Canada the clear favorite on World Cup of Hockey odds, USA trails

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Team Canada is the chalk pick on the World Cup of Hockey futures board, but the field has been shuffled ahead of the tournament’s first games in Toronto on Saturday.

Canada, which produces roughly half of all NHL players, has won eight of the 12 Olympic and major international best-on-best tournaments that have been held since 1976. No other nation has won more than once. With stars such as Sidney Crosby and Drew Doughty, Canada is listed at -105 to win the World Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Among a Group A that also consists of Russia (+500), the United States (+600) and the Czech Republic (+2500), Canada should be able to get the top-two finish that ensures a semifinal berth; website PredictionMachine.com has Canada winning the tournament in just under 40 percent of its simulations.

Among the teams in Group A with Canada, Russia and the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin is a mysterious second favorite. The nation’s focus in international hockey is usually on the world championship, which conflicts with the Stanley Cup playoffs. Russia has not medalled in the last three Olympic hockey tournaments.

Team USA is counting on two-way players such as Ryan Kesler to dominate possession and shut down opponents. Reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion Patrick Kane is on hand as the marquee player, but the Americans will need Stanley Cup-winning goalie Jonathan Quick to be great.

The Czech Republic always seems to come into international tournaments – be it the Olympics, worlds, or the Christmastime world junior championship – overshadowed. If goalie Michal Neuvirth is in peak form, they have a chance to surprise a few teams.

The movement on the board is in Group B. Team North America is listed at +1200, down from +2000 in July. The team of under-23 talents such as Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Aaron Ekblad and Nathan MacKinnon scored 13 goals in three pre-competition games, even though McDavid was not on the scoresheet.

Sweden, which typically contends thanks to having New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, is listed at +600. Finland’s prop has come down to +1100, from +1400 in July. Nashville Predators G Pekka Rinne has the potential to steal games. Finland was the bronze medallist in the last two Olympics. The group also includes Team Europe at +3300.

The top two teams in each group advance to the cross-over semifinals on September 24 and 25. The best-of-three final begins September 27.

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.