Capitals favored over Wild, Blackhawks on latest Stanley Cup odds

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When it comes to Stanley Cup futures, understanding the distinction between being skilled enough and strong enough is important.

At the two-thirds mark of the regular season, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are atop both the standings and the 2017 Stanley Cup futures board. The Capitals are the +550 favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Goaltending likely isn’t going to be stumbling block for Washington, since goalie Braden Holtby is an all-star. However, teams built around a scoring winger such as Ovechkin often don’t get far.

Also of note, the team with the best regular-season record has won the Stanley Cup only four of 19 times in years when the NHL played an 82-game season. Only one of those instances has occurred during the salary cap era, which began in 2005-06.

The Minnesota Wild, the Western Conference leader, are listed at +700, and the time might be now to back them before their value drops. Minnesota might be better built for the playoffs than Washington with their top-two center-ice tandem of rejuvenated veteran Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu.

The Wild have one of the deepest forward groups in the league and could sail through the Central Division portion of the playoffs, given that the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) and St. Louis Blues (+3300) are underachieving.

No team has gone back-to-back during the cap era, but with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the middle, the Pittsburgh Penguins (+1000) will be heard from in the postseason. The Penguins also have a very good price at this point.

While there hasn’t been a repeat in nearly two decades, one deep playoff run does tend to begat another. Last season’s runner-up, the San Jose Sharks (+1400), could go deep again, especially with Brent Burns as their workhorse shutdown defenseman.

The Montreal Canadiens (+1400) are the highest Canadian team on the board. The Habs have regressed since they won 13 of their first 15 games this season. They rate a strong chance of advancing out of the Atlantic Division, where the second- and third-place teams consist of the overachieving, goalie-dependent Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have extraordinary young talent with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner but are probably too inexperienced to go deep this season.

Three of the last eight champions, including the 2016 Penguins, made a coaching change during the season. That means the way-off-the-board pick would be the Boston Bruins (+4000). Boston fired coach Claude Julien this week and replaced him with Bruce Cassidy. Their chances of making the playoffs were trending upward at the time of the coaching change and all-star goalie Tuukka Rask can be a difference-maker.

Golden Knights betting favorites for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final

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Being up three games to one has often been a dangerous series lead for the Washington Capitals, which might be why the Vegas Golden Knights are favored to stave off elimination in the Stanley Cup final on Thursday night.

 

While Washington is one win away from its first Stanley Cup, the Golden Knights are a -145 moneyline favorite and the Capitals come back as a +125 underdog with a 5.5-goal total for Game 5 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

 

In the league’s history, teams that have been up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final have gone on to win the championship 32 of 33 times, including 31 in a row.

 

More in the here and now, Washington is 9-3 in 12 away games during the playoffs. Three of the four teams that had 10 road wins in a single postseason have won the Stanley Cup. Vegas is 7-3 in its last 10 home games as moneyline favorite of -135 to -200, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

 

The Capitals franchise has the dubious distinction of having lost five playoff series after leading 3-1, which is an NHL record. However, Washington’s top three centers, Evgeny Kuznetsov (playoff-leading 31 points), Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller, have generally outplayed their Vegas counterparts in this series.

 

Washington goalie Braden Holtby has a 2.13 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in the playoffs, with two shutouts.

 

The basis for backing the Golden Knights is that they have lacked puck luck, never more so than when left wing James Neal hit the post with a wide-open net when Game 4 was still scoreless on Monday. Top-line center William Karlsson, who did not practice on Wednesday, has been struggling, with only five recorded shots in four games during the Stanley Cup final and only three points in Vegas’ last seven games, well below his averages for the full season.

 

Vegas’ second and third lines, centered by Erik Haula and Cody Eakin, haven’t been able to cover for the dip in production from the Karlsson line.

 

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has a 2.15 goals-against average and .929 save percentage with four shutouts in the playoffs. Fleury’s average has risen by almost half a goal during the last four games.

 

While it’s a small sample, the Capitals have had the special teams edge, as their power play is 4-for-12 (33.3 per cent) in the series. The Golden Knights are 2-for-12 (16.7 per cent).

 

The total has gone under in 14 of the Capitals’ last 18 games against Pacific Division teams. The total has also gone under in seven of the Golden Knights’ last seven games against Eastern Conference teams.

 

If Vegas wins and avoids elimination, the Capitals will host Game 6 on Sunday.

 

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.

 

Stanley Cup Final heads to Washington with Capitals Game 3 betting favorites

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The Vegas Golden Knights have produced value for bettors by playing the perfect road game, while the Washington Capitals are dealing with an injury to first-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The Capitals are a -125 moneyline favorite while the Golden Knights are a +105 underdog and the total is at 5.5 for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The teams head into the matchup at Capital One Arena on Saturday with a two-day respite since splitting two games on Vegas’ home ice, reducing the NHL championship series to a best-of-5.

The OddsShark NHL Database notes that the Golden Knights, a first-year expansion team, are 6-2 in their last eight games as an away underdog. The under has hit in five of those contests, with two pushes. The Capitals are 2-4 in their last six home games as a favorite of -100 to -130. Overall, Washington is 4-5 at home during the playoffs, which suggests there is a strong chance of the series being tied again after Game 4.

The Golden Knights were only 8-8 during their 16 road games against Eastern Conference teams and bettors must decide whether their road record in the playoffs reflects more on their talent or how Vegas matched up with early-rounds opponents who had less team speed.

Vegas has a 73-54 edge in recorded shots on goal so far in the series, but its William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault-Reilly Smith first line will need to be creative to get loose from the Capitals’ mobile defense unit.

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has a 1.88 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in the playoffs after allowing seven goals on 54 shots in the past two games. Fleury has not gone three games in a row all season with save percentages of less than .900.

For the Capitals, their foremost concern is whether Kuznetsov, who practiced on Friday after coming out of Game 2 early holding his left arm, will be able to take his No. 1 center spot between left wing Alex Ovechkin and right wing Tom Wilson. The Capitals’ adjustment during Game 2 was to put Nicklas Backstrom up on the Ovechkin line, with rookie left wing Jakub Vrana helping the second line generate more shot attempts than their Vegas counterparts.

Washington goalie Braden Holtby has a 2.19 goals-against average and .921 save percentage during the playoffs. Holtby is coming off a 37-save performance during Washington’s win in Game 2 and also had a shutout in the Capitals’ previous home game.

The total has gone under in Vegas’ last five road games against Eastern Conference teams, although the most recent contest in the sample was on March 12. The total has gone over in six of Washington’s last nine home games against Western Conference teams

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.