Maple Leafs Visit Blackhawks as Small Underdogs on Odds

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The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t visit the Chicago Blackhawks often enough to deduce any betting trends, but Auston Matthews and Co. are solid in the front end of back-to-back games.

The Blackhawks, led by right wing Patrick Kane, are a -110 moneyline favorite and the Maple Leafs are a small +100 underdog with a 6.0-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com on Wednesday night.

Each team has been in a rut for much of January and would like to pick up all four possible points from back-to-back games just before the NHL all-star break. The Maple Leafs are just 1-5 (with three losses in extra time) over their last six games, but coach Mike Babcock’s club is 9-1 in their last 10 games when they were also scheduled to play the following day.

The Blackhawks are 0-3 in their last three home games and are also 5-5 in their last 10 games when they were also scheduled to play the following day (Toronto visits the Dallas Stars on Thursday, while Chicago visits the Detroit Red Wings.)

The Leafs have not won at the United Center since February 12, 2003, but this is only their eighth game in the Windy City in the last 14 seasons.

The Maple Leafs are 26-18-5, but a 3-5-2 record over their last 10 games has led Babcock to shake up his forward lines. Two-way center Nazem Kadri will be flanked by left wing Patrick Marleau and right wing Mitchell Marner to complement the Matthews-Zach Hyman-William Nylander first line.

Toronto is a solid 13-10-3 on the road, but that’s balanced out by both a troubling trend – try a 3-7 record over their last 10 road games against Central Division teams – and an injury situation, since unpredictable Jake Gardiner has to replace reliable Morgan Rielly (arm) on the first defense pairing.

Defensive lapses cost Toronto during its 4-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, but it had a practice day in between to work on operating without Rielly.

Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen is 2-2-3 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in seven career games against Chicago.

The Blackhawks are 22-19-6, but are sagging of late as evidenced by their 4-6 record in their last 10 games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, which includes being outscored 13-3 in their last three defeats. Kane remains a point-per-game scorer despite a constant churn of linemates (for now, it’s center Nick Schmaltz and left wing Patrick Sharp).

Bettors will have to make a pick on whether the Blackhawks remain mired in their offensive slump (six goals in five games) or experience a breakout from the likes of the Jonathan Toews-Brandon Saad-Anthony Duclair line against Toronto’s defense.

Chicago, which is 2-5 in its last seven home games against Eastern Conference teams, has yet to give a timeline on when No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford (upper body injury) will return. The start in goal is likely to go to Jeff Glass, a long-time minor leaguer who has never faced Toronto. He is 3-3-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

The total has gone over in both five of the Maple Leafs’ last seven road games and their last three road games against Western Conference teams. The total has gone under in eight of the Blackhawks’ last 10 home games.

Lightning, Golden Knights co-favorites on updated Stanley Cup odds

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A season that is nothing short of historic for an expansion team has put the Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the odds to win the Stanley Cup, but bettors will no doubt look past that since the playoffs are practically a different sport.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the aforementioned Golden Knights are +600 co-favorites on the latest Stanley Cup futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With just less than a third of the regular season to go and the NHL’s February 26 trade deadline less than two weeks away, the top of the board also includes the surging Boston Bruins (+800), Nashville Predators (+850), two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins (+900) and Winnipeg Jets (+1200), as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1500) and Washington Capitals (+1500).

The Golden Knights, out of the four division leaders, have the highest chance of staying in first place and securing home-ice advantage. It remains to be seen if a team put together last summer can stick together in the playoffs; right wing James Neal is the only one of the Golden Knights’ top six scorers who has played in a Stanley Cup final.

Thanks to the division-based playoff format, only one team between the Lightning and the Bruins can advance past the second round. The Atlantic Division race will be worth monitoring as Tampa Bay, led by right wing Nikita Kucherov, and Boston, led by the likes of left wing Brad Marchand, are both near the top of the NHL in points percentage and goal differential. Each of the last 10 Stanley Cup winners has had a goal differential of at least +25, meaning that yes, the regular season does count to some extent.

The Maple Leafs have a Vezina Trophy candidate in Frederik Andersen, but only twice in the last 20 years has the league’s top goalie led his team to the Cup.

The Penguins and captain extraordinaire Sidney Crosby are coming on strongly in the Metropolitan Division and, of course, seem to have the Capitals’ number in the playoffs. No team has won three Cups in a row since the 1976-79 Montreal Canadiens won four straight in a league that was barely half the size of the current 31-team circuit.

While Nashville and Winnipeg are separated by 1,300 miles and an international border, their playoff roads could also go through each other in the Central Division. The price on the Predators and defenseman P.K. Subban probably reflects the track record they built while coming within two games of hoisting the Stanley Cup a season ago.

Winnipeg is an intriguing dark horse that has stayed near the top of the division and Western Conference even though No. 1 center Mark Scheifele has missed about a quarter of the schedule due to injury.

Teams that can be probably be crossed off include the sagging Chicago Blackhawks (+5000), Carolina Hurricanes (+5000) and New York Rangers (+5000). All three will probably be cashing in some trade chips this month as they try to retool.

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.

Bruins road favorites at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday

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The Boston Bruins, the hottest team in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, are likely starting a backup goalie on Wednesday night and have a shaky record in the second leg of back-to-back games. Whether that comes into play depends on their opponent.

The Bruins are a -120 moneyline favorite against the struggling New York Rangers, who are coming back at +105. There is also a 5.5-goal total for their matchup on Wednesday night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Boston comes into its first game with left wing Brad Marchand back from suspension with a 13-3 record over its last 16 away games, as well as a 10-0 mark in its last 10 games when they were favored on the road. However, Boston is 3-5 this season while playing for the second night in a row, as well as 0-5 in its last five road games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

With that said, this is a matchup of first versus almost the worst in everyone’s NHL power rankings, as the Bruins are 32-11-8 on the season, including an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games. The return of Marchand to the top line with center Patrice Bergeron and right wing David Pastrnak is timely, since depth forwards Noel Acciari (lower-body), Anders Bjork (upper-body) and Jimmy Vatrano (lower-body) are all ailing.

Boston, which is an even 5-5 over its last 10 road games against Metropolitan Division teams, will likely start backup goalie Anton Khudobin. He is 0-2-2 lifetime against New York.

Understandably, the recent efforts of the Rangers, whose 25-23-5 record includes being 3-7 in their last 10 games, will give many bettors pause. Amid rumors of left wing Rick Nash being unloaded before the NHL trade deadline on February 26, the Rangers are scuffling offensively, having scored more than two goals only twice in their last seven games.

Center Mika Zibanejad has been a bright spot, but New York has been a dreadful possession team and having right wing Pavel Buchnevich (concussion) and left wing Jimmy Vesey (concussion) injured reduces their capacity to be a spread team.

While the Metropolitan Division is more highly regarded than the Atlantic Division, the Rangers are just 5-9 in their last 14 regular-season home games against Atlantic teams. However, longtime goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 27-12-2 in his career against Boston, so the low-percentage value play predicated on Lundqvist stonewalling the Bruins and stealing the win is available.

The total has gone over in three of the Bruins’ last four road games against the Metropolitan Division, with one push, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone over in the Bruins’ last three road games against the Rangers. The total has also gone over in six of the Rangers’ last 10 games as an underdog at home.

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.