetings with the Penguins dating back to 1999.

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.