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Blackhawks enter season as favorites on Stanley Cup odds

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Since the NHL is a salary-cap league which is structured to produce parity, it’s surprising that the Chicago Blackhawks have such a gap over the field on the odds to win the Stanley Cup in the season ahead.

The Blackhawks, who won the title in the two previous odd-numbered seasons (2013 and 2015) are listed at +750 to capture the Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins are listed at +1000, with their Eastern Conference rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals, also listed at +1000.

Chicago GM Stan Bowman excels at finding the right parts to complement C Jonathan Toews, RW Patrick Kane and G Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks should be strong, but come playoff time they could have a gauntlet in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars (+1200), St. Louis Blues (+1400) and Nashville Predators (+1600).

Dallas was indomitable in the regular season in 2015/16. The Stars have an excellent chance to deal for a good goalie, since many teams will be looking to avoid losing one for nothing in next summer’s Las Vegas expansion draft. The Stars offer more value than Chicago. Nashville also offers value after adding superstar D P.K. Subban to a core group that includes dangerous RW Filip Forsberg.

Among the three Eastern heavyweights, Sidney Crosby’s Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin’s Capitals are far and away the class of the Metropolitan Division.

Pittsburgh returns most of its championship team, but will have to decide how it goes forward in goal after veteran Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced by 22-year-old Matt Murray for their Cup run. The Penguins’ biggest concern entering the season, however, is the health of captain Crosby, who suffered a concussion late last week and has no timetable to return to the ice. That news, released Monday afternoon, could cause a dip in Pittsburgh’s title odds.

Washington’s window to win is open, and perhaps they can repeat the 2016 San Jose Sharks’ journey as the playoff underachiever that has a breakthrough. Washington’s Braden Holtby is also a strong goalie.

Tampa Bay, led by D Victor Hedman and C Steven Stamkos, has 25 postseason wins over the last two seasons. The Lightning are deep up front and are projected to finish atop the Atlantic Divison standings according to website PredictionMachine.com.

The Florida Panthers (+1600) will be without LW Jonathan Huberdeau (leg) for 3-4 months. That will likely affect Florida’s chance to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

No Canadian team made the 2016 playoffs, but the Montreal Canadiens (+2500) offer the most bounce-back potential. Franchise goalie Carey Price is fully healed from a knee injury and cornerstone D Shea Weber came back in the Subban trade. A team from north of the border has not hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal did it in 1993.

Penguins heavy home betting favorites against Blues as NHL season begins

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who typically take care of business as a big moneyline favorite on home ice, face an already banged-up team in their season opener.

The Penguins are a -200 moneyline favorite against the St. Louis Blues (+165) at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in one of the featured betting matchups on the NHL’s opening night on Wednesday.

The Penguins, who are also the favorite on the odds to win the Stanley Cup, are 7-3 in their last 10 regular-season home games as a moneyline favorite of at least -175. They are also 14-6 in their last 20 home games in October.

St. Louis went 12-5 in its final 17 road games last season but is missing several regulars due to injuries, including D Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), C Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and LW Alexander Steen (hand). That could make it easier for the Penguins, whose only reported injury is to LW Patric Hornqvist (hand), to focus on stopping Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko, the offensive leader for St. Louis.

The total has gone under in five of the Blues’ last six road games.

Elsewhere on Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks (-160) are favored against the Philadelphia Flyers (+130). The Sharks finished last season as a shaky play at 3-6 on the puckline in their final nine home games, but C Joe Thornton and C Logan Couture were hampered by injuries at that time.

The Flyers, who are 2-7 in their last nine road games against the Pacific Division, are hoping to have D Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body) on the ice on Wednesday night.

The total has gone under in the Sharks’ last five home games in October.

The Winnipeg Jets (-120) are a slight home favorite against the Toronto Maple Leafs (-110). The Leafs, with a cadre of young stars led by C Auston Matthews, are overdue for a turn in fortune against Winnipeg. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games against Winnipeg, including an 0-5 streak in their last five road games.

The total has gone over in Toronto’s last five road games against Winnipeg. Last season the Jets, led by RW Patrik Laine, were seventh in the NHL in goals scored but allowed the fourth-most, so that trend might continue.

And the Edmonton Oilers (-160), led by Connor McDavid, are favored against the Calgary Flames (+130). While the Flames are more about offense by committee than star power with LW Johnny Gaudreau, C Sean Monahan and C Mikael Backlund leading the way, they are 8-3 in their last 11 road games against the Oilers.

Calgary’s Achilles heel was goaltending last season, but it has added veteran G Mike Smith. The total has gone under in nine of Edmonton’s last 13 home games against Calgary, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

 

Edmonton Oilers close gap on Pittsburgh Penguins on Stanley Cup odds

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The Stanley Cup futures board might appear to be based on the “don’t bet against Sidney Crosby” principle, but it also reflects the disparity between the NHL’s two conferences.

With the regular season beginning next week, Sid the Kid and the two-time reigning champion Penguins remain the +750 betting favorite to lift the silver chalice in 2017/18, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

But since the board opened in June, the price on the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid have come down to +800. Of course, the Oilers would have to get through the tough Pacific Division in the playoffs, and likely a tough Central Division club in the conference final.

The Penguins have freed up salary-cap space by seeing off G Marc-Andre Fleury. Being in the Eastern Conference, which isn’t as deep as the West, also means a better chance of getting through three series to make the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) might not have the depth to skate through such a gauntlet.

No fewer than six teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, 2017 runner-up Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals – are being offered at +1400. Losing two-way C Ryan Kesler to hip surgery makes it best to take a wait-and-see approach with Anaheim.

From among that group, Nashville, due to its defense and goaltending, and Tampa Bay, due to having stars such as D Victor Hedman and C Nikita Kucherov as well as a clean bill of health for C Steven Stamkos, are justifiable plays.

McDavid (+150) is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as most valuable player, followed by Crosby and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 20-year-old phenom Auston Matthews (+850). Being in the league’s largest media market could goose Matthews’ chances, although the Leafs aren’t quite a contender yet.

The playoffs and regular season are practically two different sports in the NHL, so laying chalk in division props is not a must. Pittsburgh (+225) is favored on the odds to win the Metropolitan Division, but the lower-profile Columbus Blue Jackets (+450) with their all-American defense pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, could make it interesting. Washington (+300) is probably due to take a step back.

Tampa Bay (+275) is favored to win the Atlantic Division. The Montreal Canadiens (+350) might be too reliant on goalie Carey Price, while Toronto (+375) had almost everything go right last season on the goaltending and injury fronts while squeaking into the playoffs.

There could also be some big-star bias inherent in Dallas (+275) and Chicago (+300) topping the Central Division board. Nashville (+350) is deeper defensively and in goal than both of those teams.

Edmonton (+225) has the low price in the Pacific Division, and as a younger team are more likely than the Anaheim Ducks (+275) to go all out for first place. Their rivals, the Calgary Flames (+600), might actually be Edmonton’s biggest barrier to regular-season supremacy, with both the Los Angeles Kings (+500) and San Jose Sharks (+450) being aging teams.