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2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Odds: History Not On Penguins' Side
Three Stanley Cups in a row you say. Yeah, it's happened, but not very often, and certainly not recently. The New York Islanders were the last to do it when they won four Cups in succession from 1980-83, right on the heels of the four consecutive wins by the Montreal Canadiens from 1976-79. The Canadiens won a record five in a row from 1956-60, while the Toronto Maple Leafs captured thee successive Cups from 1947- and again from 1962-64. And in a century of NHL history those are the only threepeats.
So as you can see, the odds are stacked against Sidney Crosby and the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Bovada seems to agree. At +900, the Penguins are the fifth betting choice to win the Cup this spring. There have been 11 occasions in NHL history where a two-time champ came up short in year three, including the Penguins, who won in 1990-91 and 1991-92, but were second-round losers in 1992-93, despite sporting the best regular-season record in the NHL.
If history is against the Penguins, where should you be putting your money? The oddsmakers think the smart money is on the Nashville Predators (+400), last year's losing finalists, but much like the defending champion Penguins, history is not on Nashville's side. Since 1969, just two losing finalists returned the following spring to win the Cup - the 2008-09 Penguins and the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers. The Predators also must overcome the dreaded Presidents' Trophy curse. Only two of the last 10 regular-season champs won the Cup.
The sexy pick to capture the Cup is most certainly the Boston Bruins (+550). The Bruins were 15-10-4 on Dec. 14 when they unleashed an 18-game point streak (14-0-4). Boston has lost two in a row in regulation just twice since mid-December. The Bruins have steady two-way forwards like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, solid defenders led by the ageless Zdeno Chara and a Vezina-winning goalie in Tuukka Rask. The only worry is whether the Bruins peaked too soon.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the preseason pick to win it all, but have slid to third in Bovada's NHL Stanley Cup future book at +600, and certainly there's cause for concern. They've suffered 14 of their 23 regulation losses since Jan. 11 and have surrendered four or more goals 17 times in their last 40 games. You have to wonder if playing goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy 65 times in his first season as the No. 1 guy was wise. There's loads of talent with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, but the Lightning look susceptible.
In The Running
No team has really set itself out above the rest consistently this season, which may make a spring where the prudent Stanley Cup wager is to look a little bit down the board at some of the sleepers. The San Jose Sharks were in the Cup final 2016 and offer a great price at +2200. They are solid performers both home and away, have a great coach in Peter DeBoer, a playoff-type lineup and are stellar defensively.
A Canadian team hasn't lifted the Cup since the 1993 Canadiens, and the Winnipeg Jets (+900) will get plenty of love of the Canadian fan base seeking to see the Cup come home. The Jets are second in the NHL is scoring and fifth-best in goals against, which is a winning combination. And Winnipeg hasn't won the Stanley Cup since the Winnipeg Victorias did the deed in 1901-02, 15 years before the NHL was born.
What to do with the Vegas Golden Knights, who are a tough play at +650? Only one first-year expansion team has ever played in a Stanley Cup final, the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues, and it was guaranteed one of the six first-year teams would that spring, because they were all lumped in one division. There's no path like that for Vegas, and they've not played nearly as well in the second half, losing 16 games since Jan. 25.
BABB Pick: San Jose Sharks (+2200)
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Conor McGregor is a legendary UFC fighter. Not many combatants can take a year off from fighting, announce their next bout, and instantly be established as the overwhelming odds-on favorite in the UFC 257 picks. Yet that's exactly how The Notorious one rolls. He will headline UFC 257 on Jan. 23, facing Dustin Poirier in a rematch of former UFC world lightweight champs. McGregor is the -235 favorite in the bout.