Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

With the first three games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs getting underway this week, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a quick look at the 7-game series starting off today, and spot some of the best-looking wagering opportunities at the best online sportsbooks reviewed here. For tonight’s first Game 1, the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with a 7:30 PM ET puck drop at the Consol Energy Center, in Pittsburgh, PA. No doubt an intriguing match-up between two of the league’s most proficient goal-scoring teams, count on plenty of on-ice excitement and drama to be a great start for online sports betting on the NHL postseason.

There is plenty of bad blood between these two teams, evident in the final two regular season meetings where brawls broke out at random, star players were targeted, and even the coaches got into a heated bench-to-bench argument that resulted in fines and media drama for days. With the NHL’s top top-scoring teams facing off against one another, and both sides in the lower half of the league in scoring defense, this series should produce plenty of high-scoring showdowns, lots of power play goals, and likely plenty of huge hits. Both sides are scoring north of 3.2 goals per game with tons of offensive weaponry at their disposal, which should make for a huge challenge for both defenses and goaltenders tonight. For Philadelphia, Ilya Bryzgalov will have a huge task trying to be the rock in front of net, with the likes of the NHL’s leading scorer Evgeni Malkin, superstar Sidney Crosby and 40-goal scorer James Neal set to come hard at the Philadelphia defense all series long. If the Flyers have a disadvantage in this game, it’s on the penalty kill, which ranks 17th in the league at 81.8 percent. Against a Penguins side that has tons of capable scorers (5 players have 20 goals or more, 2 have 40 or more), Philadelphia has to find step-up play from their defense, and give some help to the big Russian between the pipes.

On the flipside however, while Pittsburgh remains one of the best teams in the league on the penalty kill, they’ve also struggled to stop scoring, allowing 2.7 goals/game (same as Philadelphia) so neither defensive side can boost confidence in this match-up. Philadelphia will use its impressive depth, with a fleet of capable scorers ranging from Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux to Wayne Simmonds and Danny Briere, to match Pittsburgh toe-to-toe throughout what should be a grueling 7-game series. The Flyers also have a string of good history behind them for tonight’s opening game, winning 5 out of 6 games at the new Consol Energy Center, and going 4-2 against Pittsburgh overall this year. A confident Flyers team as an underdog has shown in the past to have the ability to go deep into the playoffs, so while Pittsburgh may be the favorite to win this series, you can’t count out Philadelphia whatsoever especially in such a tightly matched Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown.

Betting Lines for Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Oddsmaker Sportsbook

Pittsburgh, with home ice advantage, takes the nod as a favorite straight up with -175 odds to win, while their bitter rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers come in as +155 underdogs. This could be a huge pick-up for underdog takers tonight, based on the success Philadelphia has had on the road against Pittsburgh recently. If Philadelphia can get off on the right foot in this series and steal away Game 1, they’ll not only make underdog pickers tonight happy, but set themselves up well for what should be a long, drawn out series ahead.

Against the spread, Pittsburgh must cover -1.5 goals at +170 odds, while Philadelphia gets 1.5 goals in their favor at -200 odds. This opening game should be hard-fought, and in the closing minutes with tons of scoring talent, expect any deficit to be trimmed to slim or nothing as both sides will be desperate to steal away the first game of the series. While the money isn’t as good taking the underdog ATS here, look for Philly to cover 1.5 goals to be the best, safest option tonight.

Lastly, the over/under stands at 5.5 goals to start the series off, but with both sides very capable of scoring in droves and collectively averaging 6.5 goals per game this year, this could end up being a great chance to take the over wager in Game 1. Make note that in the final two games of the season between these two clubs, first a 6-4 win for Philadelphia and secondly a 4-2 win for Pittsburgh on the last day of the season, both times the goals total push over the mark. While both sides undoubtedly will look to shore up their defense tonight, the amount of scoring pressure coming at both defenses should result in a number of goals throughout the game, with the closing minutes likely producing the point that breaks the over/under back. The over wager gets -130 odds while the under wager, as expected, sits at +110 odds.

Expect an incredibly exciting showdown for the first game of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as two heated rivals get set for what should be a drawn-out, no-holds-barred 7-game series between the league’s two top-scoring sides. For Game 1, we’re siding with the underdog Philadelphia Flyers to get the better of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as Ilya Bryzgalov has plenty to prove to the NHL world after a rough first half of the season this year, and a history of limited success in the playoffs. Coming off a much-improved second half, look for Bryzgalov to get the better of Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1, as the big Russian puts on an excellent performance between the pipes to secure a clutch road win in the first meeting between the two teams in this year’s playoffs.

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