Capitals favored over Wild, Blackhawks on latest Stanley Cup odds

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When it comes to Stanley Cup futures, understanding the distinction between being skilled enough and strong enough is important.

At the two-thirds mark of the regular season, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are atop both the standings and the 2017 Stanley Cup futures board. The Capitals are the +550 favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Goaltending likely isn’t going to be stumbling block for Washington, since goalie Braden Holtby is an all-star. However, teams built around a scoring winger such as Ovechkin often don’t get far.

Also of note, the team with the best regular-season record has won the Stanley Cup only four of 19 times in years when the NHL played an 82-game season. Only one of those instances has occurred during the salary cap era, which began in 2005-06.

The Minnesota Wild, the Western Conference leader, are listed at +700, and the time might be now to back them before their value drops. Minnesota might be better built for the playoffs than Washington with their top-two center-ice tandem of rejuvenated veteran Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu.

The Wild have one of the deepest forward groups in the league and could sail through the Central Division portion of the playoffs, given that the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) and St. Louis Blues (+3300) are underachieving.

No team has gone back-to-back during the cap era, but with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the middle, the Pittsburgh Penguins (+1000) will be heard from in the postseason. The Penguins also have a very good price at this point.

While there hasn’t been a repeat in nearly two decades, one deep playoff run does tend to begat another. Last season’s runner-up, the San Jose Sharks (+1400), could go deep again, especially with Brent Burns as their workhorse shutdown defenseman.

The Montreal Canadiens (+1400) are the highest Canadian team on the board. The Habs have regressed since they won 13 of their first 15 games this season. They rate a strong chance of advancing out of the Atlantic Division, where the second- and third-place teams consist of the overachieving, goalie-dependent Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have extraordinary young talent with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner but are probably too inexperienced to go deep this season.

Three of the last eight champions, including the 2016 Penguins, made a coaching change during the season. That means the way-off-the-board pick would be the Boston Bruins (+4000). Boston fired coach Claude Julien this week and replaced him with Bruce Cassidy. Their chances of making the playoffs were trending upward at the time of the coaching change and all-star goalie Tuukka Rask can be a difference-maker.

Bruins Solid Betting Favorites at Red Wings for Wednesday Night

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The Boston Bruins have had the Detroit Red Wings’ number recently, but there is a case for jumping on Detroit as a value pick that has improving puck luck on the way.

The Bruins are a -145 road betting favorite with the Red Wings coming back at +125, while the total is 5.5 goals in this matchup that takes place on Wednesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Boston is 8-1-1 (with six wins in regulation time) over its last 10 games against its Atlantic Division rival Detroit, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. Detroit also comes in scuffling with a 1-5-4 record across its last 10 games.

The Bruins had a slow start, but have corrected course and are 14-9-4 overall, including an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games as well as a respectable 5-5-2 road record. Boston coach Bruce Cassidy has a full lineup, including the Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak first line and a No. 2 trio of center David Krejci between wings Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork. Boston has been a productive lot, going 4-1 in its last five road games.

Goalie Tuukka Rask will start for Boston, and he has been dialed in lately with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. The Bruins’ strong contributions from the last line of defense – and the second-last, with rookie Charlie McAvoy combining with old pro Zdeno Chara on the first pairing – have led to four of their last five road games finishing under the posted total.

On form, the Red Wings are a shaky play at 11-13-6 overall, which includes a poor 5-6-5 home record so far in their first season at Little Caesars Arena. Leading scorer Dylan Larkin is on a 10-game goal drought, while promising RW Evgeny Svechnikov has a goose egg in the goal column over the last 12.

The Red Wings under coach Jeff Blashill have been struggling to score, managing just a single goal in five of their last eight games. They have, however, had the lion’s share of scoring chances over their last three games; as hockey types often say, everything evens out in the sport eventually.

The Red Wings’ No. 1 goalie, Jimmy Howard, has received a “mercy pull” from some recent games, but had a solid 27-save performance in a 2-1 overtime loss against the Florida Panthers on Monday.

The tea leaves probably point to a Boston victory, but bettors should keep a corner of one eye on the Red Wings as long as the young team continues to offers plus money. Six of their next seven games are against either playoff-position teams or the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, so that will likely continue for a few weeks yet.

The total has gone over in six of the last 10 games between Boston and Detroit. The total has gone over in six of the Red Wings’ last eight home games.

 

Predators favored against Penguins on betting lines for Game 4

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have an excellent track record as a bounce-back team, but they are giving off some distressing signals against the Nashville Predators going into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Predators are a -155 moneyline favorite against the +135 underdog Penguins with a 5.5-goal total for Monday’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Predators are 9-1 in their last 10 home playoff games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. Nashville is 11-4 in its last 15 home games as a favorite of -140 to -500 on the moneyline.

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. The home team has won each of the clubs’ last six meetings.

The Penguins are 13-2 in playoff games after a loss under coach Mike Sullivan and are also 6-4 in in their last 10 playoff games as an underdog on the road. However, star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were each held without a shot on goal during Game 3, a first in their time playing together.

Pittsburgh has also counted on its power play throughout much of its playoff run, but it is only 1-for-13 with the extra skater so far against Nashville. Crosby has yet to score in the series.

Health-wise, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan might have to shuffle his forward lines if center Nick Bonino (left foot) is unable to play. Bonino is listed as doubtful, although he practiced on Sunday. Pittsburgh also needs to create more opportunities for Phil Kessel. While Jake Guentzel has a series-high four goals, those have come on only six shots on goal (hardly a sustainable shooting percentage).

Nashville, which is 13-6 in the playoffs, has been the better team in even-strength play during the course of the series. The Predators are often able to control the tempo of a game due to the defensive foursome of P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, who all have at least 10 points during the playoffs.

While some puck luck played into the 5-1 score during the Predators’ first win against Pittsburgh on Saturday, other key elements included staying out of the penalty box as well as getting an injection of speed from the creation of a line of Frederick Gaudreau, Harry Zolnierczyk and P.A. Parenteau.

Goalie Pekka Rinne (27 saves on 28 shots) also regained his usual form. If that continues, Nashville should have an excellent chance of taking another win at home and reducing the series to a best-of-three.

The total has gone over in seven of Nashville’s last 10 home games against Eastern Conference teams. The total has gone over in 11 of Nashville’s last 16 home games (playoffs and regular season) when it was a favorite of -150 to -500 on the moneyline.