NHL Betting: Rangers Still 9/2 Cup Favorites, Penguins 20/1 Despite Close Series
Their Eastern Conference quarterfinal may be knotted at one game apiece, but there’s a gigantic gulf on the Stanley Cup futures market between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. As we go to press, the Rangers are still the Cup favorites at 9/2, even shorter than the 6/1 odds they carried into the playoffs. The Penguins have fallen from 16/1 to 20/1 in the meantime.
Why the pessimism on the Penguins front? Sure, they only made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, grabbing the last Wild Card spot in the East with a record of 43-27-6-6. And the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy with a league-best record of 53-22-2-5; they were driven by a league-best goal differential of plus-0.74 to Pittsburgh’s plus-0.16. But does that warrant such long odds on the Penguins?
Games People Play
This looks like a classic case of inflated market expectations on the regular-season champions. Casual bettors tend to overvalue chalk as it is; once the playoffs roll around, even more public money comes into the marketplace, distorting the betting lines in the process. Sometimes it’s warranted – the Rangers had an excellent regular season, after all. But Pittsburgh is no pushover.
Health is one of the biggest factors casual fans tend to overlook when it comes to regular-season performance. According to the statheads at Man Games Lost, the 2014- 15 Penguins were fifth-highest in that eponymous category, losing 343 games in total. They’ve endured more than their fair share of injuries this year, not to mention a case of the mumps that affected three players in December, including team captain Sidney Crosby (28 goals, 56 assists, 10.3 Point Shares).
Meanwhile, the Rangers had the second fewest man-games lost during the regular season at 126. And 25 of those games were racked up when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (.922 save percentage, 9.2 Goalie Point Shares) was on injured reserve with a bruised neck/throat; he was ably replaced by Cam Talbot (.926 SV%, 7.6 GPS), who has returned to the bench now that Lundqvist is back in action.
March of the Penguins
The Penguins still had some injury concerns going into the postseason. Pascal Dupuis (six goals in 16 games) is gone for the year with blood clots in his lungs, and defenseman Olli Maatta (1.0 Defensive Point Shares) is out after having his second shoulder surgery of the season. It also looks like top blueliner Kris Letang (11 goals, 43 assists, 10.1 Point Shares) won’t be coming back for the playoffs because of multiple concussions.
That’s a significant handicap for the Penguins, but they still have plenty of talent, and they have home-ice advantage in this series after earning the split at Madison Square Garden in the first two games. Bettors have already made 0.58 units by supporting Pittsburgh instead of New York on the moneyline, and the full two units on the puck line.
Monday’s Game 3 (7:00 PM ET, NBCSN) looks like another opportunity for value, with the Pens still priced at +1.5 (–280) despite this series moving to Steeltown.