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

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.

Penguins heavy betting favorites at MSG for Wednesday night contest

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The Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been this deep into minus money on the road in more than a year, but they have owned Madison Square Garden ice for years.

The Penguins are a consensus -200 road favorite on the NHL odds while the New York Rangers come back at +165 with a 6.0 total for Wednesday’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by

The OddsShark NHL Database shows this could be the lowest moneyline value the Penguins have offered on the road since February 2017, but they are 8-2 in their last 10 away games against the Rangers. Pittsburgh also has an 8-2 mark in its last 10 games as a road favorite of -180 to -500. The Rangers are 4-6 in their last 10 games as an underdog at home.

The main question with the Penguins, who are 40-26-4 as they push to finish first in the Metropolitan Division, is the tautness of their defensive zone coverage in front of their goaltender. Pittsburgh also plays the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and the total has gone over in the Penguins’ last five games when they were slated to play the following day.

Crosby has had success (81 points in 61 games) against the Rangers over the years, while center Evgeni Malkin has eight points in his last four games.

Starting goalie Matt Murray (concussion) is traveling with the Penguins but is doubtful to play Wednesday, leaving the netminding to either Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry. Forward Bryan Rust (concussion) is also sidelined.

The Rangers, 31-32-7 on the year, are 4-2-1 since the NHL trade deadline, when they unloaded expensive veterans to begin retooling. Center Ryan Spooner has two goals and 13 points in eight games since coming south from Boston in the Rick Nash trade. However, along with having struggled at home against Pittsburgh, the Rangers are 2-5 in their last seven games at MSG, including 0-5 against teams presently in the NHL playoff pack.

The X-factor for New York is young goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who is 2-2 in five games with a 2.73 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Georgiev had a 41-save winning effort against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday.

The total has gone under in five of Pittsburgh’s last seven games in March as a road favorite. The total has also gone under in six of Pittsburgh’s last seven road games as a favorite of -180 to -500 on the moneyline. However, the total has gone over in seven of the Rangers’ last 10 games as an underdog at home.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at

Jockey Van Dyke bags 4th winner in row at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Drayden Van Dyke guided City of Light to a 1 1/2-length victory in the $400,000 Triple Bend Stakes for his fourth consecutive victory at Santa Anita.

Van Dyke teamed with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to win the first two races on Saturday’s card with Call West and McKale. Van Dyke won the third aboard 7-2 favorite Well Developed.

Trained by Michael McCarthy, City of Light ran seven furlongs in 1:21.35 and paid $4, $2.80 and $2.10 as the even-money favorite in the Grade 1 race.

Bobby Abu Dhabi returned $5.60 and $2.80, while Edwards Going Left paid $2.20 to show.

Later Saturday, Kentucky Derby hopefuls Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie, trained by Baffert, were to run in the $400,000 San Felipe.

Two other Grade 1 races are on the card, including the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap.