The Tampa Bay Lightning are the easy favorite to win this year’s Stanley Cup. It only makes sense after a record-tying 62-win season and a league-leading 128 points during the regular season. The Lightning have dominated the competition this season and have the ability to do so in the playoffs. Will they?
Tampa Bay has lost in the Eastern Conference finals in each of the past two seasons. They dropped both series in seven games. Last year, the Lightning lost to eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington. Two years ago, it was Pittsburgh, also the eventual champion.
The Lightning will be a tough out as they have three – yes three! – 40-plus goal scorers. Nikita Kucherov (41 goals) led the NHL with 128 points. Steven Stamkos led the team with 45 goals and Brayden Point added 41. Tampa Bay led the league in scoring (3.89 goals per game) and it doesn’t hurt to have a Vezina Trophy candidate in goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy went 39-10-4 with a 2.40 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
What about a Repeat?
As easy as it is to see why Tampa Bay is such a huge favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year, it’s just as hard to understand why Washington is priced at +850. The Capitals have virtually the same lineup that helped them win the franchise’s first Cup last year. They won the Metropolitan Division again and finished with almost the exact same record (48-26-8) and point total (104) as last season. Alex Ovechkin led the league, once again, with 51 goals. Is it too hard to believe the Caps can repeat?
Washington’s nemesis, Pittsburgh (+1550), just won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. The idea that repeat champions can’t happen in today’s salary cap era is simply untrue. That’s why the Caps have value at +950.
The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. The best chance of a Canadian victory in 2019 is likely the Calgary Flames (+650), which had the best record (50-25-7) and most points (107) in the Western Conference. The Flames finished just behind Tampa Bay in scoring at 3.52 goals per game. Calgary had four players in the NHL’s top-31 scorers. Johnny Gaudreau led the Flames with 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) and finished tied for seventh in the league in scoring.
Sean Monahan scored 34 goals and had 82 points (23rd-best) and Elias Lindholm (27 goals, 78 points) and Matthew Tkachuk (34 goals, 77 points) finished 30th and 31st overall in scoring. Calgary, which plays Colorado in the opening round of the playoffs, won the season series against the Avalanche winning all three games. The Flames recorded a split in series with Vegas (2-2) and San Jose (2-2), potential Round 2 opponents. In the two wins over both teams, Calgary scored 13 goals against each opponent. The offensive firepower is definitely there for a team given +800 odds to win the Stanley Cup.
Music City Miracle
The Nashville Predators are built for the grind of the playoffs. The Predators, with +1350 odds, have plenty of playoff experience too, winning at least one series in each of their last three trips to the postseason. Nashville gets home-ice advantage in Round 1 against Dallas, but they will have to generate some scoring to have a chance at the Cup. Nashville averaged just 2.88 goals per game, 19th in the NHL this season. It might take a miracle, but a well-placed bet on the Predators could pay off.
Yes, really. The Columbus Blue Jackets (+1750) went all-in by acquiring Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene at the NHL trade deadline. Along with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, and Artemi Panarin; the Blue Jackets may have what it takes to pull the upset of the century. They must face Tampa Bay in Round 1, but goalies like Bobrovsky can sometimes be the difference in a seven-game series.
Columbus would get either Toronto or Boston in Round 2. Both teams are better – on paper – than the Blue Jackets, but a stingy defense might allow them to get to the conference final. If Columbus can beat the Lightning – remember, the Blue Jackets won seven of their last eight regular season games – anything is possible. Even at +2800.
To find out more about the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, click here.
Talent in Toronto
It is quite possible that the Leafs are eliminated from the playoffs quickly in Round 1 by Boston, a +1150 favorite to win the Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs defense is atrocious, but you just can’t overlook the amount of talent in Toronto.
Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner anyone? What if William Nylander finally breaks out during the playoffs? The Leafs have 10 players with double-digit goals and few teams can match their speed. A scoring barrage might carry Toronto to its first Stanley Cup since 1967.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are priced very low at +950 for the amount of talent on their roster. Part of the reason why is likely the Bruins seven-game defeat of Toronto in an opening-round series last year. Twice in the past six seasons, Boston has defeated Toronto in the postseason.
St. Louis Not Singing the Blues
Columbus beating Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs would be a huge upset, but how about the St. Louis Blues (+750)? Hard to believe, but on January 3 the Blues were the worst team in the NHL. Then, goalie Jordan Binnington took over.
Binnington went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals against average, a .927 save percentage, and five shutouts. The Blues qualified for the playoffs with a dramatic turnaround and have the luxury of a very Stanley Cup-friendly bracket. St. Louis begins the postseason with a very beatable Winnipeg. Crazier things have happened.
NHL STANLEY CUP ODDS TO WIN (Updated April 16th, 2019)
Tampa Bay +1150
St. Louis +700
San Jose +1550
NY Islanders +650
OTHER BETS ON THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
In addition to betting on the eventual Stanley Cup champion, there are a number of other ways to make some bank while enjoying the NHL’s postseason. Because hockey is not as popular as football, oddsmakers do not spend the same amount of time creating odds for those games. As a result, bettors can take advantage and earn some real profits.
When teams get back in action, one of the more popular bets is the puck line. Remember, the puck line is always set at +/- 1.5 and has an associated moneyline. When betting the puck line on the favorite, you need them to win by two or more goals. Consider Game 1 of the Islanders-Penguins series.
The Islanders are the best defensive team in hockey giving up just 2.58 goals per game. The Penguins tied Game 1 on Wednesday night with under two minutes to play forcing overtime where the Islanders picked up the 4-3 win. A safer bet in this series might be on the underdog. All the underdog has to do is either win or lose by one. On Friday, the Penguins are the favorite (-1½+215) while the Islanders, who lead the series 1-0, are the underdog (+1½-255).
Periods betting is another way to earn some large profits. You must be able to identify team trends, which will allow you to make some pretty prosperous wagers on goals scored in a single period. Most teams do not score as much in the first period as they do in the other two. Most teams are also not Tampa Bay or San Jose.
The Lightning and the Sharks tied for first in the NHL with 102 first-period goals this season. Both teams will be in action on Friday. At the time of this writing, the Washington Capitals began their series with Carolina. The Caps were fourth in the league in first-period scoring with 87 goals. Washington’s first-period line read -½+160. Just 10 minutes into the first period, the Caps scored their first goal on their second shot of the game.
The same mentality can be taken to the third period where the Calgary Flames, who take on Colorado in their first-round series, led the NHL with 118 goals. Bettors can also reverse their thinking when betting periods and consider that teams like St. Louis (58) and Nashville (64) were among the NHL’s best in goals against in the first period of play.
Another interesting NHL bet is simply on the series winner. Columbus, a +170 underdog to win their series with Tampa Bay, pulled off the first major upset of the postseason by beating Tampa Bay in Game 1 of their opening round series. The Blue Jackets scored three third period goals to rally from a 3-1 deficit. Tampa Bay, of course, is the favorite to win it all and is a -200 favorite to win their series with Columbus.
St. Louis continues to shock the hockey world and the Blues defeated Winnipeg 2-1 in their first game of the playoffs. Binnington, the Blues goalie mentioned previously, stopped 24 shots and St. Louis got third-period goals from Tyler Bozak and David Perron in a 2-1 victory. The Blues, the hottest team in hockey since January, are given -225 odds to win the series. The Jets are the underdog at +185 odds.
NHL bettors can also find action on team totals. Take Game 1 of the Calgary-Colorado series (which is being played at the time of this writing) as an example. Calgary, one of the NHL’s higher-scoring teams, has a line that reads o3½-115 and u3½-125. Colorado’s line reads o2½-115 and u2½-125.
It could be very exciting to watch a game when you have bet on the total over and under. Betting on the Flames to score four goals or more makes for a great night of entertainment. When it’s capped off with the winnings, it’s even better.
One of the most fun bets to make on NHL hockey is the Grand Salami. Just as in other sports, the Grand Salami takes into account every game on the schedule for one particular day in the season. For example, both Friday and Saturday there are four games apiece in the NHL playoffs. The Grand Salami accounts for all four games.
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It can be loads of fun for bettors because they can watch all games on a given day. The Grand Salami allows bettors to complete the typical OVER/UNDER bet and sportsbooks will offer odds on whether the total number of goals scored on a given day will be OVER or UNDER that set total.
Grand Salami bettors can also take advantage of odds on HOME and AWAY goals. Bettors have the option of betting on a point spread or the moneyline on the HOME team goals versus the AWAY team goals. A variety of factors can determine the outcome of the Grand Salami bet which makes for great value.
Remember, oddsmakers do not spend a great deal of time creating accurate odds like they do in football and basketball. Because of the lack of time spent in creating odds, sportsbooks have a tough time in setting those odds. The number of bettors taking the OVER is usually the same as the number of bettors that are taking the UNDER, more evidence to the difficulty in establishing odds for this bet. The number of smart bettors making Grand Salami bets continues to rise.
Regardless of the difficulty of setting accurate odds, the Grand Salami is simply fun. Depending upon your bets, you might be cheering for outstanding goalie play and defense. New York Islanders fans are likely in this category as you would be if you were betting the UNDER. Others would be rooting for goals – lots of them! Teams like Tampa Bay and Toronto put up plenty of goals. The Lightning did get beat in their first game, but the Maple Leafs put up four goals in a 4-1 win over Boston in their Game 1.
Whether you bet on the eventual Stanley Cup champion or choose one of the more exotic bets like the Grand Salami, the key to winning is doing your homework. Do some research on teams and players around the league. Pay attention to injury reports, for example, and whether or not a team is playing at home. Doing so can lead to big payouts when it’s all said and done.
Article by Rick Bouch
Posted April 12th, 2019