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Golden Knights betting favorites against Capitals in Stanley Cup Final

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Oddsmakers are leaning toward the Vegas Golden Knights and star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury making history, even though the track record for first-time Stanley Cup finalists is not overly rosy.

The Golden Knights, who have made the final as an expansion team, are -135 favorites with the Washington Capitals and superstar Alex Ovechkin coming back at +115 on the latest odds to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Vegas has home-ice advantage for the best-of-seven series, which begins with Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena on Monday. For what it might be worth, the last three first-time finalists to represent the Western Conference – 2017 Nashville Predators, 2016 San Jose Sharks and 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks – each lost.

Washington will not have home-ice advantage, but they are 8-2 on the road in the playoffs. A four-day layoff might also help negate any energy advantage Vegas has from playing four fewer games during the first three rounds.

Along with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Capitals have re-integrated center Nicklas Backstrom into their lineup to diversify their offense. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby has a 2.04 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in the playoffs after posting shutouts in each of the final two games of Washington’s series win against Tampa Bay.

The main question with the Golden Knights is whether Fleury, the favorite on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds, and their top-six forwards, including the William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault-Reilly Smith top line, can sustain their efficiency from the first three rounds. Picking against them would mean picking against Fleury and the 1.68 goals-against average and .947 save percentage he has in the playoffs.

The Golden Knights top forwards also have a 12.7 percent shooting percentage in the playoffs, and anything well above 10% is usually unsustainable. That said, coach Gerard Gallant has developed a fast, tenacious team. That assertiveness comes out the most on the road, where the total has gone under in five of the Golden Knights’ eight away games in the playoffs, with two pushes.

Vegas is 6-1 at home in the playoffs, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, although puck-line bettors have probably noticed four wins were by a single goal.

The total has gone over in nine of the Capitals’ last 15 road games against Western teams. The total has gone over in nine of the Golden Knights’ last 16 home games against Eastern 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.

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.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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.