The Stanley Cup Final begins tonight!
It’s only been four days since Chris Kunitz scored in double OT to vault the Penguins into the Cup final for the second straight year, but it feels like it’s been a month. It may even feel longer than that for the Predators, who haven’t seen game action since finishing off the Western Conference final with a 6-3 victory over the Ducks a week ago in Nashville.
Layoffs like this make it pretty difficult to know what to expect from each team coming into the game. If Pittsburgh was having to play Game 1 of the Cup final a couple of days after concluding its second straight 7-game series, we’d say the Predators have a pretty big advantage. But the Pens have had time to recover both physically and emotionally, while Nashville could struggle (especially early) to regain the momentum they had built in the first three rounds.
Instead of betting on Game 1, we’re going with a series pick today. It’s a little bit juicier than we normally post on here, but there are also ways to reduce your juice (or even get plus-money odds) that we’ll discuss in the writeup below.
Good luck if you’re tailing along!
Odds below are at the time we made the pick. Be sure to check out our live odds page for updated odds on today’s games.
Nashville’s had an impressive, if not improbable, run to the Stanley Cup Final, and full marks to the Preds for that. But history is actually pretty full of underdogs who defy the odds to reach the Cup final, only to finally be overmatched by superior talent. The 2012 Kings are the only #8 seed to ever win the Stanley Cup, and in the final they got to play a gritty but not exactly skilled Devils team that was the #6 seed in the East.
The Penguins clearly have more offensive talent, especially after Nashville lost Ryan Johansen to injury in the Western final. The Predators clearly have more depth on the blueline, but many people wrote off Pittsburgh after the Kris Letang injury and the Pens’ no-name defence corps just continues to find a way. In goal, Pekka Rinne’s been excellent in these playoffs, but he’s playing at a higher level than he has throughout his career and there’s a chance that bubble bursts, especially after a long layoff. Matt Murray, on the other hand, has consistently been great since entering the league last spring and winning the Cup as a rookie.
It’d be a mistake to underestimate the value of home ice advantage in the Cup final as well. In the past 21 playoffs, only 5 teams have won the Cup despite not having home ice advantage in the final. Pittsburgh had the best home record in the NHL this year, so it’s a pretty important factor that we feel is not being fully appreciated here.
If you’re betting on the series, make sure you shop around a bit to get the best number. The best prices we found on Pittsburgh to win the Cup final was at Sports Interaction (-152 odds) and Bodog/Bovada (-155), both of which cater mostly to recreational players. Meanwhile, Pinnacle lists the Penguins at -160, William Hill has Pittsburgh at -163 and Bet365 has the Pens -165.
As we said earlier, -155 is a little pricier than most of the plays we post on this site. If you’re a little uncomfortable with that high of a line but still want to bet the Penguins, here are a few options:
- Parlay the series line with something else (we personally parlayed the Pens series pick with Golden State to win the NBA title, and that parlay paid +120 odds at Bet365)
- Take the Penguins -1.5 on the series handicap at +148 odds (this requires Pittsburgh to win the series 4-2, 4-1 or 4-0)
- Wait until later in the series to see if you can get a better line (if Pittsburgh loses one of the first two games at home, for example)
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