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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.

Capitals Host Flyers as Home Betting Favorites on Wednesday Night

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The Washington Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin, are a -165 moneyline favorite while the Philadelphia Flyers come back as a +140 underdog for their matchup on Wednesday night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Capitals seem certain that center Evgeny Kuznetsov (leg) was able to use the all-star break to get healthy to play, but the Flyers have put goalie Brian Elliott on injured reserve, so it won’t be known until after the morning skate whether Michal Neuvirth starts or minor-league call-up Alex Lyon will make his debut.

The Capitals have lost their last three home games at Capital One Arena, but last season’s team had a 6-0 surge in its first six home games after the all-star break and could easily break out again. The Capitals are also 13-3 in their last 16 regular-season home games against Metropolitan Division team, while the Flyers are 2-6 in their last eight divisional road games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

The Flyers’ 24-17-8 record includes an 8-2 mark over their last 10 games, as well as a 4-2 mark in six road games since Christmas. The first line with center Sean Couturier, left wing Claude Giroux and 20-year-old right wing Travis Konecny has been prolific of late, with the latter coming in a on career-best five-game point streak.

However, with the drop-off in goaltending due to the loss of Elliott and the Capitals’ tendency to defend well at home, Philadelphia will have a slim margin of error.

Neuvirth is 1-1 with a 3.41 goals-against average and .891 save percentage against the Capitals. The Flyers, who face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, are 4-5 this season in the front end of back-to-back games.

The Capitals are 29-15-5 on the season, but are a so-so 6-4 in their last 10 games as well as a mere 4-3 in seven home games since the holiday break. Kuznetsov has only one goal since January 1, although a two-assist effort against the Florida Panthers on January 25 might provide a spark.

The poor results at home notwithstanding, the Capitals are also on an upswing on the specialty teams, cashing in on 27.3 percent of their power plays while going 94.4 percent on the penalty kill over their last 10 games, a big contrast to the Flyers’ respective rates of 5.6 and 72.7. That stacks up as a potential difference marker in a matchup where the total has tended to finish under recently.

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is 8-4-8 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .916 save percentage against the Flyers during his career.

The total has gone over in seven of the Flyers’ last 10 games when they were also playing the following day. The total has gone under in the Capitals’ last four home games and has also finished under in four of their last seven home games against Philadelphia, with two pushes.

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.