Ovechkin, Capitals Wednesday favorites hosting the Rangers

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With goalie Henrik Lundqvist in need of fine-tuning his game before the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers will carry a positive trend into their rivalry matchup against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

With little on the line standings-wise since both teams are locked into a playoff position, Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals are -190 betting favorites against the visiting +165 underdog Rangers, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Since November 2011, the Rangers are 7-3 straight-up in regular-season road games against the Capitals. Both teams are likely to hold out key players who have anything more serious than a hangnail. Washington has clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with the best overall record in the NHL, while the Rangers will be a cross-over wild-card team in the first round, facing the Montreal Canadiens in an Atlantic Division series.

The Rangers are 47-26-6 on the season, although they are just 3-7 across their last 10 games. Lundqvist, the franchise goalie, will be making his fifth start since missing three weeks due to hip injuries.

New York coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Tuesday that D Ryan McDonagh, RW Jesper Fast, RW Rick Nash and RW Mats Zuccarello will not play, along with possibly several other players. New York is very much a scoring-by-committee team, though, and fill-ins such as Pavel Buchnevich, Tanner Glass and Matt Puempel will be eager to show they deserve to be in the lineup, not the press box.

Lundqvist is 12-4-2 in his last 18 appearances against Washington.

Washington is 53-18-8 overall on the season, including 8-2 across its last 10 games. With home-ice advantage for the playoffs not in question, coach Barry Trotz might sit some of his key players, especially since Washington played the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

The Capitals are 4-6 in the last 10 contests when they were playing the second of back-to-back games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

Defenseman John Carlson, for one, was a game-time scratch for Washington against Toronto. However, goalie Braden Holtby is one key player who will surely start, since understudy Philipp Grubauer was between the pipes on Tuesday. Holtby is 7-9-1 in 17 career games against the Rangers.

The total has gone over in four consecutive Rangers’ games. The total has also gone over in six of New York’s eight most recent divisional road games, with one push. However, the total has gone over in just two of the Capitals’ 10 most recent divisional home games.

Penguins home favorites against Predators for Game 5 of Stanley Cup final

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In what’s been a strictly home-ice Stanley Cup final, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been bet up into a heavy favorite against the Nashville Predators for the likely series-turning Game 5.

The Penguins are a -155 moneyline favorite against the +135 underdog Predators with a 5.5-goal total for Thursday’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Penguins opened at -139 on the moneyline, but they are also riding a trend of being 9-3 in their last 12 home playoff games.

That means there is betting value in taking the Predators, who are a respectable 5-5 SU on the road during the postseason. Nashville has topped Pittsburgh in five-on-five shot attempts in all four games of the series. The main pregame question revolving around the Predators involves the health of D P.K. Subban (ankle), who is part of the shutdown pair that has held Penguins C Evgeni Malkin without a goal for three consecutive games.

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne also allowed eight goals on 36 shots during the two previous games at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena.

The Predators have had the run of play during the series, largely by virtue of a blueline led by Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Subban. They also managed to win Game 5 on the road in the third round against Anaheim, although that came in a rink where they were 4-4 in their most recent eight games, which tops a 1-6 record in their last seven road games against the Penguins.

The Penguins are 8-3 at home in these playoffs heading into Thursday’s Game 5 matchup, but have been increasingly reliant on C Sidney Crosby as the final has unfolded. Reliable sources of offense such as RW Phil Kessel and RW Bryan Rust are on six-game goal droughts, while Pittsburgh’s power play has been powerless through the first five games.

However, any physical limitations with Subban could be a boon to Malkin. Left wing Jake Guentzel (playoff-most 13 goals, including four in as many games versus Nashville) will also be looking for a bounce-back after missing some top scoring chances during Game 4.

Pittsburgh’s defense is mostly a patchwork outfit; Crosby actually led the Penguins in ice time in Game 4, which is rare for a forward. While there’s been speculation about a goalie switch, Matt Murray is most likely to start.

The total has gone OVER in five of Nashville’s last seven games against Pittsburgh for totals bettors, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The Predators will host Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final on Sunday night.

 

Penguins betting favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champions

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins will have to keep being opportunistic – against probably the best defense and goalie combo they have seen in the playoffs – in order to repeat as the Stanley Cup champion.

In series prices for the Stanley Cup final the Penguins are the -155 favorite against the +135 underdog Nashville Predators at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Penguins, who are 7-0 in playoff series since Mike Sullivan became their coach midway through last season, are attempting to become the first team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back Cups.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh at Monday. For Game 1, Pittsburgh is a -165 moneyline favorite against the +145 underdog Predators with a 5.5-goal total.

The Predators, who are 16-13-2 as an underdog, have been the stingiest team during the playoffs (1.81 goals per game). Goalie Pekka Rinne has raised his level of play while being supported by a defense with a top four of Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban, who help Nashville control possession and set the pace. Rinne is remarkably resilient; he has allowed exactly one goal in each of Nashville’s last four games after a defeat.

Nashville comes in trailing some significant injuries, with C Ryan Johansen (compartment syndrome) done for the year. However, C Mike Fisher (undisclosed) is expected back for Game 1 and young C Colton Sissons has done a fine job covering for Johansen. Winger Filip Forsberg comes into this series on a seven-game point streak.

The Penguins, who are 52-17-11 as a favorite this season, will be facing a major adjustment in going from the Ottawa Senators’ conservative defensive style in their previous round to Nashville’s high-paced game. However, with offensive linchpins such as Crosby and C Evgeni Malkin and their supporting cast that includes LW Conor Sheary, RW Jake Guentzel and RW Phil Kessel, the Penguins are very efficient offensively.

The Penguins have the highest team shooting percentage (9.6%) during the playoffs. Granted, they’re less likely to outshoot the Predators than the Senators. Crosby’s line will also have to outwork Subban and Ekholm, who have shut down a string of elite centers during the playoffs.

Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray has been solid since getting the No. 1 job back four games ago. The Penguins aren’t as deep defensively as the Predators, allowing 2.21 goals per game in the playoffs, but D Justin Schultz has provided a boost since getting healthy.

The total has gone over in just six of Nashville’s last 20 playoff games with seven pushes, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone over in eight of Pittsburgh’s last 20 playoff games, with two pushes.