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

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Why You Could Benefit From Some Great NHL and NBA Finals …

quick-lundqvist
quick-lundqvist

Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist could provide us a fantastic goalie duel in the Stanley Cup Finals.

If you call yourself a hockey fan then you darn well had better have been watching game seven of the Western Conference Finals Sunday night. Both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks left every ounce of what they had in the tank on the ice before the Kings prevailed in overtime. It was great hockey that featured great saves, great passing and intense action.

The National Basketball Association didn’t need a game seven to establish its’ final between two-time defending champion Miami and the Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs. Both teams disposed of their opponents in six games and now face each other in NBA Finals for the second straight year. This hasn’t happened since the Bulls-Jazz match-ups in the 1990′s.

Both the Stanley Cup Finals and the NBA Finals could offer you some interesting opportunities to make some money.

In the NHL, you’ll need to determine whether the LA Kings are tired or whether they will ride a wave of energy and enthusiasm in the early going of the Cup Finals. The New York Rangers have had plenty of rest and normally I’d side with the Rangers in the first two games of the series but let’s consider what I think is a very key piece to this potential dilemma.

If the Kings were heading straight to New York to play the Rangers in games one and two in Madison Square Garden, I would give more credence to them being worn down by the series with the Blackhawks but I think this case is a bit different. LA gets to return home for the first two games and the Rangers have to travel across the continent to play the Kings.

Despite playing all 21 possible games in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, I think being at home will be a big boost for the Kings. Much like baseball momentum is dictated by tomorrow’s starting pitcher, hockey is often dictated by the men between the pipes and Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist could have one of the great duels in recent Cup Finals’ history.

You’ll need to do some homework on these two but the opportunities are there for you to win in this series.

LeBron

Lay your money on LeBron to lead the Heat in scoring in each game of the Finals.

In the NBA, you should have a great chance for success when it comes to prop bets. The series itself will be as tough as ever to make a call on. I’ve already seen many of the top NBA analysts calling this series for the Heat in six or seven or they like the Spurs in six or seven. It’s almost a total 50/50 split among guys on some of the top NBA sites.

Much like the NHL, you’ll need to do some serious homework in order to figure the game to game winners but let’s get back to those prop bets. If you like picking the leading scorer of each game then turn your attention to Miami. You can bank on LeBron James leading the Heat in scoring as he does almost every time the Heat take the floor.

The Spurs are a different story because of their balance and it could be even more so if Tony Parker can’t go due to the bad ankle. Anyone from Tim Duncan to Manu Ginobili to Danny Green could lead the Spurs so I’d steer clear of the Spurs in that area.

Most three-pointers is another area to take a chance because both teams can hit from downtown. I’d lean towards the Heat here because of Ray Allen but don’t for a second forget about the Spurs.

Make sure you look over all of the prop bets going off in this series and you can start over at bovada.lv.

 

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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.

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Big NBA Slate Offers Good Games Including Warriors at …

LeBron

 

LeBron

LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra are pursuing a three-peat in Miami and that continues with Brooklyn in town tonight.

The National Basketball Association has a bunch of games on tap for tonight and I’ve selected five of them for your wagering enjoyment. The big one features two hot clubs in Golden State and the LA Clippers.

Brooklyn (+8) at Miami – The Heat were able to end their little three-game losing streak with a win over Washington Monday night. The victory also closed them to within a game of Eastern Conference leader Indiana.

Brooklyn has won two straight games including an important one over division leader Toronto. The Nets have won seven of ten and can still catch the Raptors for the division lead.

Keep an eye on LeBron James who since his 61 point-outburst nine days ago is struggling to score. That has to change at some point but will it be tonight? I like Miami to win but give me the Nets and the points.

Kings

Things haven't gone real well in Sacremento this year but a win is possible in Philly tonight.

Sacramento (-8.5) at Philadelphia – If you’re wondering why I continue to feature the 76ers a lot lately its’ because I feel I have an obligation to follow them until they break this losing streak. Philly has lost 17-straight games and is now just two games ahead of Milwaukee for the worst record in the NBA.

So bad have the Sixers been that the ugly ‘tanking’ word has surfaced and why not? They are losing by well over ten points per game and seem to have little ambition.

The Kings aren’t substantially better in terms of conference position but they have been slightly more competitive than Philly. I have to believe the players in the Philadelphia locker room have to be beyond frustrated. Whether they win I can’t say, but I love them getting 8.5 at home.

Portland (+6) at San Antonio – The Spurs have now caught the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference. They lead OKC by a half game. Winners of six straight and nine of their last ten, San Antonio appears to be peaking at the right time.

Since Portland’s hot start, they’ve come back to Earth a bit. They are just 4.5 games out of the top spot in the West but they would have to jump four teams to get there and I don’t see that happening. The Blazers have lost two straight and I think we’ll see that extended tonight in Texas. I like the Spurs to cover.

Memphis (-4) at New Orleans – The Grizzlies have been pushing to enter the playoff race for some time and it has paid off for the time being. They are now one half games ahead of Phoenix who has fallen into the ninth spot.

Despite winning three in a row, the Pelicans will not be joining the Grizzlies in the playoff push. They are 10.5 games behind the Griz and there are only about 17 games remaining.

Memphis comes to the Big Easy having won two in a row and has a solid road record. I like Memphis to cover this evening.

Golden State (+5.5) at LA Clippers – This is clearly the game of the night and maybe of the week in the NBA. The host Clippers have won eight straight games while the Warriors are on a four-game streak. Both teams have won eight of their last ten.

Both of these teams should be in the playoffs and they are extremely close to where they could be playing each other in round one. Scoring will not be an issue for either team as they are both well above 100 points per game. Defensively, Golden State has an advantage and were this game in Oakland I’d really like that.

It’s not however so give me the Clippers to cover.

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A Trio of Hockey Games on the Slate for Tonight

Jimmy Howard

 

Jimmy Howard

Howard will need to be at the top of his game to keep thwarting the Blackhawks.

Right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins are trailing the Ottawa Senators 1-0 in game four of their Eastern Conference Semi-final game. The Pens were just 28 seconds from having a three games to zero lead before squandering it and then losing in double overtime. Should the Sens hang on tonight (and there is much time left to be played), this series would suddenly a best of three.

That’s the nature of the National Hockey League Playoffs where a single play can turn the fate of an entire series completely around.

Coming up tonight, there are three monstrous games in the NHL. In New York, the Rangers are playing for their lives down three games to zero and have no room for error. In Detroit, the top-seeded Blackhawks are down 2-1 to the seventh seeded Red Wings but I don’t sense any panic here and I’ll explain why later. Finally, out in Los Angeles, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings are knotted at two games apiece after San Jose took both games at home.

While every game in any playoff series is huge, these games have the potential to be true turning points in all three series.

John Tortorella
Can Torts get the Rangers back in this series against Boston?

Boston at New York (Bruins lead 3-0) – In another example of just how fine the line between winning and losing are in the playoffs, the Rangers led 1-0 into the third in game three but gave up two goals. The last of which happened with under four minutes to go. It’s clear that Henrik Lundqvist is not 100% but he’s giving a valiant performance. The issue is the guy at the other end Tuukka Rask who has been excellent.

If anyone can fire up his troops it’s John Tortorella, but it may be too late for his offensively challenged club. The Rangers have been outscored 10-5 through the first three games and if they have any chance they have to get more than two goals past Rask. Interestingly enough, the Rangers are 1.5 goal favorites tonight. I like Boston to get the broom out and win a tough game by a goal.

Chicago at Detroit (Red Wings lead 2-1) - The Wings entered this series having lost seven straight time to Chicago but have turne the tables with aggressive fore-checking and huge goaltending from Jimmy Howard. Because Detroit is not a prolific scoring team, Howard has to be good especially with the loss of defenseman Danny DeKusyer.

I look for the Blackhawks to keep pouring pucks on Howard tonight and that only matter if Corey Crawford holds up on his end. Chicago entered the place number one in the league in goals against with just two per game, but it’s there inability to score goals that has haunted them.  Chicago will be hopping on the ice at Joe Louis Arena not wanting to return down 3-1. Take the ‘Hawks.

San Jose at Los Angeles (Series tied 2-2) – I really like the aggressiveness that LA goalie Jonathan Quick plays with. He isn’t afraid to smack opposing players in a scrum or give guys a whack with his stick but sometimes I wonder if it doesn’t backfire on him. Quick got himself involved in a couple of scrums early and it seemed to fire up the Sharks who went on to win 2-1 tying the series.

The Kings will need to address the speed the Sharks displayed in game four because it was clear the Sharks wanted an up tempo game and although the score was low, it was played at the high pace they wanted. If LA can slow up San Jose then it allows them to dictate even more on the offensive end. The Kings enter as 1.5 goal favorites and I’ll take it. No reason to break the home team streak anytime soon.

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Monday Night Football (and Basketball) Tips

Michael Vick and Andy Reid are both in the firing line as Philadelphia visits New Orleans on Monday Night Football.

Michael Vick and Andy Reid are both in the firing line as Philadelphia visits New Orleans on Monday Night Football.

For the first time this season sports fan will have the choice of football or basketball on a Monday night when they get home and switch on their television sets tonight.

Of course, die hard football fans won’t want to miss a minute of Monday Night Football while fans of the round ball have an eight game slate to choose from, meaning there’s betting a plenty for everybody tonight.

 

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints

(8:30 PM ET)

When a Monday Night Football game features teams with a combined 5-9 record you might first ask what the schedule makers were thinking before deserting football in favor of something altogether different.

This week’s match-up between Philadelphia (3-4, 1-2 road) and New Orleans (2-5, 1-2 home) however is must-see TV, despite those hideous records.

Three early wins for the Eagles have been followed by four losses, and questions as to whether Andy Reid should still be in a job. The Saints meanwhile stunk the joint out to start the season, before coupling together a pair of wins. Last week’s primetime loss to Denver suggested that the Saints hadn’t yet turned the corner.

Both teams need a win tonight. Desperately need a win. New Orleans to have any hope of remaining in the postseason picture – those fingertips are slipping away quicker and quicker – and Philadelphia to avoid any more questions about Reid and Michael Vick’s suitability.

Odds: The Saints opened as 1½-point favorites and have seen that stock rise to three-points. The over/under is 52.

Take: New Orleans – Despite a setback last week, the Saints have had more to be pleased with over recent weeks than the Eagles, who look intently focused on having a disastrous season. The Saints are at home which could play a huge factor here, while Philadelphia has only won one of the last three meetings. Take the Saints to cover the short spread, with the total going over.

 

NBA: New York Knicks @ Philadelphia 76ers

(7 PM ET)

New York (2-0, 0-0 road) travels to Philadelphia (1-1, 1-0 home) for the second part of a home-and-home series with the Sixers. The Knicks took Sunday night’s game 100-84.

Both teams will be looking to assert themselves in the Atlantic Division, which looks as though it could be one of the toughest divisions in basketball this season. Only Toronto appears to be a flop.

Odds: New York’s victory over the Sixers last night hasn’t transferred to tonight’s odds. The Knicks are underdogs (+4) on the road. The over/under is 189½.

Take: Philadelphia – Away from the emotions of the Big Apple, it’ll be interesting how the Knicks fare. The chances are they’ll be a letdown of sorts. The Sixers will take advantage and narrowly cover the spread in a close game. Take the under on the total.

 

NBA: Indiana Pacers @ San Antonio Spurs

(8:30 PM ET)

Indiana (2-1, 1-1 road) travels to San Antonio (3-0, 2-0 home) with the tough task of beating the undefeated Spurs. The Pacers have yet to find true form and will hope a big game against Tim Duncan and the Spurs will be the catalyst to take charge of the Central Division.

San Antonio will look to improve to 4-0, putting the Lakers and Thunder further behind in the rearview mirror, something few experts predicted preseason.

Odds: Indiana enters the AT&T Center as underdogs (+6½) against the undefeated Spurs. The over/under is 194½.

Take: San Antonio – The Spurs have never started a season 4-0, an  unbelievable trend considering the team has won 50-plus games 13 years running. It’s time for history to be made. Take the Spurs to cover the spread and the under to go under.

 

NBA: Golden State Warriors @ Sacramento Kings

(10 PM ET)

Let’s be honest, a match-up between Golden State (2-1, 2-0 road) and Sacramento (0-3, 0-0 home) rarely makes your radar, unless you live in Northern California of course. But this game has a number of advantages going for it.

Firstly, if the Saints-Eagles game is a blowout, you can switch channels and catch the game, indulging in some in-game betting if you so desire. Secondly, there will be precisely zero defense played in this one which should at least be interesting. Thirdly, the Warriors might not suck this season, and an early encounter with perennial doormat Sacramento should give us some idea of what to expect from Mark Jackson’s side this year.

Odds: The Kings are favorites (-3) in the home opener at renamed Sleep Train Arena. The over/under is 202½.

Take: Golden State – The Kings (along with the Wizards) look set to be this season’s long losing streak side. It’ll probably be 10 games in before the team gets a ‘W’. Take the over as these two sides should light-up the scoreboard.

 

Remaining NBA Fixtures (Favorites highlighted)

Minnesota @ Brooklyn | Phoenix @ Miami | Utah @ Memphis | Portland @ Dallas | Cleveland @ LA Clippers

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