OddsShark

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.

 

Nadal leads Djokovic, Murray, Thiem on French Open odds

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The overarching presence of Rafael Nadal, who has won a record nine times at Roland Garros, has inflated prices on the other top men at the French Open.

Nadal is listed as a better than even money -125 favorite on the French Open men’s champion board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Spaniard has won 17 of 18 matches on clay this year and will not have to worry about longtime nemesis Roger Federer, who’s saving himself for the grass and hard courts. The event begins in Paris on Sunday.

While Nadal is undoubtedly the most consistent clay-court player in the world, many threats loom. Novak Djokovic (+300) might be ready to come out of his lull now that he has swapped out his support staff, bringing on Andre Agassi as a personal coach. Nadal and Djokovic are on the same side of the draw, so either would benefit if the other falls prey to an upset.

Dominic Thiem (+900) could also be undervalued, given that he defeated Nadal in the Italian Open, one of the tune-ups for the French.

Top seed Andy Murray (+900) has not won an event on clay this season and his place on the tennis betting lines might reflect the notion that some bettors will always go for a big name with a track record of winning Grand Slams. In terms of someone who is coming into the tournament playing well, Stan Wawrinka (+1000) has had an impressive run at the Geneva Open after having so-so output for most of the clay-court season. Wawrinka is also a recent champion, having won in 2015.

It seems like it is just a matter of when 20-year-old Alexander Zverev (+1400) will win his first Grand Slam singles title. Zverev turned heads when he extended Nadal to five sets in a third-round defeat at the Australian Open in January, and he defeated Djokovic in the Italian Open final to become the youngest player in 10 years to win an ATP Masters event.

As far as the women’s champion board goes, Simona Halep (+450) has top odds but is battling an ankle injury. World No. 1 Angelique Kerber (+1600) has also been inconsistent throughout the season. Young Ukrainian Elina Svitolina (+700) is an intriguing possibility by virtue of her results (four singles titles already in 2017) and her strong return game, since the soft clay at Roland Garros dictates having longer rallies.

Garbine Muguruza (+900) is the defending champion, but it’s a little glaring that she has not reached a Grand Slam semifinal in three tries since that 2016 breakthrough.

Scott Dixon slight favorite in Indianapolis 500

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Recent history shows being the pole-sitter may not foreshadow who wins the Indianapolis 500, but being among the fastest in qualifying is essential to being the one who sips the milk in Victory Lane.

Scott Dixon, who had the fastest qualifying times since 1996 in open-wheel racing’s signature event, has both the pole and top odds to win the Indy 500 at +600 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. However, none of the last seven pole-sitters have gone on to win the race. Eleven of the last 14 champions, though, were in the Fast Nine, which is the name given to those who were in the group that earned the opportunity to fight for pole position.

The race takes place on Sunday.

Dixon has an Indy 500 win (in 2008) to his credit and has steadily been a top-five finisher in the IndyCar Series this season. There is more value to be had with Formula One convert Fernando Alonso (+800) and Will Power (+800), who will respectively start in Rows 2 and 3. Alonso, of course, has never handled an IndyCar among other drivers, but has impressed all month and was fifth-fastest in qualifying.

Power won the 2017 IndyCar Grand Prix at the same track on May 13, but is starting ninth. Neither Power nor any of the Team Penske drivers were impressive during qualifying, as teammates Helio Castroneves (+1000), Juan Pablo Montoya (+1200) and Josef Newgarden (+1500) are all starting well back in the field. Newgarden, who will start in Row 8, is one of the most consistent drivers in the series.

Owner-driver Ed Carpenter (+1500) and defending champion Alexander Rossi (+1500) will start in Row 1 with Dixon. Carpenter has had only one top-10 finish in his last seven attempts in this race, but certainly could be in contention. There has been a run on Rossi picks since he qualified third, as he was listed at +2900 before qualifying due to having finished no higher than fifth in any race since his unexpected win last Memorial Day weekend.

The rest of the fastest nine is rounded out by Marco Andretti (+1200) and Tony Kanaan (+1200), Takuma Sato (+1500) and JR Hildebrand (+3000). Picking Andretti at online gambling sites means going against the ‘Andretti curse,’ as the famed racing family is a combined one-for-71 in the race. Hildebrand is a one-time runner-up (2011) and was sixth in the 2016 race.