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Penguins host Flyers as favorites at Heinz Field on Saturday night

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With a depleted defense corps, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins could be vulnerable against the Philadelphia Flyers when they take their cross-state rivalry outside on Saturday night.

The Penguins are a -206 betting favorite against the +185 Flyers with a 5.5-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in their NHL Stadium Series matchup, which will take place at Heinz Field on Saturday night.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are dealing with injuries to a quartet of defensemen, with Kris Letang (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Trevor Daley (knee) and Justin Schultz (concussion) all banged up.

But as one would expect of a team led by Crosby, the Penguins don’t squander opportunities when they’re a big favorite. The OddsShark NHL Database shows the Penguins are 9-1 straight up in their last 10 home games as a favorite with a moneyline of -200 to -500.

Philadelphia is 28-25-7 on the season, including a 2-6 mark in their last eight games. The Flyers need to start winning soon in order to stay in the Eastern Conference wild card race, and need the likes of C Claude Giroux and C Brayden Schenn to pick up the pace offensively.

Goalie Michal Neuvirth will make his sixth consecutive start for the Flyers, but has a 2.38 goals-against average and just an .894 save percentage since the all-star break.

The Flyers are overdue for an upset win on the road. They are 1-11 in their last dozen games as the road underdog. Their track record when the odds are really against them is closer to respectability; they are 3-7 in their last 10 road games as an underdog with a moneyline of -150 to -500.

Pittsburgh is 37-14-8 on the season, but injuries on the back end have led to a modest 6-4 record over their last 10 games. With Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cullen, the Penguins are one of the strongest teams in the NHL down the middle.

Veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey, who was picked up by the Penguins on Thursday in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, and will make his Pittsburgh debut. But the Penguins are going to be a shaky pick as long as they are relying on replacement-level rearguards such as Cameron Gaunce and Steve Oleksy.

In spite of the instability on the blue line – and the NHL’s midseason mandating of more form-fitting goalie pants – Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray has a 1.82 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage since the all-star break. The Penguins are also 16-4 in their last 20 home games as the favorite.

For whatever it is worth, the Penguins are 1-2 all-time in outdoor games. The Flyers are 0-2.

The total has gone over in eight of Pittsburgh’s last 11 home games as the favorite. The total has also gone over in seven of Pittsburgh’s last 10 home games against its division.

Bruins seek Bounce-Back Effort hosting Canadiens as betting favorites

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The Boston Bruins haven’t lost two games in a row in a fair chunk of the time and are also conscientious about getting the win in the first leg of back-to-back games.

The Bruins are a -200 moneyline favorite and the rival Montreal Canadiens are a +165 road underdog with a 5.5-goal total in their matchup on Wednesday night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Bruins, who are amid a busy stretch where they will also play the New York Islanders on Thursday, are also 7-3 in their last 10 games when they were also slated to play the next day. Seven of those 10 contests went over the total, with one push.

This is also the second of three games between the Original Six rivals in an eight-day stretch. Boston won at Montreal on January 13, and the teams will also play on Saturday.

The Canadiens are struggling with an 18-20-6 overall record that includes an away mark of 7-12-1, and a 4-7 record since star D Shea Weber (foot) was placed on injured reserve. There are some signs of life, though, as they are undefeated in regulation over their last four games, while LW Max Pacioretty and RW Alex Galchenyuk have shown strong form recently.

Montreal’s biggest issue has been down the middle, where undersized Paul Byron, Tomas Plekanec and Jacob de la Rose were the top centers at practice on Tuesday.

Montreal, which will need a strong game out of G Carey Price, is 6-1 in its last seven road games against Boston, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, but such trends are hard to sustain in the NHL. The Canadiens also haven’t made fools of the sharps, showing just a 3-11 record in their last 14 games as a moneyline underdog of +150 or higher

The Bruins are 24-10-8 on the season, including 14-5-4 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games overall. The Bruins, who have scored at least five goals in each of the past three games that were the front end of back-to-backs, offer two solid scoring lines with the Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak and David Krejci-Jake DeBrusk-Ryan Spooner units.

Given their overall production in the last month, one would think that a team which lost 3-2 in overtime against the Dallas Stars on Monday – after being ahead early in the game – should come up with a focused performance.

Interestingly, Boston has not been a big success when it is deep into minus money, as it’s just 6-4 in its last 10 games as a moneyline favorite or -160 or lower.

The total has gone under in four of Montreal’s last five games as a moneyline underdog of +150 or more, with one push. The total has gone under in seven of Montreal’s last 10 road games against Atlantic Division teams. However, the total has gone over in seven of Boston’s last 10 games when it was in the front leg of a back-to-back, with one push.

For more odds info, 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 check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Rangers Solid Favorites Hosting Blackhawks on Wednesday

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While it will be tough for the New York Rangers to keep winning at home at their current rate, they are catching a sagging Chicago Blackhawks team on Wednesday.

The Rangers are -150 home-ice betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com with the Blackhawks coming back at +120 in a matchup that takes place on Wednesday night. The total is 5.5. The Rangers, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, are 12-3 in their last 15 games as a home favorite. In contrast, the Blackhawks are 2-6 in their last eight road games as the underdog and have also lost four of their last five games.

Chicago is 18-14-6 overall this season, including an 8-9-4 mark away from home, but the Blackhawks have scored only seven goals in their last five games. Star forward Patrick Kane is scoring at a point-per-game pace. However, other key attackers such as as Jonathan Toews (one goal in six games) and Brandon Saad (one in seven) are struggling, and the Rangers’ defense is in the top 10 of the 31-team NHL.

Bettors probably shouldn’t put great stock in Chicago being 5-1 in its last six games after a two-day break, since their previous game on Sunday was two time zones away in Calgary.

The Blackhawks are just 2-10 in their last 12 road games against teams with a point percentage above .600 (The Rangers’ is .603). Neither of their available goalies, Jeff Glass and Anton Forsberg, has ever started a game against the Rangers.

New York is 21-13-5 overall, including a 15-6-3 record at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers, in hockey parlance, have been playing “hit the logo” lately, having scored only eight goals in their last four games despite averaging 37.5 shots in those games.

The total has gone over in five of the Rangers’ last seven home games against Western Conference teams, and a road-weary opponent without its top goalie seems conducive for team scoring leaders such as Pavel Buchnevich (six games without a goal) and Mats Zuccarello (five) to break out.

Two of the Rangers’ other scoring threats, Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller, scored goals during New York’s most recent outing, a 3-2 overtime win outdoors in the Winter Classic against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

Should the Rangers give the starting nod to veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist, know that he is 6-3-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .921 save percentage lifetime against Chicago.

The total has gone over in the Blackhawks’ last three road games. The total has gone over in seven of the Rangers’ last 10 home games against Central Division teams.