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.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Tight betting lines at sportsbooks for Tuesday’s matchups

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The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers have their tightest moneyline in nearly two full seasons going into Game 4 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs series on Tuesday night.

Game 4 of the series is a toss-up with the Canadiens and Rangers each listed at -115 on the moneyline with a total of five goals, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. It’s the closest the two “Original Six” clubs have been in pregame odds since a game early last season. Montreal has had the Rangers’ number, going 8-2 in the teams’ last 10 matchups.

The Canadiens, who lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, are excelling at limiting the Rangers’ team speed and easing the burden on franchise goalie Carey Price. Montreal’s forwards, including Alexander Radulov, are doing a good job of generating offense but have been largely stifled by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist so far in the series.

The Rangers, who are just 2-8 in their last 10 home games, have yet to receive a goal in the series from either Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller or Derek Stepan, three of their top four scorers during the regular season.

The total has gone UNDER in six of Montreal’s last 10 road playoff games. The total has  gone UNDER in seven of Montreal’s last 10 road games against Metropolitan Division teams. The total has also gone UNDER in seven of the Rangers’ last 10 home games against Atlantic Division teams.

Despite being on the brink of elimination, the host Columbus Blue Jackets (-115) still rate a good chance of defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in their Game 4 matchup on Tuesday night. The Penguins and Sidney Crosby have had a proclivity for starting slowly, but are 6-4 in their last 10 divisional road games and sit on the verge of a sweep in the first round.

Columbus is an identical 6-4 in its last 10 home games against the Penguins and has shown it can compete with Pittsburgh, but still, it has to recover from a deflating Game 3 loss and adapt to losing defenseman Zach Werenski (facial injuries).

The total has gone OVER in seven of the Penguins’ last 10 road games against Columbus. The total has also gone OVER in eight of the Blue Jackets’ last 10 home games in April.

And with Joe Thornton back, the San Jose Sharks (-120) are favored against the Edmonton Oilers for their Game 4 matchup on Tuesday night, trailing 2-1 in the first-round series.

Connor McDavid, goalie Cam Talbot and the Oilers, who took the series lead with a 1-0 road win on Sunday, are 7-3 in their last 10 road games against Pacific Division teams. San Jose and captain Joe Pavelski are unlikely to be shut out for a third consecutive game, but they are an uninspiring 5-5 in their last 10 home games at HP Pavilion.

The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Sharks’ last 10 divisional home games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

US routs Germany 11-0, sets up matchup with Canada for gold

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) The U.S. relentlessly dominated Germany, scoring soon after the puck dropped and refusing to relent until the final horn sounded.

Hilary Knight scored 1:06 into the game and Kelli Stack added a goal midway through the first period to give the Americans a cushion that they weren’t content with in an 11-0 victory over the Germans on Thursday night in the women’s hockey world championship semifinals.

“We didn’t want to play down to their pace,” said Kendall Coyne, who scored two of her team’s five goals in the second period. “We want to play up to our pace.”

The Americans will face Canada for gold on Friday night. They’re shooting to win a fourth straight world championship final against the rival Canadians, who beat them in the 2014 Olympics.

“There’s no love lost on the ice,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. “It gets heated.”

Without needing to break a sweat, Nicole Hensley stopped eight shots for the U.S. for a shutout.

The Germans will face Finland in the bronze-medal game Friday, aiming for their first medal in the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship.

“We’re super motivated,” German goaltender Jennifer Harss said. “We’re super excited. We can’t wait.”

The Finns have won 11 bronze in 17 the women’s world championships.

Harss made a pair of spectacular stops that made the crowd gasp in the first period and kept her team within two goals in the opening period. She was replaced after giving up a seventh goal in the second period and was replaced by Ivonne Schroder, who fared only slightly better in the lopsided laugher.

The Americans didn’t let up in the second, scoring five times in the first 6-plus minutes of the period to take a 7-0 lead that left only the final score in doubt, or until the final horn sounded.

Canada and the U.S. have met in every world championship since the event’s inception in 1990, and the Americans have won six of the last seven.

IIHF President Rene Fasel said it might take another 10 or 15 years for the rest of the world to catch up with the Americans and Canadians.

“The gap is still very big,” Fasel acknowledged before the tournament.

Finland coach Pasi Mustonen doesn’t expect anyone to slow down the U.S.

“The Americans on defense are from another planet they’re so good,” Mustonen said. “They’ve been the best team – by far – in the tournament. Canada can score and has a good goalie, too, but defensively it’s not even close. The Americans are much, much better than everyone else.”

The U.S., just after winning an off-ice fight with USA Hockey for better wages, opened the tournament last week with a 2-0 win over the Canadians and followed that up with a 7-0 rout of Russia and a 5-3 victory against Finland.

The Americans were even more dominant against the Germans, who beat Russia to earn a spot in the semifinals.

Coyne scored on a power play early in the breakout period that turned a 2-0 game into a 7-0 rout. Coyne, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Megan Keller added goals in even-strength situations that were so lopsided it looked as if the U.S. had an extra skater on the ice as it maintained the puck easily and found open space to shoot.

Germany had just five shots entering the third, missing a chance to add a shot and goal in the final seconds of the second period when Kerstin Spielberger failed to control the puck in front of a wide-open net.

The Germans had a power play early in the third, but the Americans possessed the puck for much of the 2-minute stretch. Shortly after killing the penalty, Amanda Pelkey scored off a rebound and later in the period. Stack scored again and Haley Skarupa made it a double-digit game in the third.

Refusing to be satisfied, Alex Carpenter scored with 13.3 seconds left to make it 11-0.

“We’ve had a great tournament so far. Obviously, it’s not done,” Duggan said. “If we play the way we can play, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side.”