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.

 

Lightning open NHL offseason atop the 2019 Stanley Cup odds

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The Washington Capitals just won the Stanley Cup in what might’ve been their realistic last chance of doing so, which might illustrate how to look at the futures board for the 2018/19 NHL season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who fell to the Capitals in the penultimate round of the playoffs, are the +900 favorite on the 2019 Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. There is a cluster of teams offering 10/1 odds, with the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets each listed at +1000 heading into the 2019 NHL Draft and the start of free agency.

The next rung of the board includes the Vegas Golden Knights (+1100), Nashville Predators (+1100), Boston Bruins (+1200) and Pittsburgh Penguins (+1200).

The Lightning have some of the strongest cornerstone players in the NHL with Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Victor Hedman and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Like the triumphant Capitals, Tampa Bay will be in win-now mode this season, as only eight players are under contract beyond this year.

Pittsburgh (2016 and 2017 champions) is the only team that has played in successive Stanley Cup finals in this decade. It might be best to fade the Capitals, especially since coach Barry Trotz has left over a contract dispute, hiring on with the New York Islanders.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have impressive young talent, most notably center Auston Matthews. Toronto’s path to the Stanley Cup, though, is blocked by being in the same division with two of the top seven teams on the big board, Tampa Bay and Boston.

Winnipeg will face fewer salary-cap issues this summer than Nashville, its Central Division rival. However, if the two are on a collision course for another second-round showdown, it’s worth pondering the likelihood of the Jets being able to win three road games in Nashville’s arena again.

The Vegas Golden Knights don’t have much more room to go up after having the greatest season ever by an expansion team, reaching the Stanley Cup final. The Pacific Division is well-represented at the top of the odds to win the 2019 Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers (+1800), Anaheim Ducks (+2200), San Jose Sharks (+2200) and Calgary Flames (+2500) all on the top half of the board.

Given the way the NHL is geared toward parity, it might be too much to expect Vegas to play until June again.

Among those teams, San Jose could be an intriguing value play. San Jose, a long-time playoff team, showed through its recent trade activity – trading Mikkel Boedker to the Ottawa Senators for Mike Hoffman, who was flipped to the Florida Panthers – that it is setting up to load up with free agents this summer.

Ottawa (+10000), who has the longest odds, will have an effect on the board if it ends up trading superstar offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose contract is up next year. The other transformative talent who could be on the move this summer is New York Islanders center John Tavares, who hasn’t ruled out re-signing with his original team.

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.

Golden Knights underdogs at Capitals on NHL odds for pivotal Game 4 matchup

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The Vegas Golden Knights are set as +110 road underdogs on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for Monday night as they look to tie up the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final in Game 4 of the series at Capital One Arena.

Vegas fell into a 2-1 series hole on Saturday night with a 3-1 loss at Washington as +116 underdogs, marking their second straight defeat after they also lost 3-2 at home to the Capitals in Game 2 of the set last Wednesday night as -138 betting favorites.

The Golden Knights had staked themselves to a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final with a 6-4 win in Game 1 back on May 28 as -152 favorites on the NHL odds.

Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov carried the Capitals to a 2-0 lead with goals in the second period of Game 3 on Saturday night. Tomas Nosek pulled the Golden Knights to within one goal early in the third period, but Devante Smith-Pelly had the insurance marker for Washington with just over six minutes left in the game.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 21 of 22 Vegas shots in Saturday night’s victory. Vegas counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury gave up three goals on 26 shots in the contest; Fleury has allowed 10 goals over the first three games of the Stanley Cup final after surrendering just 10 goals over five games in the Western Conference final.

Saturday’s win shifted the Capitals from underdogs to favorites on the updated odds to win the Stanley Cup, with Washington now sitting as -240 chalk on that futures board. The Golden Knights slipped to +200 underdogs to win the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season.

Vegas has now suffered consecutive losses for the first time since early April, having dropped back to back games to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames on April 5 and April 7. Saturday also marked the fifth UNDER result for totals bettors in the Golden Knights’ last seven outings, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

The Capitals are 4-1 in their past five games dating back to the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they picked up victories in Game 6 and Game 7. The UNDER is 5-1 for totals bettors in Washington’s last six games.

Washington is also 4-2 in its last six games on home ice, with the OVER only paying off once in that stretch for totals bettors at the sportsbooks.

Puck drop for Game 4 on Monday night is set for 8:00pm ET. The two teams will then get two days off before Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday night. Game 6, if necessary, would be played back in Washington on Sunday night, with a deciding Game 7 on the schedule for next Wednesday in Las Vegas.

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.