Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins keep losing players without being any worse for wear, but a general assumption of that continuing could boost prices on the underdog Ottawa Senators.
The Penguins are a -130 moneyline favorite against the +110 underdog Senators with a 5-goal total in their Game 3 matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Over the last five seasons the Penguins are 7-4 straight-up in 11 games as a road favorite during the month of May, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. While some offensively gifted teams can get frustrated by the suffocating defensive tactics deployed in playoff hockey, the Penguins have had seven of their last nine games in May go UNDER and have managed to go 5-4 in those contests.
The Eastern Conference final is tied 1-1 heading into the Game 3 matchup, with the two teams having combined for a paltry four goals. Pittsburgh has also come away with injuries to D Justin Schultz (shoulder) and RW Bryan Rust (upper body). Ottawa could have LW Viktor Stalberg (lower body) back as it looks to generate more offense.
The Penguins, 13-7 in their last 20 games overall, did not score during the first two periods of either of the series’ first two games as they struggled to solve Ottawa’s 1-3-1 defensive alignment. It was not for lack of trying, as Crosby and Malkin’s respective lines generated a lot of shots and effectively played keepaway.
If Schultz is unable to play, Pittsburgh will be ever more reliant on D Olli Maatta to help create offensive rushes that negate Ottawa’s trapping techniques.
The Senators, 10-10 in their last 20 games overall, had just 29 even-strength shot attempts in Game 2, when they were shut out and barely tested Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. However, they are 6-3 in their last nine home games as an underdog of +110 or more on the moneyline.
The change of venue to the Canadian Tire Centre means Ottawa’s most reliable offensive players such as RW Bobby Ryan, C Kyle Turris and C Jean-Gabriel Pageau will have more favorable line matchups. And, of course, Ottawa has an X-factor with playmaking defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Ottawa is 9-1 over its last 10 home games against Metropolitan Division teams, but trends such as that are hard to sustain in the parity-driven NHL. The total has gone UNDER in these teams’ last four meetings.