It’s an exciting time to be a sports fan right now, as we touch the middle of the week this week and with it the start of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs! Marking the beginning of the exciting two-month run of NBA and NHL playoff action that will keep sports fans engaged each and every day from here on out, we head today to one of the top online sportsbooks for opening wagers on the 5 NHL Conference Quarterfinal games in store for this evening, and also to get a taste of the last games scheduled for the NBA regular season, and even a pair of UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal matches setup for this afternoon as well. The featured top reviewed sportsbook of the day is Sportsbetting sportsbook (read the review of Sportsbetting.com), which allows easy access to all available sports betting lines each and every day, with competitive options on the money, line and total points bets. Most importantly however, the vastly superior ease of making deposits and getting your withdrawals (one of the biggest differentiating factors between a decent and a great sportsbook these days) combined with top marks for customer service and a great reputation makes Sportsbetting.com an easy choice for anyone to begin their online sports betting for playoff season.
Heading to the Sportsbetting sportsbook lines today, NHL Playoff Hockey gets the first round of bets and the focus of conversation on the day, with a number of exciting first-round match-ups to take part in. First up in the Eastern Conference match-ups, a very interesting battle will get underway today with the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the Pens short two of their key stars (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin), though showing little signs that their lack of presence has truly hurt them down the home stretch of the season. Relying on their stout defense, as well as a great goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh will have its work cut out for them against the high-flying stars of Lightning, including Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. The advantage in this series however must go to the Penguins, who enter with a league-best penalty kill, and have shown they have no trouble limiting the attack of the Tampa Bay stars with superb defensive play led by Kris Letang and Paul Martin. With the start of any key playoff series, we expect a timid start with defense the focal point to both teams’ game plans. In addition, as Barry Melrose, ESPN hockey analyst has frequently mentioned, goaltending wins playoffs and between Fleury and Tampa’s Dwayne Roloson, we lean on Pitt to pull out a series victory and nab the first game tonight. In a defensive-minded game, look for the total points going under at 5.5 goals for a small pick-up on the betting lines today. Series prediction for the Penguins and Lightning; Pens win 4-2.
Next up in the Eastern Conference today, find the clash between Washington and New York to be highlighted by the Capitals’ yearning for redemption after dropping 3 of 4 games during the regular season to the Rangers, as they come into the game a much different team than the one that struggled against the Rangers throughout the year. Wipe the regular season away, and see how both these teams come into the series to find out where the advantages lie. The Rangers have leaned very heavily on their star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who comes under increasing pressure due to New York’s lack of offensive firepower. Tripping into the playoffs, the Rangers will need to push their offensive units to help out, as there is no doubt that Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble will be finding the back of the net in this series. Adding to that, the Caps come in with a serious chip on their shoulders after losing to the Montreal Canadiens after holding a 3-1 series advantage. Not being sold on the Rangers ability to score against a reestablished defense of the Caps, as well as banking on Henrik Lundqvist to be overwhelmed by the Washington attack tonight, we’re going with a long shot on the -1.5 goals for Washington at +180, though a wager on under 5 goals (+105) also looks to be a decent mark to shoot for, as Michal Neuvirth and Lundqvist help hold down the scoring in this one. Series prediction for Washington vs. New York; Washington prevails 4-1.
Shifting to the Western Conference match-ups scheduled to start today, the big showdown that has many people talking is the Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks, in a rematch from last year that saw Chicago owning Vancouver on the power play, and excelling on defense to move towards an eventual Stanley Cup trophy. Though many (especially those who align with the Blackhawks) point to Chicago being in Vancouver’s head after winning two straight series against them in the playoffs, this match-up couldn’t be any different from the one last year in the second round, as Chicago is certainly not as deep, or as strong as the team that won the Cup, and Vancouver has vastly improved on defense, on the power play, and has by far the better goaltending tandem (in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider). The only way Chicago is in Vancouver’s head is that they are the focus as a first round opponent and nothing more. Watch the tides turn this year as Vancouver puts down Chicago with their defensive play, as well as the attacking side featuring the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler as they bring the league’s best goals for and goal against average to reverse the trend from last season’s playoffs (Chicago won 3 games at Vancouver to win in 6 games overall). Series prediction; Vancouver in 5 games, 4-1.
Perhaps the team to watch in this year’s playoffs is the Anaheim Ducks, who surged towards the playoffs and into home-ice advantage even without their star goaltender Jonas Hiller, who still suffers from symptoms of vertigo every time he gets on the ice. The Ducks have proved to everyone that their team play and strong offensive lines can win games even when they find themselves way behind, and the play in net of both Dan Ellis and Ray Emery has been truly impressive as the team went 15-5-5 down the stretch to move from an eliminated side to a legitimate Cup threat. It’s more of an offense versus defense showdown in this match-up, as Nashville has proven to a be a serious point of aggravation for the top scorers in the league, as has their outstanding goalie, Pekka Rinne. The Predators know how to chip away at opposing defenses, however with the way Anaheim has played behind veterans Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf, combined with top goal scorer Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Lubomir Visnovsky. Look for the well-rounded Ducks to be too much for the low-scoring Predators featuring Martin Erat, Ryan Suter and Sergei Kostitsyn, and pull off a series win in 6, 4 games to 2. Tonight at the Pond in Anaheim, the Ducks get off on the right foot, and win in a close one 2-1.
Looking to the last series for the first round of NHL Playoff Hockey underway today, an interesting match-up features the Detroit Red Wings against the Phoenix Coyotes, with two very different styles clashing in this 7 game series. Both sides have solid goaltending with Jimmy Howard for the Wings and Ilya Bryzgalov for the Coyotes, but the advantage certainly goes to the bigger, better Bryzgalov who is certainly a key reason for the Coyotes’ recent successes. One concern for Detroit is there sluggish home play in the second half of the year, going 6-10 since February at Joe Louis Arena. Without Henrik Zetterberg for the series as well, Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Lidstrom will need to step up their games. Though I don’t see Phoenix having enough offense to stop Detroit from winning the series overall, I like the Coyotes to be a serious thorn in the Red Wings’ side, taking this series to 7 games on the back of strong goaltending by Bryzgalov. Tonight, Detroit bounces back at home to win in overtime 3-2, and gets the series 4-3 in a fun one.
With the first round of sports betting put down at Sportsbetting.com today, we turn to a pair of UEFA Champions League games set to kick off in just a short while, and while both games will likely have little impact on the Championship overall, both games today should be a chance for Tottenham and Schalke 04 to save a little face after being routed in their two first-leg quarterfinal clashes with Real Madrid and Inter Milan respectively. Down 4-0 on aggregate to Real Madrid, it’s safe to say that only a miracle can pull Spurs through at White Hart Lane, especially as they will be without striker Peter Crouch (the main reason for the pummeling at the Bernabeu last week). Only three times in history has a team come back from this kind of deficit to win in European play, and tonight won’t make a fourth. However, with Tottenham looking to save face at home (where they have played brilliantly this year), and on the attack for the game, expect lapses in defense as Spurs push the ball forward to expose them a few times, and in the end a 1 goal victory might be the best possible outcome provided Rafael Van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale can break through the Madrid defense. Looking for a 3 goal game, we’ll take the over bet on 2.5 goals at Sportsbetting, and hope for a good finish for Tottenham as they return focus to the Premier League, and a 4th table position for a return to the Champions League next year. In the second match on the day, Schalke heads home to try to maintain their dominant 5-2 aggregate against Inter, with little hope that Inter will be able to penetrate the defensive-minded German side who while struggling in domestic play have excelled at the top European level this year. This match-up however is far less improbable than the task Spurs has at overcoming the aggregate they face against Real Madrid, however there may just not be enough goals to go around tonight in a more defensive match-up for Schalke, though Inter prevails with a 2-1 win to walk away from the tournament on a good note.
We’re moving down the list of options for online sports betting on this busy day, and next up find the bevy of options for the final regular season day of NBA Basketball, which while not featuring very many match-ups with any playoff implications, certainly has some fun contests as all 30 teams are in action today. Fun games to look at on the betting lines at Sportsbetting.com include the Boston Celtics taking on the New York Knicks in a playoff preview of things to come in the first round. New York, while on a tear down the home stretch, suffers from serious defensive and rebounding issues, which will come to light tonight as Boston looks to contain Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups at home, without the inside presence of Amare Stoudamire in the paint. New Orleans faces Dallas tonight in an uphill battle to secure the 7th seed, as the Memphis Grizzlies will also get a challenge to overtake the Hornets as they head to what will be a tough road match at Los Angeles against a Clippers team that will no doubt want to finish the season strong at home. Look for Dallas to overwhelm Memphis, and Memphis to fall in a close match-up as they will be without leading scorer and rebounder Zach Randolph for the game. Look out for a few other key match-ups worth of betting on sports today as San Antonio puts starters back in the line-up to prep for the playoffs and tries to maintain the top record in the NBA (up for grabs with Chicago who gets a much easier match-up at home tonight against New Jersey), as they face Phoenix, The Thunder beats out Milwaukee at home, Denver trumps Utah on the road in heavy-scoring fashion, and the Atlanta Hawks to get in form for their tough task ahead as they overcome Charlotte tonight.
With plenty of Major League Baseball on tap as the season grows past the opening couple of weeks, check out the exciting continuation of the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants series to be well worth a stab at online sportsbook betting today, and good opportunities for wagering lie with Philadelphia, who puts Roy Halladay on the mound against Washington in a rebound game for the Phillies, Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson squaring off as the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves duke out a low-scoring affair, and an exciting series between up and coming Baltimore and the New York Yankees, with young, exciting pitching of the O’s versus the overpaid, underperforming staff of the Yankees at hand. As the week moves on and more focus comes to the NHL and NBA playoffs, look for exciting opportunities for betting on sports at the best online sportsbooks reviewed here, give Sportsbetting.com a shot today for all your betting needs, and as always good luck in your wagers and thanks for stopping by!