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Lightning, Golden Knights co-favorites on updated Stanley Cup odds

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A season that is nothing short of historic for an expansion team has put the Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the odds to win the Stanley Cup, but bettors will no doubt look past that since the playoffs are practically a different sport.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the aforementioned Golden Knights are +600 co-favorites on the latest Stanley Cup futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With just less than a third of the regular season to go and the NHL’s February 26 trade deadline less than two weeks away, the top of the board also includes the surging Boston Bruins (+800), Nashville Predators (+850), two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins (+900) and Winnipeg Jets (+1200), as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1500) and Washington Capitals (+1500).

The Golden Knights, out of the four division leaders, have the highest chance of staying in first place and securing home-ice advantage. It remains to be seen if a team put together last summer can stick together in the playoffs; right wing James Neal is the only one of the Golden Knights’ top six scorers who has played in a Stanley Cup final.

Thanks to the division-based playoff format, only one team between the Lightning and the Bruins can advance past the second round. The Atlantic Division race will be worth monitoring as Tampa Bay, led by right wing Nikita Kucherov, and Boston, led by the likes of left wing Brad Marchand, are both near the top of the NHL in points percentage and goal differential. Each of the last 10 Stanley Cup winners has had a goal differential of at least +25, meaning that yes, the regular season does count to some extent.

The Maple Leafs have a Vezina Trophy candidate in Frederik Andersen, but only twice in the last 20 years has the league’s top goalie led his team to the Cup.

The Penguins and captain extraordinaire Sidney Crosby are coming on strongly in the Metropolitan Division and, of course, seem to have the Capitals’ number in the playoffs. No team has won three Cups in a row since the 1976-79 Montreal Canadiens won four straight in a league that was barely half the size of the current 31-team circuit.

While Nashville and Winnipeg are separated by 1,300 miles and an international border, their playoff roads could also go through each other in the Central Division. The price on the Predators and defenseman P.K. Subban probably reflects the track record they built while coming within two games of hoisting the Stanley Cup a season ago.

Winnipeg is an intriguing dark horse that has stayed near the top of the division and Western Conference even though No. 1 center Mark Scheifele has missed about a quarter of the schedule due to injury.

Teams that can be probably be crossed off include the sagging Chicago Blackhawks (+5000), Carolina Hurricanes (+5000) and New York Rangers (+5000). All three will probably be cashing in some trade chips this month as they try to retool.

For more odds info, 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 check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

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.