Favorites for the 2015 Stanley Cup

Here are your favorites for the 2014/2015 NHL Stanley Cup.

As I am always apt to do once a season in one of America’s major sports comes to an end I like to give you the opportunity to see the favorites for next year. Why do I do this so far out? There are a few reasons but one of my favorite is that when you throw some money at a long-shot, especially in a sport like hockey, the excited feeling of knowing you ‘called this’ so much earlier is hard to beat.

We have a really interesting scenario in the National Hockey League right now because the Los Angeles Kings have won two of the last three Stanley Cup titles while the Chicago Blackhawks have won two of the last five Cups. Only Boston has thrown a cog into that pattern.

Will one of those three teams hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2015? Let’s look at the favorites.

Chicago 7/1 – The Blackhawks remain one of the most talented teams in the league with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford and are rightfully the top favorite to win the Cup. Because the Western Conference is the more competitive of the two conferences right now, the mission for Chicago is more difficult than it is in Boston. Still, I really like the Blackhawks’ chances and you should too.

Can Tuukka Rask lead the Bruins back to the Stanley Cup Finals?

Boston 17/2 – The Bruins have to be the most disappointed team of the group of favorites simply because of the way their season ended. The Bruins were dumped in the second of the Eastern Conference Playoffs by their rivals in Montreal. Only one team ends its’ season successfully but for Boston, much more was expected of this team.

The core remains in Boston led by goalie Tuukka Rask and they will again challenge in the Eastern Conference but what they do this offseason could keep me from pulling a trigger on them right now.

LA Kings 9/1 – Some teams are built for the regular season and some are built for the playoffs. The Kings are clearly built for the postseason. As long as this team remains healthy and Jonathan Quick is between the pipes they will be right there in end. This is a rare team in that they truly love to compete as illustrated by their comebacks in the earlier playoff series. That fact alone makes me really like this team to repeat as champions.

Pittsburgh 10/1 – At the time of this writing the Penguins are still without a head coach. GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma were both relieved of their duties following another poor playoff showing. New GM Jim Rutherford has shown great patience in the hiring process but he needs to make a move soon with the NHL Draft and free agency on the horizon.

As long as the Pens have Sidney Crosby and Geno Malkin, they’ll be a threat but both need to perform better in the playoffs. Right now, I’d stay away from the Penguins.

Anaheim 12/1 – The Ducks have to be smarting from their season as hard as anyone. They led 3-2 over their crosstown rivals the Kings in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs and eventually lost the final two games and the series. Legend Teemu Selanne has moved on but Ryan Getzlaf remains to lead the NHL’s best scoring offense. Jonas Hiller is expected back in the net which gives the Ducks a great shot to improve on last year’s season. Ultimately, do you trust their defense?

Long-shots I Like…

Detroit 22/1 , Montreal 20/1, Minnesota 18/1

Kings Look to Win Stanley Cup at Home

The New York Rangers were able to extend the NHL Stanley Cup Finals to Game 5 by avoiding the sweep on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at home over the Los Angeles Kings.

The Rangers are now back on the road, but have had success away from home in this postseason. The Rangers prior to Wednesday night’s win might have felt as though the bounces have not been good to them during the Stanley Cup Finals.

The hockey gods paid the Rangers back and more however on Wednesday.

The Kings saw two of their shots stop right on the goal line. That included one with only a minute left in regulation.

Los Angeles played its best game of this series on Wednesday peppering Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers goalie with 41 shots. However, the bounces this time when the Rangers’ way.

The two teams now will meet Friday night in Los Angeles with the Rangers once again in an elimination game.

Having avoided the sweep in the finals, the Rangers are now taking aim at being the first team to rally from three down in the Stanley Cup Finals to win since World War II.

The Kings have been rallying to win series’ this season during the playoffs. Los Angeles rallied from 3-0 against San Jose in the first round and 3-2 down in the second round against Anaheim.

New York also rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games. In three of their four wins, the Rangers were on the road in that series.

The Game 5 odds on Bovada and sportsbook.com have Los Angeles favored at -170 and the Rangers sitting on +160.

On betonline and topbet, the total for Game 5 is still on 5 goals. With two consecutive low scoring games, the UNDER was moved to being the favorite at -120.

The OVER could have some value since both goalies made a number of superb stops in Game 4. If the puck is bouncing differently in Game 5, the score could be high, making a winner of the OVER.

The current money line has Los Angeles at -170 with New York on +160.

The goal total is 5 with the UNDER at -120 and the OVER +100.

The puck line shows New York at +1.5 for -200 and Los Angeles at -1.5 for +175.

The Stanley Cup Finals will end tonight in Game 5 as the Kings will use their home ice advantage to lift the Cup high in the air for their second NHL Championship in the past three seasons.

I like the Kings 5-2.

Kings Look to Sweep Rangers in Stanley Cup Finals

Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals will be played tonight at Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple. The New York Rangers have their collective backs squarely against the wall as they trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the series and the Kings would win the Cup tonight with a victory.

The Kings are ready to haul out the broom and sweep the Stanley Cup Finals for their second NHL title in three seasons.

Los Angeles came into the series as the favorite and has done what was needed to win. On Monday, the Kings won Game 3 in MSG by the score of 3-0 to take their commanding 3-0 lead.

If the Kings can win tonight, it would be the first time the Stanley Cups Finals was swept since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings won 4 straight over the Washington Capitals.

However, odds makes at Bovada and betonline are not yet ready to hand the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles. The two bookmakers have New York as the favorite at -135, with the Kings sitting on +125.

On topbet and sportsbook.com the total for goals is sitting on 5, with the UNDER slightly favored at -115.

The Rangers led at different times in both Games 1 and 2 before losing in overtime. During Game 3, the Rangers dominated during stretches of the game, but Jonathan Quick stopped everything the Ranger shot at him.

While in most other sports, a lead of 3-0 in a series in likely insurmountable, teams in the NHL have rallied from that deficit.

Los Angeles did just that in the first round this season of the playoffs versus the San Jose Sharks.

The price offered for Los Angeles at +125 is a very good one. The big unknown is what the Rangers have, if anything left in their tank to come out and play hard.

Props are available as well for the game. Those include if the Kings or Rangers will score in the game’s first 10 minutes with the favorite – no – sitting on -130.

There is also a prop bet on whether Game 4 goes to overtime with yes sitting on +280.

Prior to the series starting, the OVER looked like the play until it became adjusted. Despite a score of 3-0 in Game 3, a number of chances were available for more goals and the OVER remains a strong play.

Picking a straight up winner in Game 4 is a much tougher choice. The Kings would love to end the series tonight, but the Rangers likely will come out in front of their fans full of pride and could pull off the win.

I like the OVER and if I had to take a winner, I like New York at home.

Over Might Be Undervalued in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Finals

The Stanley Cup Finals continue with Game 2 tonight between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings. The Kings won Game 1 in overtime 3-2 overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the process.

The odds on bookmakers such as Bovada and topbet are very similar to the ones for Game 1 of the series.

As of early Saturday morning, the same odds available in Game 1 are available on betonline and sportsbook.com for Game 2.

Currently the Kings are sitting on -150 and the Rangers +140. The lines are priced well and books are getting a great deal of action leading up to Game 2.

The total goals is sitting on five for Game 2 with the OVER on +100 and the UNDER on -120. That is exactly where the over/under was in Game 1.

Due to the results from Game 1, it is not surprising the lines are nearly the exact same thing for Game 2.

New York showed during the first game they could play with the Kings, but Los Angeles was able to assert itself during the all-important third period dominating the entire 20 minutes.

The Rangers made it to overtime thanks to strong play from goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The goal total was five for Game 1.

Which means everything expected by odds makers came out in Game 1, the Kings were favored and won and the goal total was 5 and 5 were scored.

One odds maker cannot believe the goal total has remained at 5 for Games 1 and 2. The Kings score more than any other team in the playoffs and with the score tied 2-2 during the second period all eyes were on the OVER.

The only thing that has changed for bookmakers for odds between Games 1 and 2 is the series price.

The price of the series was Los Angeles -180 but has now gone up to -280, with New York sitting on +250.

This is obviously a fair change in price given Los Angeles was the favorite and won the first game. However, this season’s playoffs have shown that the series can changes in a heartbeat, so some Rangers supporters might see a possible opportunity with the line.

The series is very up-tempo with scoring opportunities plentiful. Lundqvist played terrific in Game 1, but it appears Los Angeles was able to solve him. With each goal, the Kings shot high at his blocker side.

The Kings were saved by the saves made by Jonathan Quick in Game 1, however he has not been a model of consistency this season.

With that in mind, the best way to take this game is with the OVER. Until bookmakers put it at 5.5, the OVER is a good choice.


Stanley Cup Finals Start Tonight; Who I Like and Who I Like in the Series

Someone from the Kings or Rangers will be holding the Stanley Cup in this position soon after the series ends.

While many of you are gearing up for the World Cup, the NBA Finals and the dog day of Major League Baseball, the best series in all sport gets underway this evening. The Stanley Cup Finals are actually the culmination of the best playoffs in professional sports and they open tonight in Los Angeles as the Kings host the New York Rangers.

Not since 1981 when the LA Dodgers and NY Yankees hooked up in the World Series have teams from the two cities squared off in a professional championship. My how times have changed since then…

As the series gets going, I’ll offer my views on tonight’s games as well as my pick for the Stanley Cup Champions.

New York Rangers +1.5 (-220)

Los Angeles Kings -1.5 (+180)

We know the story about the Los Angeles Kings going seven games in their first three series. This means the Kings have played the maximum amount of games they could have to this point. What cannot forget however is that the New York Rangers have played 20 of a possible 21 games with their first two series going the distance against Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh.

The reason I point this out is that a lot of folks are suggesting that LA will have tired legs. Yes, they played more recently than did the Rangers but these clubs have essentially played the same amount of games in the 2014 playoffs.

As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, if LA was traveling to New York for games one and two I could see giving the Rangers the edge but returning home will provide an energetic boost for the Kings.

Jonathan Quick has been good but he'll need to be better to beat the Rangers.

Both of these teams have excellent goalies and I expect that both will be instrumental in terms of whose team comes out on top. Through 20 games, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist has a save percentage of .928 while the Kings’ Jonathan Quick is at .906. Both net minders have a shutout in this year’s playoffs.

Offensively, the Kings boast four of the top five scorers in the playoffs with Anze Kopitar leading the way with 24 points. In order to find the Rangers’ top point getter so far you’d need to go to number 16 where Martin St. Louis resides with 13 points. Where the Rangers make this up is with defense. New York has allowed 45 goals through 20 games while the Kings have surrendered 60 goals in 21 games.

When the teams are at equal strength, the Rangers have given up 30 goals while the Kings have coughed up 42.

One of the reasons the Rangers have struggled offensively is that they have been pretty bad on the power play. New York is scoring PP goals just 13.6% of the time while the Kings are at a much more respectable number of 25.4% on their power play. The Rangers hold the edge in in terms of penalty killing 85.9% to 81.2% but in order to win this series the Rangers have to be better when they have the man advantage.

In most cases you have to like defense and that favors the Rangers. You also have to like goaltending and that favors the Rangers too. I had the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals from the start and I’m not wavering. I like their offensive firepower just too darn much. Take them to win tonight and take the OVER which is at five.

Keep an eye on… NY Rangers are 7-2 straight up in their last 9 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Los Angeles’s last five games when playing at home against the NY Rangers… NY Rangers are 4-1 straight up in their last five games on the road… Los Angeles is 4-2 straight up in its last 6 games.

The Pick: Kings in Six games

Kings Favored to Win Second Stanley Cup in Three Years

The NHL Stanley Cup Finals begin on Wednesday from southern California when the Los Angeles Kings host the New York Rangers.

Los Angeles will be attempting to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in the past three seasons. The Kings won the Cup back in 2012.

The last time the Rangers were in the Stanley Cup final was the same time they last won it. In 1995, New York with Mark Messier took the Cup in seven games versus the Vancouver Canucks. That Cup win in 1994, was the first for the team since 1940.

With the home-ice advantage, Los Angeles has been made the favorite to win the best of seven games series and is currently priced on Bovada and sportsbook.com at -165. The Rangers are currently priced at +145 on betonline and topbet.

Odds makers will have Los Angeles as high as -155 for Game 1. If both teams were equal, the King would be going off at home at about -130, but bookmakers believe that the Kings are the better team.

The Western Conference’s strength has had a lot to do with bookmakers giving the Kings the advantage. The top teams out west all were given shorter odds all season.

In the West there were the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado, St. Louis and oh yeah did I mention the Los Angeles Kings.

In the East, the only teams that were given much respect by bookmakers were Pittsburgh and Boston.

The Bruins were thought by bookmakers to have the easiest route to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, Boston did not match up well versus the Montreal Canadians and were eliminated early.

New York was able to overcome Pittsburgh, and then bypassed Boston to face Montreal. The Canadians top goalie Carey Price went down in the first game, and New York eventually won in 6.

The Rangers at one time were as high as 30-1 to win the Cup, but with Henrik Lundqvist in net, the team has reached the finals.

Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles goaltender has not been as good as in the past. Against the Blackhawks, Quick’s save percentage was just .889.

However, odds makers do not seem concerned as they consider Quick one of the top five net minders in the league.

Game 1 is Wednesday and the Kings opened at -155 but are now -150, while the Rangers opened at +135 and are sitting on +140.

During the regular season, the teams played twice head-to-head. New York won 3-1 on the road last October, while Los Angeles won 1-0 in November on the road.

Series price
Kings -165, Rangers +145

Game 1 Line and Total
Kings -150, Rangers +140
Total: 5 with the UNDER -120, OVER +100

Blackhawks Favored in Game 7 over Kings

As the NBA playoffs take a four-day hiatus before the start of the Finals, the NHL takes center stage with the Western Conference finals seventh game between the visiting Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Early money on Bovada and sportsbook.com is on Chicago. According to betonline and topbet, the OVER continues to payout in this matchup.

The winner of this Game 7 will advance to play the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals with Game 1 on Wednesday at either Chicago of Los Angeles.

Patrick Kane a forward for Chicago was held to just a single point in the first four games of this series in the West finals, but has scored two goals and dished out five assists in the past two games.

Kane scored twice in Friday’s win in Game 6, including the winning goal and assisted on Duncan Keith’s goal that tied the game with 8:26 remaining in the third period.

Early money for Game 7 has come in for Chicago, with Blackhawks sitting as the favorite between at -150 after opening at -145. The Kings, playing yet another Game 7 on the road, opened at +135 and have been adjusted up to +140.

Each of the two teams has won one game on their opponents’ home ice during the series.

Chicago was down in a series 3-1 for the second straight season. Last season, the Blackhawks had trailed the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semifinals 3-1, before rallying and winning that series and eventually the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Blackhawks all time are 5-2 when playing at home in a Game 7 and have won four Game 7s played at home in a row.

However, the Kings are 6-0 during this season’s playoffs when faced with elimination.

The OVER continues as the strongest betting trend for the series. The OVER has cashed in five consecutive games where there have been at least 7 goals scored in each.

The OVER is sitting on 5 with a price of -120 for Sunday’s Game 7. The UNDER is currently playing an underdog role at +100.

The OVER in Game 7 is more generous of a price than the -125 on the OVER for Game 6.

Regardless of the outcome, the winner will then have just Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Rangers, who eliminated the Montreal Canadians to win the Eastern Conference title.

Pick: I like Chicago at home to win 5-3 and move on to their second straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Rangers and Canadians Coming to a Boiling Point

The NHL Eastern Conference Finals best of seven series continues tonight from the Big Apple when the New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadians. The Rangers lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4, but Montreal is coming off a big win in Game 3.

The two teams are not happy with one another as the Canadians head coach Michel Therrien has his problems with Ulf Samuelsson the assistant coach for the Rangers. At the same time, New York is angry with Brandon Prust the right wing for Montreal and Scott Driscoll a linesman.

Bovada, topbet, betonline and sportsbooks.com have all the last odds, trends, player and team information so the best possible wager can be made on this game or any other sporting event.

Therrien is not pleased that Samuelsson was watching some of Montreal’s practice Saturday at Madison Square Garden. He contended that Samuelsson had violated a coaches’ gentlemen’s agreement.

Between games, coaches cannot attend practices but on game day, that is different, said Therrien.

New York is upset that Derek Stepan the center on their top line will not play after having surgery on Friday to repair a fractured jaw after Stepan was hit by Prust on the open-ice during Game 3.

Alain Vigneault the New York coach said it was unlikely his center would play on Sunday.

However, New York will have Derick Brassard their center on the third line. Brassard has been out since taking a heavy check during Game 1.

Both teams are shorthanded as Prust and Daniel Carcillo a Rangers left wing, were suspended for their action in the previous game.

Prust is out for the late hit on Stepan and says that it was his fault. Prust said he and Stepan exchanged text messages and Prust expressed remorse after hearing about Stepan’s broken jaw.

Carcillo on the other hand could miss the rest of the postseason after being suspended for 10 games due to physical abuse of an official on-ice.

Carcillo, while a fight was taking place, elbowed Driscoll when the linesman was taking him to the penalty box. The elbow hit Driscoll in his face.

It is unclear if the Rangers will appeal the Carcillo suspension. If they do appeal it, it would go through the NHL players’ union. He can submit an appeal up to 72 hours after the ruling.

Coach Vigneault is upset that Carcillo is facing the suspension because he said the player had not committed a penalty and should not have been escorted to the penalty box by Driscoll.

However, Vigneault knows nothing can be done about the situation and the team has to move on without Carcillo for the rest of this series and likely through all the Stanley Cup Finals if they reach that point.

NHL Eastern Conference Finals on Tap This Evening

Henrik Lunqvist rescued the Rangers against Pittsburgh and is leading his team once again against the Canadiens.

I have not been a very good friend to a sport I really do love quite a bit and played as a child but my focus is solely on it today.

With the National Basketball Association taking a couple of days off, I’m turning my attention to pucks. The National Hockey League is already in the Conference Finals’ phase with Los Angeles and Chicago dueling out West.

In the Eastern Conference, we have the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. Montreal is trying to break a dubious mark that haunts Mother Canada on a yearly basis.

An NHL team from Canada has not hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the Canadiens last did it in 1993. In fact, only four Canadian-based clubs have even reached the NHL Finals since that time with Vancouver being the most recent in 2011. With the way things are currently going, this drought is likely to continue. Read on and find out if I think they can come back or not.

Montreal (+1.5/-190) at NY Rangers (-1.5/+165), Rangers Lead 2-0 – The New York Rangers (and LA Kings) find themselves in very interesting positions. According to ESPN, since the best of seven format went to all playoff rounds in the NHL, teams that won their first two series in seven games went on to lose their next series.

PK Subban has to be more involved if the Canadiens are going to get back into the series.

At this point it would take a colossal failure on the part of the Rangers. They have a 2-0 lead and they are back at home for the next two games. Oh, and the Canadiens are without their goalie Carey Price for the rest of the series. While there is no such thing as a sure thing this is pretty darn close.

With all that said, the only thing that really kept Motreal from winning in game two was Rangers’ Goalie Henrik Lundqvist who stopped 40 of the 41 shots the Canadiens shot at him. Montreal also had more power play chances (4-3) and won in the face-off department by a count of 32-21.

In other words, this isn’t the most dominant 2-0 lead we’ve ever seen in the NHL Playoffs.

At the other end of the ice, 24-year old Dustin Tokarski was the surprise selection to replace Price. Usual back-up Peter Budaj was thought to get the nod but the coaching staff chose Tokarski because of the titles he had won at younger levels.

Despite giving up three goals, Tokarski played very well. Two of three goals scored by the Rangers were in no way on Tokarski. I expect him to get the game three start between the pipes this evening and Montreal should feel good about his play. They just have to solve Lundqvist and take advantage of a Rangers’ defense that gives up too many shots.

Speaking of the Rangers, the power play that was three for seven in game one went one for three in game two. That was a good part of the reason why the Rangers were able to overcome the discrepancy in shots and lost face-offs. Rick Nash finally put the biscuit in the basket in game one to end a long drought. He then added another goal in game two and fans are expecting that he continue this trend.

Momentum in sports is a strange animal. They say in baseball it’s as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher and in hockey it can simply fall on the shoulders of a hot goaltender. I expect Lundqvist to continue to play well but the Canadiens are desperate and have the backs to the wall. I like Montreal tonight to win a close game in the Garden.

Blackhawks Must Solve the Bruins in Order to Tie Series

Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask
Rask has been tremendous in the Stanley Cup Final to this point and could carry the Bruins to the Cup.

Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tuukka Rask has essentially shutout the normally high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks in what amounts to two straight games. In game three, he shutout the guys in the red sweaters 2-0 and going back to game two, he held them scoreless over the latter two periods of regulation and then through overtime.

Rask would be the first to tell you however that what he is doing is far from a solo venture. The Bruins since their game one triple overtime loss, have done an excellent job of limiting the ‘speed’ guys for Chicago. Patrick Kane has been suffocated by the larger, agile Bruins’ defenders to the point where often isn’t even noticeable on the ice.

Marian Hossa
Hossa's absence in game three was glaring for the 'Hawks.

Of course it didn’t help Chicago that Marian Hossa, who has three game-winning goals in the playoffs was a scratch prior to game three. Hockey of course is known for its’ ‘gamesmanship’ when it comes to injuries. Coaches need only to declare whether the injury is to the ‘upper’ body or the ‘lower.’ For all we know, Hossa’s injury which was declared as an upper body injury, could be a headache, a separated shoulder or cracked rib. No one but the Blackhawks know exactly what the injury is but Hossa is expected to be back tonight for the ‘Hawks.

With the Bruins being able to clamp down on Kane, Hossa’s absence was made greater by that issue.

The other area where Boston is giving Chicago fits is in the face-off circles. Although face-offs are often one of the more forgotten parts of a hockey game with so much else going on. Coaches and players will tell you that face-offs can dictate everything from power play success to penalty killing success. Right now the Bruins and in particular Patrice Bergeron are taking the Blackhawks to task on the dots. That has to improve or Chicago will continue finding itself in difficult situations regardless of where they are on the ice.

Of course I couldn’t break down the Stanley Cup Final without mentioning the Bruins’ dominance on the penalty kill either. Dating back to the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh, the Bruins have now killed off 27 straight man advantages for the opponent. Their playoff average on the penalty kill now rests at 87.1% and is yet another reason for their dominance over the last two games.

It may sound as if the Blackhawks are down 3-0 in this series, but the reality is they aren’t. They’re a win away from tying the series before returning home to the Windy City. The reason things look bleak is because of the way the Bruins have beaten them over the last two games. If Corey Crawford stands tall and then ‘Hawks can generate some offense early in the game then they can get right back in the series. I had Boston winning this in six games and I’m going to hold to that. I like the Bruins to win tonight, lose game five in Chicago and then return home to claim the Cup.

Other Hockey Tidbits… Apparently someone spilled coffee on one of Don Cherry’s ridiculous suits because he was in no mood to discuss the Penguin’s signing Evgeni Malkin to a $76 million deal. He called Malkin, a two-time Ross winner and one-time Stanley Cup Champion a “dog, a talented dog and a loser.” Malkin didn’t play well against Boston in the ECF but no one did offensively for the Pens either… Detroit has re-signed Pavel Datsyuk to a three year $22.5 million deal. There had been some discussion that Datsyuk would return to Russia to play in the KHL but they don’t pay quite as well.