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Blackhawks enter season as favorites on Stanley Cup odds

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Since the NHL is a salary-cap league which is structured to produce parity, it’s surprising that the Chicago Blackhawks have such a gap over the field on the odds to win the Stanley Cup in the season ahead.

The Blackhawks, who won the title in the two previous odd-numbered seasons (2013 and 2015) are listed at +750 to capture the Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins are listed at +1000, with their Eastern Conference rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals, also listed at +1000.

Chicago GM Stan Bowman excels at finding the right parts to complement C Jonathan Toews, RW Patrick Kane and G Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks should be strong, but come playoff time they could have a gauntlet in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars (+1200), St. Louis Blues (+1400) and Nashville Predators (+1600).

Dallas was indomitable in the regular season in 2015/16. The Stars have an excellent chance to deal for a good goalie, since many teams will be looking to avoid losing one for nothing in next summer’s Las Vegas expansion draft. The Stars offer more value than Chicago. Nashville also offers value after adding superstar D P.K. Subban to a core group that includes dangerous RW Filip Forsberg.

Among the three Eastern heavyweights, Sidney Crosby’s Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin’s Capitals are far and away the class of the Metropolitan Division.

Pittsburgh returns most of its championship team, but will have to decide how it goes forward in goal after veteran Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced by 22-year-old Matt Murray for their Cup run. The Penguins’ biggest concern entering the season, however, is the health of captain Crosby, who suffered a concussion late last week and has no timetable to return to the ice. That news, released Monday afternoon, could cause a dip in Pittsburgh’s title odds.

Washington’s window to win is open, and perhaps they can repeat the 2016 San Jose Sharks’ journey as the playoff underachiever that has a breakthrough. Washington’s Braden Holtby is also a strong goalie.

Tampa Bay, led by D Victor Hedman and C Steven Stamkos, has 25 postseason wins over the last two seasons. The Lightning are deep up front and are projected to finish atop the Atlantic Divison standings according to website PredictionMachine.com.

The Florida Panthers (+1600) will be without LW Jonathan Huberdeau (leg) for 3-4 months. That will likely affect Florida’s chance to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

No Canadian team made the 2016 playoffs, but the Montreal Canadiens (+2500) offer the most bounce-back potential. Franchise goalie Carey Price is fully healed from a knee injury and cornerstone D Shea Weber came back in the Subban trade. A team from north of the border has not hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal did it in 1993.

Desperate Flyers face red-hot Penguins as favorites on Saturday

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The Philadelphia Flyers will try to avoid a season sweep by the Pittsburgh Penguins that could snuff out their tenuous playoff hopes when they play host to their Metropolitan Division rivals on Saturday as -123 betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Despite sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, Philadelphia remains in control of their own playoff destiny entering Saturday afternoon’s Penguins vs. Flyers betting matchup at Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers are coming off a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto on Thursday that prevented them from drawing alongside the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings in the conference standings.

While deadlocked with Boston in the Atlantic Division standings, the Red Wings currently claim sole possession of third place, narrowly topping the Bruins in regulation and overtime wins.

However, Philly maintains one game in hand on both Boston and Detroit, who each wrap up their campaigns early on Saturday, with the Bruins battling the Ottawa Senators as -275 home chalk, and the Red Wings visiting the New York Rangers as -120 road favorites.

Philadelphia has now lost three straight, and six of their past 11 overall, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, and must also overcome a red-hot Penguins squad that has beaten them three times since January, and is currently on a torrid 14-1 run.

In the event of victories on Saturday by both Boston and Detroit, the Flyers will need to post wins against both Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders, whom they face on Sunday, to clinch a playoff berth.

Over in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks will need help from the Winnipeg Jets to overtake the Los Angeles Kings and claim a fourth straight Pacific Division title.

Winnipeg visits the Kings on Saturday night as +200 underdogs, and must hand Los Angeles a loss in their regular season finale to preserve the Ducks’ shot at the division crown.

Anaheim trails the Kings by two points with two games remaining, but comes up short on tiebreakers against their crosstown rivals.

Losers in their past two games, the Ducks are pegged as -150 road favorites to end a three-game losing streak against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, before traveling to Washington to face the Capitals on Sunday.

Washington remains atop the Stanley Cup odds as 4/1 favorites, followed by the Kings at 7/1, the Chicago Blackhawks at 15/2, and Anaheim at 8/1. Pittsburgh joins the Dallas Stars at 9/1, while the St. Louis Blues round out the favorites with 10/1 odds.

Flyers rise, Red Wings slide on updated Stanley Cup odds

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The red-hot Philadelphia Flyers claimed an impressive 3-2 victory over the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, lifting them past the Detroit Red Wings in the race for an Eastern Conference Wild Card spot and boosting their odds to win the Stanley Cup to 33/1 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Flyers have quickly emerged as the hottest team in the NHL, claiming victory in eight of their past 10 outings, and picking up points in 18 of the past 23 games.

Their current tear comes in marked contrast to their performance in the early going this season, when they posted just six victories over their first 20 games, a run that sent their Stanley Cup odds tumbling to 100/1.

Philadelphia faces another tough test this weekend when they battle Pittsburgh, but they have dominated their Metropolitan Division rival in recent years, taking an 8-1 record in their past nine meetings into Saturday afternoon’s matchup at Wells Fargo Center according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

With nine losses in their past 15 games, the Red Wings find themselves in the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and at real risk of missing the postseason for the first time in 25 years.

Detroit has also seen their NHL futures fade at the sportsbooks, tumbling to 40/1 to win the Stanley Cup after climbing as high as 18/1 just four weeks ago.

The Red Wings play six of their final 11 contests on the road and have six dates with teams currently ahead of them in the standings, including a crucial visit from the Flyers on April 6.

The Washington Capitals continue to lead the way atop the Stanley Cup odds as 4/1 betting favorites, while the Los Angeles Kings, winners in seven of their past 10 games, have vaulted to 6/1, passing the Blackhawks, who trail at 7/1, and the Anaheim Ducks at 15/2.

The Ducks have cooled off somewhat, losing four of five games after going on a torrid 20-3 run that briefly lifted them to the top of the Pacific Division standings, while Chicago is a dismal 4-10 in their past 14, dropping them to third place in the Central Division.

The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues continue to battle for top spot in the Central Division, but both have struggled to post wins, and have each seen their odds fade, to 12/1 and 14/1, respectively.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks also sit at 14/1, followed by the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins at 16/1, the Florida Panthers at 18/1, and the Penguins at 20/1.