NHL Playoffs Preview
Both players have revitalized franchises and hockey markets that looked bleak.
Both are argued about as to who is the best player in the world, both have tons of hardware already at young ages and the two are the center piece for the best rivalry in hockey. So all eyes are on the Pittsburgh Penguins and their star Sydney Crosby and the Washington Capitals and their star Alexander Ovechkin.
While the Penguins are defending champions, the Capitals seem to be the team to beat.
Stanley Cup Odds: Washington Capitals +300
The Washington Capitals captured the President’s Trophy as the team with the best regular season record (54-15-13 for 121 points) and online sportsbooks have them as the odds-on to win it all at +300.
The Caps open the 2010 postseason campaign with a series against the Montreal Canadiens.
While Alexander Ovechkin and his troops nearly averaged four goals a game — 3.82 to be exact — they ranked 16th in goals against, allowing close to three a game (2.77).
Pundits are looking at goaltending as the Caps possible weak spot heading into the playoffs.
While Caps goalie Jose Theodore had a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.81, he went 30-7-7 with a save percentage of .911 this season.
In fact, in Theodore’s last 20 games, he is 17-3 SU.
Even if Theodore falters (like he did last postseason), the Capitals do have Semyon Varlamov who went 15-4-6 with a .909 save percentage and GAA of 2.55 during the 2009/10 campaign.
More importantly, Varlamov proved himself in the playoffs last year backstopping Washington to a series win against the New York Rangers before succumbing in seven games to the eventual champion Penguins in the second-round.
Betting Action: SPORTSBETTING.com is reporting the early action has been steady on Washington, with the Capitals currently holding 31% of all the volume wagered on the option “Who will win the Stanley Cup”.
Stanley Cup Odds: Pittsburgh Penguins +450
What of the defending champs?
They finished the regular season with a record of 47-28-7 for 101 points, good enough for the four-seed in the East.
Captain Crosby put on a show in the team’s regular season finale against the New York Islanders, nearly grabbing an outright lead in the regular season goal scoring race (51 goals) and even put a little scare into the Vancouver Canucks’ Henrik Sedin in the chase for the league points lead.
Crosby will share the Rocket Richard Trophy (most regular season goals) with Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos but regular season accolades won’t mean much to Sid the Kid after he got to drink from the Cup last year.
The Pittsburgh Penguins open against the Ottawa Senators. In their last seven overall against the Sens, they are only 2-5 SU.
Since the Penguins had a better regular season record than the Sens they will open at home and Ottawa could draw first blood in the series.
The last 20 times that the Pittsburgh Penguins have hosted the Ottawa Senators, the Pens are only 6-14 SU.
Young Ottawa netminder Brian Elliot went 29-18-4 this season and will get his first playoff start on Wednesday.
Betting Action: SPORTSBETTING.com is reporting the Penguins, despite being a four seed in the East, are the second most popular team in the Eastern Conference for sports bettors. 22% of the betting action on “Who will win the Stanley Cup” is on the Penguins.
I didn’t put any money on either of these two teams, choosing instead to take a shot on the San Jose Sharks at +450. Yes, I know they perennially disappoint, but I have a gut feel they put it all together this season.
The other wager I made was on the New Jersey Devils to win it all at +750. Hopefully Brodeur has one last big playoff run in him, and with their defense and the addition of Kovalchuk, they have the ingredients to go far in the post-season.
By Kevin Taylor
Check out all the NHL odds.
Posted: 4/13/10 2:40PM ET