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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.

Favored Rangers seek end to home-ice hex against the rival Islanders

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While the teams’ records can be thrown out when the NHL’s two city rivals meet, the New York Rangers do take a strong record in back-to-back games into their clash against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

The Rangers, who are relying on goalie Antti Raanta to hold the fort with superstar Henrik Lundqvist (lower body injury) sidelined, are only 2-7 straight-up in their last nine home games against the Islanders, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

However, the Rangers should have some motivation after an overtime defeat on Tuesday against the also-ran New Jersey Devils. In fact, the Rangers, home favorites for Wednesday’s game at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, are 7-3 in their last 10 games when they were playing the second of back-to-back contests.

The Islanders, who are 33-26-12 on the season, should be ready to play desperate hockey since they have had a three-day break and are only 1-4 in their last five games. Coach Doug Weight has shuffled his lines to stimulate some offense, reuniting captain John Tavares (nine points over his last 10 games) with his regular left wing, Andrew Ladd.

The Islanders, who should have fresh legs, could also get a spark in the offensive zone from recent rookie call-up Josh Ho-Sang.

The break might also be a boon for Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, who has an unsightly 3.46 goals-against average and .893 save percentage so far this month. Some of that can be put down to the recent play by the Islanders, who are also 3-7 in their last 10 divisional road games.

The Rangers are 45-24-4 on the season, but just 5-7 across their last 12 games, which has dropped them into fourth in the Metropolitan Division. Veteran winger Rick Nash ended a nine-game goal drought against the Devils, but has been shut out so far this season against the Islanders. The Rangers also finished the New Jersey game strongly, leveling 16 shots on goal in the third period.

Raanta is having a strong month with a 2.13 GAA and .924 save percentage. The Rangers are 1-4 in their last five divisional home games.

The total has gone under in three consecutive Islanders’ games for bettors on the NHL odds. The total has gone over in six of the last nine games where the Rangers were favored at home against the Islanders.

Ovechkin, Capitals Road Favorites Against Flyers on Wednesday Night

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The law of averages and both teams’ recent play would suggest Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are due for a better fate in Philadelphia.

The Capitals are a -165 betting favorite against the +135 underdog Philadelphia Flyers with a 5.5-goal total in their NHL betting matchup on Wednesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Washington won 5-0 on January 15 when the Metropolitan Division rivals last met, but that was at the Verizon Center and the Flyers are 8-2 straight-up in their last 10 home games against the Capitals with any moneyline, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

Presumptive starting goaltender Michal Neuvirth has often fared well against Washington, particularly during the 2016 playoffs.

The Flyers are also 7-3 in their last 10 games at home as an underdog of +135 to +500 on the moneyline. Their price on the moneyline offers much more value than the Capitals’ does.

Washington, which is 39-12-7 this season, will be aiming to avoid its first three-loss skid of the season. Ovechkin has traditionally had the Flyers’ number over his career, as the future Hall of Famer has 31 goals and 18 assists for 49 points in 43 career games against Philly.

Washington is one of the NHL’s deepest teams offensively and, in Braden Holtby, are well spoken for in goal.

The Capitals are 7-3 in their last 10 games on the road as a favorite of -135 to -500 moneyline.

Philadelphia, which is 28-24-7, is at a point of the season where it needs to play desperate to stay in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot. The Flyers, who are only 3-7 in their last 10 home games against their division, have several key players itching to bust out offensively. Captain and No. 1 center Claude Giroux has only two points in his last 10 games and offensive defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has only six over his last 15, three of which came last Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.

If Neuvirth is sharp, the Flyers have a chance.

The total has gone over in six of the Capitals’ last 10 divisional road games, but has gone under in four of their past six away contests (with one push). The total has gone under in six of the Flyers’ last 10 home games overall.