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Crosby, Penguins lead field on odds to win 2017 Stanley Cup

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No Stanley Cup champion has repeated since the National Hockey League became a cap league in 2005, but nevertheless the Pittsburgh Penguins have top opening odds to win the 2017 Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Sidney Crosby-led Penguins became the third NHL franchise to win multiple Cups during the cap era when they wrapped a six-game series win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. Pittsburgh, whose most recent win was in 2009, joined the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, ’13 and ’15) and Los Angeles Kings (2012, ’14) as teams that have won more than once since the cap’s creation.

The Penguins are listed at +800 to raise the silver chalice in 2017, although GM Jim Rutherford could have to move on from some players to get under the salary cap. The Penguins could address their salary-cap crunch by trading veteran C Evgeni Malkin, breaking up the long-running superstar tandem with Crosby.

Other teams with high odds are those with a central superstar. The Chicago Blackhawks, led by RW Patrick Kane and C Jonathan Toews, are listed at +1000 after a season where they bowed out of the playoffs early. The Washington Capitals and high-scoring LW Alex Ovechkin, who have a reputation for underachieving in the playoffs, are also listed at +1000.

The St. Louis Blues, who have never won the Cup but who went to the Western Conference final, are listed at +1200. The Blues have some salary cap room to play with and will have even more if they let free-agent C David Backes sign elsewhere.

Sticking in the Western Conference, the Sharks and their Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings each have +1400 Stanley Cup odds. On top of not having a draining playoffs this spring, the Kings are deep in quality forwards in C Anze Kopitar, as well as players such as RW Tyler Toffoli and LW Tanner Pearson who are each moving into their peak years.

The Kings also have cap space to add key pieces this season. The Anaheim Ducks, who are listed at  +1600, could also threaten to make it three finals in a row with a California-based team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who are pegged at +1400, have made it to at least the Eastern Conference final for two consecutive seasons. Tampa Bay’s franchise player, C Steven Stamkos, can become a free agent on July 1. Stamkos’ departure would alter the outlook for the Lightning, but they showed their impressive depth by going deep into the playoffs while he was receiving treatment for blood clots.

The Dallas Stars, who are at +1600, were the league’s most exciting offensive show for much of the season as they led the NHL with 267 goals. The playoffs pointed out that the Stars need to upgrade their defense and goaltending if they wish to win their first Cup since 1999.

Seven of the last 11 Stanley Cup champions have hailed from the Western Conference.

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.