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Maple Leafs Visit Blackhawks as Small Underdogs on Odds

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The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t visit the Chicago Blackhawks often enough to deduce any betting trends, but Auston Matthews and Co. are solid in the front end of back-to-back games.

The Blackhawks, led by right wing Patrick Kane, are a -110 moneyline favorite and the Maple Leafs are a small +100 underdog with a 6.0-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com on Wednesday night.

Each team has been in a rut for much of January and would like to pick up all four possible points from back-to-back games just before the NHL all-star break. The Maple Leafs are just 1-5 (with three losses in extra time) over their last six games, but coach Mike Babcock’s club is 9-1 in their last 10 games when they were also scheduled to play the following day.

The Blackhawks are 0-3 in their last three home games and are also 5-5 in their last 10 games when they were also scheduled to play the following day (Toronto visits the Dallas Stars on Thursday, while Chicago visits the Detroit Red Wings.)

The Leafs have not won at the United Center since February 12, 2003, but this is only their eighth game in the Windy City in the last 14 seasons.

The Maple Leafs are 26-18-5, but a 3-5-2 record over their last 10 games has led Babcock to shake up his forward lines. Two-way center Nazem Kadri will be flanked by left wing Patrick Marleau and right wing Mitchell Marner to complement the Matthews-Zach Hyman-William Nylander first line.

Toronto is a solid 13-10-3 on the road, but that’s balanced out by both a troubling trend – try a 3-7 record over their last 10 road games against Central Division teams – and an injury situation, since unpredictable Jake Gardiner has to replace reliable Morgan Rielly (arm) on the first defense pairing.

Defensive lapses cost Toronto during its 4-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, but it had a practice day in between to work on operating without Rielly.

Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen is 2-2-3 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in seven career games against Chicago.

The Blackhawks are 22-19-6, but are sagging of late as evidenced by their 4-6 record in their last 10 games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, which includes being outscored 13-3 in their last three defeats. Kane remains a point-per-game scorer despite a constant churn of linemates (for now, it’s center Nick Schmaltz and left wing Patrick Sharp).

Bettors will have to make a pick on whether the Blackhawks remain mired in their offensive slump (six goals in five games) or experience a breakout from the likes of the Jonathan Toews-Brandon Saad-Anthony Duclair line against Toronto’s defense.

Chicago, which is 2-5 in its last seven home games against Eastern Conference teams, has yet to give a timeline on when No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford (upper body injury) will return. The start in goal is likely to go to Jeff Glass, a long-time minor leaguer who has never faced Toronto. He is 3-3-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

The total has gone over in both five of the Maple Leafs’ last seven road games and their last three road games against Western Conference teams. The total has gone under in eight of the Blackhawks’ last 10 home games.

Ewan wins Stage 11; Conti keeps pink jersey in Giro

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NOVI LIGURE, Italy (AP) Caleb Ewan of Australia sprinted to victory on the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, while Italian cyclist Valerio Conti remained the overall leader.

Ewan, who rides for Lotto-Soudal, edged out Arnaud Demare and Pascal Ackermann in a bunch sprint at the end of the entirely flat 221-kilometer (137-mile) route from Carpi to Novi Ligure.

Conti remained 1 minute, 50 seconds ahead of Slovenian cyclist Primoz Roglic, who is one of the favorites, and 2:21 ahead of Nans Peters of France.

It was the second victory at this year’s Giro for the 24-year-old Ewan, who also won the sprint at the end of the eighth and longest stage on Saturday.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

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Lightning heavy favorites on Stanley Cup odds at all-star break

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The NHL has a team far out in front in the overall standings as it heads into its all-star break – and that might serve to goose the value of other Stanley Cup contenders.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have been first overall for most of the season, are the +260 favorite on the latest Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Lightning, with a deep offense led by Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos and a premiere defenseman in Victor Hedman leading their back end, lead the NHL in points, wins, goals scored and goal differential.

The top of the futures board also includes the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames (+550), San Jose Sharks (+750), Toronto Maple Leafs (+800) and Winnipeg Jets (+800).

As loaded as the Lightning are, the top team in the regular season rarely lifts the Stanley Cup in the spring. The 2008 Detroit Red Wings are the most recent team to finish first overall and go on to win the whole thing in a full 82-game season. Only eight of 33 Presidents’ Trophy winners have also won the Stanley Cup.

Calgary is a solid second favorite, with left wing Johnny Gaudreau and defenseman Mark Giordano being among the NHL’s best at their positions. As a western Canada-based team, the Flames are also likely to fly under the radar of public bettors. Their question mark revolves around goalies David Rittich and Mike Smith having almost no Stanley Cup playoff experience.

Sticking in the Pacific Division, San Jose is a springtime-seasoned team, having made the final in 2016, and their current standing has come with dynamic defenseman Erik Karlsson working his way back to peak form after adapting to a new team.

At this stage of the game, bettors looking for value in a league that prides itself on parity should consider teams with greater than 10/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. The cluster of teams that includes the Nashville Predators (+1400), Vegas Golden Knights (+1500), New York Islanders (+1600), Pittsburgh Penguins (+1600) and defending champion Washington Capitals (+2000) includes plenty of playoff experience.

The Penguins are always a threat with Sidney Crosby and have weathered injuries, including one to No. 1 goalie Matt Murray, during the first four months of the regular season. The Predators and Golden Knights are the two most recent Western Conference finalists and are both strong puck-possession teams, while the Islanders are under the command of head coach Barry Trotz, who steered Washington to its first Stanley Cup in 2018.

It might be best to fade the Capitals, though, until such time that No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby shows he can recover his past form.

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 Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.