Favorites for the 2015 Stanley Cup

Cup
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.

Rask
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

New Jersey Continues to Fight for Sports Betting

New Jersey is vowing to move ahead with its sports betting regardless of what the Supreme Court does or does not do.

On June 23, the betting world might find out if the U.S. Supreme Court is willing to take up the case of New Jersey to make sports betting legal inside the state.

Nevertheless, Ray Lesniak a state senator from New Jersey said that racetracks could open their wagering on games by the start of the football season at the end of August, even if the country’s highest court will not hear the New Jersey cases, according to a report out of Atlantic City.

New Jersey wants the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act thrown out. The law restricts 46 of the 50 U.S. states from sponsoring sports betting and one that has the support of the four major sports leagues in the country – NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. In addition, the NCAA also supports the act.

If the Supreme Court were to decide not to hear the case, Senator Lesniak said he would push lawmakers in the state to sanction sports betting at the racetracks throughout the state prior to the start of the NFL season.

According to the reports out of Atlantic City Lesniak has legislation drafted and is waiting to be dropped on the floor of the New Jersey legislature.

Lesniak is expecting that the first bet placed will be placed on September 8 at Monmouth Park, when the New York giants host the Detroit Lions for Monday Night Football. The senator said he would be the first person in line that night to place his bet.

Bookmaker William Hill U.S. holds the agreement to run sports betting at the racetrack. The deal includes the title sponsorship for the coveted horse race the Haskell Invitational.

Lesniak said he would bet on New York covering the number against the Lions on September 8. The Giants have opened as a home favorite by 4 points against Detroit on Bovada, betonline, topbet and sportsbook.com.

In order for Lesniak and New Jersey to circumvent federal law, he would need the support of Stephen Sweeney the New Jersey Senate President and Chris Christie the Governor of New Jersey.

Lesniak believes Christie will support the idea, as he is a fighter. Lesniak added that New Jersey can sit back and allow Las Vegas as well as organized crime get the action or can act and get it themselves.

Legal experts believe that if the state of New Jersey attempts to circumvent the federal law, then the Justice department and the sports league would come with everything they have in an attempt to stop it leading to more battle in court.

This battle for the betting world is important as it will open the east coast to sporting betting and take handle away from Las Vegas and other entities.

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

Cup
Cup
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.

Quick
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

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.

NHL Playoff Series Previews and Picks

The NHL playoffs get underway on Wednesday. The unpredictability of the NHL postseason is quite predictable. Upsets are commonplace in playoff hockey, as fortuitous bounces and hot goalies can change the face of a seven game series quickly.

If you do believe that, ask the Los Angeles Kings whom two seasons ago walked in as the No. 8 seed in the West and waltzed away as the Stanley Cup Champions.

However, before you go laying large sums of money on the underdog, the favorites also come up big. The Chicago Blackhawks last season set records to open the regular season were No. 1 the entire regular season and eventually won the Stanley Cup.

However, according to data taken from Bovada, topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com the difference between the No. 1 seed and the No. 8 seed is blurred on the NHL when the playoffs arrive.

Atlantic Division Eastern Conference

Detroit Red Wings No. 4 vs. No. 1 Boston Bruins

Detroit won the season series 3-1-0. The Bruins might have the league’s best record, but at 1-3-0 against the Red Wings, things could turn dicey. Detroit has injuries to key players and Boston’s Tuukka Rask is considered the best goalie in the NHL.

Series: Bruins

Montreal Canadians vs. Tampa Lightning

Tampa Bay won the season series 2-1-1. The teams were very close all season finishing just one point apart at the end of the regular season. Three of four head-to-head games went to overtime.

The key is if Ben Bishop the Tampa Bay goalie can recover from an upper body injury and be competitive in net.

Series: Montreal

Metropolitan Division Eastern Conference

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh swept the season head-to-head series 5-0. In five games, the Penguins trailed less than one minute out of 300. Columbus battled hard down the stretch and anything can and sometimes does happen in the postseason.

Series: Pittsburgh

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

The season series was tied 2-2. The team at home won each game. Philly has defeated New York in three straight at home, while the Rangers have won eight consecutive at home versus the Flyers.

Series: New York

 

Central Division Western Conference

Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche

Colorado won the season series 4-0-1. Odds makers are not confident with Colorado. They won the Central division but do not have the odds in a matchup of No. 2 vs. No. 7, even though they dominated the Wild this season.

Series: Colorado

 Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues

St. Louis won the season series 3-2. St. Louis has a much better overall record than Chicago has, but has lost six straight entering this matchup. Chicago beat St. Louis twice in March.

Series: Chicago

Pacific Division Western Conference

Dallas Stars vs. Anaheim Ducks

The Stars won the season series 2-1. Dallas is a strong underdog and if they can steal home ice in game 1 or 2 could win the series.

Series: Dallas

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

Los Angeles won the season series 3-1-1. The teams played last season during the postseason with Los Angeles winning in seven games. This will be a tight series from start to finish.

Series: Los Angeles

Stanley Cup Playoffs Offer Great Excitement

bruins-red-wings
bruins-red-wings
I expect a seven game series between these two original eight teams.

The greatest playoff run in sports begins this week as the National Hockey League playoffs drop the puck. Yes, you heard me; the greatest playoff run in all of sports is in fact professional hockey.

While I can accept that other sports offer dramatic finishes just as hockey does, those sports fail to deliver as often as the men on ice do. What I will not accept is an argument that says “our playoffs are better” because it is simply not true.

The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball give us dramatic five and seven game series’ but how often do their seventh games live up to the excitement of a game seven in the NHL?

Not very often and that’s a fact. Here are my predictions for the first round of the 2014 National Hockey League Playoffs.

Eastern Conference

1 Boston vs 4 Detroit – The Wings took three of four from the Bruins this season and I don’t believe that’s just a fluke. Sometimes teams just match-up better with others. Look for Detroit to take the Bruins the distance but Boston wins in seven.

2 Tampa Bay vs 3 Montreal – The Lightning are 3-1 against the Habs this season but all four games were close.  TB faces the 4th best penalty kill in the league and that’s the hurdle they need to get over. Take the Lightning in six.

MAF
The Pens will go only as far as Marc Andre-Fleury can take them.

1 Pittsburgh vs 4 Columbus – The Penguins won all five meetings with Columbus this season and may have as many fans in Ohio as they will at home. The league’s top power play should wrap this up in five games.

2 NY Rangers vs 3 Philadelphia Flyers – These two split their season series at two games apiece. The Rangers feature top five squads in both the power play and penalty kill. The Flyers aren’t too bad in either of those departments either though ranking seventh in both. I like the Rangers in seven.

Western Conference

1 Anaheim vs 4 Dallas – Despite having a low-ranking power play (22nd) the Ducks still led the NHL in scoring. Their penalty kill is middle of the road which shouldn’t hurt them against a Stars’ team that ranks 23rd on the power play. Take the Ducks in five.

2 San Jose vs 3 LA Kings – The Sharks lost three of five this year against the Kings in games that were each a little different in terms of scoring affairs vs defensive battles. LA ranks number one in the NHL in goals against with just 2 goals per game. Defense wins in the NHL Playoffs and that’s why I like them in six games.

1 Colorado vs 4 Minnesota – The Avs were 4-1 against the Wild this season and averaged four goals per game in those contests. This series will be decided by the special teams’ units because Colorado is fifth in the NHL on the power play while the Wild are 27th in penalty killing. Take the Avs in five.

2 St. Louis vs 3 Chicago – The Blues rank in the top eight in goals against (3rd), goals per game (6th), PP (8th) and PK (2nd). The Blackhawks have beaten the Blues in their last two meetings after losing three straight against them earlier in the season. Chicago has no problem scoring and I think that’s why they take the slumping Blues to seven games and pull the upset.

NHL Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Matchups

The NHL starts its postseason on Wednesday. There are a number of good first round matchups to follow. The following is a brief overview of the 4 matchups in the Eastern Conference.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins

Boston had the best record in the NHL with 117 points, with 54 wins. Detroit won 38 games and recorded 91 points.

This season Detroit won three of the four head to head games with Boston. The UNDER was 2-2-1. Detroit lost a 3-1 series lead to Chicago last year in the playoffs. Boston reached the Stanley Cup Finals but lost to Chicago in six games.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh was second in the East with 108 points on 51 wins. Columbus had 93 points on 43 wins. This season the Penguins swept the five games the teams played head to head. In three of the five games, Columbus recorded one goal or was shutout. The UNDER was 3-2.

This is just the second time Columbus has reached the postseason in the history of the franchise. Pittsburgh won the first and second round series last year in the postseason, but lost to Boston in the Conference Finals.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

The New York Rangers finished the season with 45 wins and 96 points, while Philadelphia had 42 wins for 93 points.

This season the teams split four games. The home team won in each of the four games. In the four games, the UNDER was 2-1-1, while the team that lost each game scored two or fewer goals in each of the four games.

Philadelphia was last in the playoffs in 2012 and lost in the second round to the New Jersey Devils. New York won the first round in last season’s playoffs against Washington, but was knocked out in the second round by Boston.

New York and Philadelphia have not met in the postseason since 1997, when Philadelphia defeated the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals in five games.

Montreal Canadians vs. Tampa Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning finished the season with 46 wins and 101 points, while Montreal had 46 wins and 100 points.

During the regular season, Tampa Bay won three of the four head to head games versus the Canadians. All of the four games finished UNDER in the goal total, while three ended up with the score of 2-1.

This is the first time in 2 seasons Tampa Bay is back in the postseason. In their last playoff appearance, the Lightning lost in seven games to Boston in the finals of the Eastern Conference.

Montreal in its last playoff experience was knocked out in the first round in five games versus the Ottawa Senators last season. The only time these two teams have met in the postseason, was in 2004 when Montreal swept the Lightning in the second round.

For more trends, odds, and point spreads for these four matchups visit Bovada, betonline, topbet and sportsbook.com.