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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.

NHL Playoffs Betting Preview: Nashville Predators are Stanley Cup Odds Favorites

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The Presidents’ Trophy hex hangs over the Nashville Predators, who have the top Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com at the outset of the NHL playoffs.

After finishing first overall, the Predators are the +375 favorite on the odds to win the Stanley Cup. However, only one top finisher in the last nine seasons – the Chicago Blackhawks in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign – has gone on to win the Cup. Also, not since the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins has the Cup winner also been the previous season’s runner-up.

That said, with a well-balanced lineup from the goal out, where Pekka Rinne looms, Nashville is a worthy favorite. There just might be more value lower on the board.

Two Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Bruins (+550) and Tampa Bay Lightning (+600), are high up, although no more than one of them will get past the second round. The Vegas Golden Knights (+750) have a tempting price, but they are, after all, a first-year team.

Three of the last four Presidents’ Trophy winners lost in the second round, where the dangerous Winnipeg Jets (+800) could face Nashville. The two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins (+1000) cannot be ruled out, thanks to the presence of Sidney Crosby, but whoever wins the Metropolitan Division will have a tough Eastern Conference final opponent from the Atlantic.

The Penguins (-225) are big favorites on the NHL series prices at the sportsbooks against the Philadelphia Flyers (+195) in their Metropolitan matchup. The Flyers have been a streaky team and that typically bodes poorly against the Penguins.

The Washington Capitals (-125) are not all that deep into minus money against the Columbus Blue Jackets (+105), but captain Alex Ovechkin had a bounce-back season at age 32. Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has struggled in the playoffs the past two seasons.

The Boston Bruins (-160), counting on six rookie regulars, could have some patchy spots in their lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs (+140) in their Atlantic matchup. Toronto won the season series 3-1, while Boston had a string of slow starts to games in the regular season.

The Lightning (-300), who led the NHL in goals scored, should have sufficient firepower to wear down the wild-card New Jersey Devils (+250).

Thanks to the Jets’ shallow playoff history, Winnipeg (-190) carries value against the Minnesota Wild (+165) in a Central Division matchup. The Wild’s defense is in shambles with Ryan Suter (ankle) sidelined and Jared Spurgeon just back from a hamstring injury.

Nashville (-400) could make short work of the depleted Colorado Avalanche (+330). Colorado will not have No. 1 defenseman Erik Johnson or goalie Semyon Varlamov for the series.

The Anaheim Ducks (-120) and San Jose Sharks (even) meet in a Pacific Division matchup, where the main question is the status of Ducks goalie John Gibson. The outlook could shift quickly if Gibson is not 100 per cent. San Jose’s trade-deadline pickup of Evander Kane could also do wonders for its scoring depth.

And Vegas (-130) could find trouble translating its offense-oriented game into success against the Los Angeles Kings (+110). The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the NHL and also had the most efficient penalty kill.

For more odds information, betting 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 listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Predators, Capitals tight on NHL betting lines for Thursday matchup

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The Nashville Predators take motivation – their playoff positioning isn’t secure – and a strong bounce-back trend into a Thursday night matchup of NHL division leaders against the Washington Capitals, who are expected to have top goal scorer Alex Ovechkin on the ice.

Washington is priced at -110 on the moneyline with a 5.5-goal total for Thursday on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Predators, who need to win only one of their two remaining games to clinch the Central Division and top overall seed in the Western Conference, are coming off a disappointing road defeat against the Florida Panthers, where they lost 2-1 despite a 36-27 edge on the shot counter.

The Predators are 8-1 in their last nine games after a loss where they outshot their opponent.

The OddsShark NHL Database shows that the Predators are only 3-7 in their last 10 regular-season away games in April. That might be canceled out by the Capitals’ identical 3-7 mark in their last 10 regular-season home matchups during the month.

The Predators are 51-18-11 but only 8-7 in away games against Eastern Conference teams. Nashville, with a solid offense by committee built around the likes of left wing Viktor Arvidsson, left wing Filip Forsberg and defenseman P.K. Subban, is only 5-5 in its last 10 games, but eight were against teams batting for playoff spots.

Nashville will likely start goalie Pekka Rinne, who will be aiming to fine-tune his game after posting an .880 save percentage in his five most recent starts.

The Capitals are 48-25-7, which includes being 11-3 at home against Western Conference teams. Ovechkin did not practice on Tuesday, leading to speculation that the Washington captain could sit out to get some rest before the playoffs start next week. However, he participated in the morning skate on Thursday.

Still, summoning center Travis Boyd and defenseman Madison Bowey from their Hershey Bears minor-league team could indicate that the Capitals might be as interested in evaluating players as they are in winning the game.

Washington has been rotating goaltenders Braden Holtby (.916 save percentage in his last five games) and Philipp Grubauer (.925 in his last five) over the last few weeks. Grubauer is expected to be between the pipes for the Capitals on Thursday night.

The total has gone under in seven of the Predators’ last 10 road games against the Eastern Conference, including the five most recent. The total has also gone under in seven of the Capitals’ last 10 regular-season home games in April.

For more odds information, betting 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 listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.