Some interesting pointspreads for Labor Day weekend college football games:
— Oregon State @ Colorado State (-2)
— Boston College (-2) @ Northern Illinois
— Colorado State vs Colorado (-8) (@ Denver)
— South Carolina (-4) @ NC State
— Kentucky (-12) @ Southern Miss
— Temple @ Notre Dame (-13)
Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind……..[/I][/B]
13) This from the Associated Press: A naked man in Florida was arrested driving away from a storage center in a stolen pickup truck loaded with a statue of a large, black and white checkered swan that’s worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd had this to say: “Look folks. Where are you going to hide a five-foot tall, checkered swan? If someone’s harboring this swan and not telling us, we’re going to put them in jail. And we hope when we find them, they have clothes on.”
12) Interesting article in the Houston Chronicle Friday on the guy who takes care of the pitching mound at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Important job that we don’t think about a lot— this guy has worked for the Astros for 46 years as a groundskeeper- the pitchers swear by the job he does keeping the mound, and pitchers are particular about their workplace.
11) Lonzo Ball isn’t going to do a pre-draft workout for the Celtics, who have the first pick in the NBA Draft; what the hell happens if Boston drafts Ball?
10) Joe Davis is the Dodgers’ play-by-play guy; he is very good, also does basketball on FS1, is just excellent at his job. The thing is, he is only 29 years old, which doesn’t seem possible. He is replacing the greatest baseball announcer ever (Vin Scully) but is doing it very well.
9) ESPN signed Chip Kelly as an analyst for its ESPN2 football coverage, which could be very interesting. Curious to see what the former Oregon-Eagles coach has to say.
8) Tampa Bay Rays had 521 strikeouts thru 50 games, the most by any team ever thru 50 games, 26 more than the next-highest, last year’s Astros.
7) Rangers faced four Boston relievers in the last three innings Thursday nite; all nine batters struck out. In all, 20 of the 27 Texas outs in that game came on strikeouts.
6) Mississippi State had two basketball players transfer this week: Mario Kegler and Eli Wright. Rough week for Ben Howland. Bulldogs had the 2nd-least experienced team in the country last year; Kegler played 70% of the time, Wright 30%. Pretty big loss.
5) When Joe Gibbs coached the Redskins, he had a fine schedule for various offenses; one of the fines was $100 for spraining your ankle if you didn’t have it wrapped/taped beforehand. This is 25-30 years ago, so $100 fine was more than it sounds like now.
If a player missed a trainer’s/doctor’s appointment, the fine was $300.
4) The Ben Simmons infomercial was on Showtime again Friday afternoon; its been almost a year since he was drafted and we still have no idea how good the kid is. We know Simmons is already really rich; we’ve heard he’s grown two inches and is just about 7-feet tall, but still no one knows if he’s going to be any good. He played one year at LSU and his team was a disaster; he is going to be needed to be a team leader— can he do that?
3) Golden State is $260, Cleveland +$220 in the NBA Finals which don’t start until Thursday (why?!?!?!) and could stretch out for 18 days, if it goes seven games.
2) There is nothing in sports- NOTHING as good as overtime in a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Had one of those Thursday night, as the Penguins broke the heart of everyone in Canada with a 3-2 double OT win over the Ottawa Senators. Tremendous drama.
People in Ottawa greeted the Senators when they landed at the airport at 3am, sitting thru the rain to applaud their team after a great season.
1) There have been 27 major league games rained out this season, more than all of last year.
Home Team listed first – Best of 7 Games (2-2-1-1-1)
(Opening Odds in parentheses)
[B]Stanley Cup Final
Pittsburgh vs. Nashville[/B]
[B]Exact Game Props – Prior to Series (5/26/17)
Odds per Sportsbook.ag
Penguins vs. Predators[/B]
7 Games Penguins Win 15/4
6 Games Predators Win 4/1
6 Games Penguins Win 9/2
7 Games Predators Win 9/2
5 Games Penguins Win 19/4
5 Games Predators Win 15/2
4 Games Penguins Win 12/1
4 Games Predators Win 16/1
[B][I]Royalty meets Rowdy in Cup Final
May 26, 2017[/I][/B]
PITTSBURGH (AP) ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ The Pittsburgh Penguins kept getting by even as their star players kept skating off the ice in pain. Even as the targets on their back as Stanley Cup champions kept getting bigger. Even as Columbus and Washington and Ottawa kept pushing and prodding, poking and pinching.
“Just play,” coach Mike Sullivan kept telling his players. Over and over and over again.
So the Penguins did. And the team that found itself uncharacteristically on its heels for long stretches as it fended off the Blue Jackets in the first round, shut down the Capitals in the second and outlasted blue-collar Senators in the third is back where it was a year ago: heading to the Stanley Cup Final with confidence, momentum and more than a little bit of swagger.
Next up: “Smashville.”
Pittsburgh earned a return trip to the Cup with a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday. Chris Kunitz provided the winner, a knuckler from just outside the circle that made its way past Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second extra period and moved the Penguins a step closer to becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to repeat.
And here’s the scary part: after a season pock-marked by the loss of do-everything defenseman Kris Letang and significant absences by Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kunitz, goaltender Matt Murray and a host of others, the Penguins are starting to look like the team that picked apart San Jose last June to capture the franchise’s fourth title.
“Our last four games in this series for me, we really found our game,” Sullivan said.
The result is a potentially intriguing final between NHL royalty and the rowdy neighbors next door. The Penguins have the experience, the leadership and the star power. The Predators have defenseman P.K. Subban, a bunch of country music A-listers in the stands and absolutely nothing to lose in their first appearance on hockey’s biggest stage.
Game 1 is Monday night in Pittsburgh. The teams split their two meetings during the regular season, with each winning on home ice, with Nashville overwhelming Pittsburgh 5-1 back in November and the Penguins returning the favor with a 4-2 victory in January.
Don’t let the flimsy resume fool you. Though they tied for the fewest points in the 16-team playoff field (94), the Predators are dangerous and very much for real after steamrolling through the Western Conference playoffs, never trailing at any point in series wins over Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim.
“We haven’t dominated the play that maybe we wanted to,” Kunitz said. “Maybe we’ve done a better job these last couple of games. But it’s something we’re going to have to get better at playing a 60-minute game if we’re going to have a chance to beat Nashville.”
The meeting marks the first time in NHL history the coaches of both teams are Americans. Nashville’s Peter Laviolette first turned a team in the deep south into a champion 11 years ago when he guided the Carolina Hurricanes to their first and only Cup. Sullivan took over in Pittsburgh in Dec. 2015 and provided the edge the Penguins so desperately needed, becoming the sixth U.S.-born coach to win it all.
Their teams in some ways have become reflections of them. The Predators aren’t nicknamed “Smashville” just for kicks. They were the last team to qualify for the playoffs but have caught fire in the last six weeks, sweeping Chicago in the first round then proving it wasn’t a fluke by putting away the Blues and the Ducks.
“It should be some exciting hockey as far as back and forth and fast and physical,” Crosby said. “I think both teams like to play a pretty similar style.”
With a handful of familiar faces on both sides. One of Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford’s first moves when he was hired in 2014 was to trade forward James Neal to the Predators for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. It’s worked out for nearly all involved.
Hornqvist’s relentless energy and penchant for crashing the net is invaluable when teamed with Malkin or Crosby, while Neal has given Nashville one of the more lethal shots in the league.
Yet it was Subban’s arrival in a trade last June that provided Nashville with the grit and leadership it so desperately needed. Subban has been spectacular at times during the playoffs and goaltender Pekka Rinne is playing the finest hockey of his career, helping stoke the passion of a fanbase that likes to sledgehammer beat-up cars in parking lots before games and throw catfish onto the ice during them.
The Penguins, by contrast, have been here. They’ve done this. Considering all they’ve gone through to get back, they have every intention of doing it again.
[B][I]Subban’s approach is unique and working
May 26, 2017[/I][/B]
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.
The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.
Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville’s stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The best way to sum up Subban’s approach? C’est la vie.
”I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way,” Subban said. ”I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way.”
The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban’s offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.
The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.
”When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win,” Subban said.
The 28-year-old Subban has done that and more. The former Norris Trophy winner was voted the All-Star captain for the Central Division, and he scored 40 points in 66 games during the regular season.
Paired with Mattias Ekholm this postseason, Subban has helped suffocate some of the NHL’s most potent scorers. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored only one goal against Nashville in a first round sweep that caught the league’s attention that Nashville was for real. Vladimir Tarasenko had three points for St. Louis in the second round, but his two goals came in Game 2 of a six-game loss to the Predators.
In the conference finals, Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf came in with eight goals and 15 points. He never scored a goal against Nashville and managed only four assists.
Next up for Subban? Defending the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins. Game 1 is Monday night in Pittsburgh.
”He and Mattias Ekholm have really formed a chemistry together, and that takes time,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ”But they’ve formed a chemistry together that makes them just a real difficult pair to play against.”
General manager David Poile praised Subban with being very coachable and fitting in, which some critics said could never happen. Poile said Subban probably has given up a little bit of his offensive tendencies to play the role Nashville needs him to right now.
”Everybody wants to see what they think they want to see, rushing the puck up the ice or getting a big goal, which he’s certainly got some big goals,” Poile said. ”But nobody wants to talk about his defense. It’s probably not as exciting, probably not as sexy. … He is tremendous from a defensive standpoint.”
Only Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (16) and teammate Ryan Ellis (11) have more points this postseason among defensemen than Subban, who is tied with another teammate Roman Josi with 10. Subban is averaging 25 minutes, 52 seconds of ice time and trails team-leader Josi by only four seconds.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said Subban is an easy defenseman to work with, always wanting the puck. He also thinks Subban has adjusted well with the Predators after taking some time to mesh at the beginning of the season.
Canadian media and his fans from Montreal have made trips to Nashville to talk with and see the charming defenseman this season. Subban said his parents have seen Predators’ flags hanging in his hometown of Toronto.
And it turns out Subban was right last summer saying he believed he would have a big opportunity to win the Stanley Cup with Nashville. That confidence solidified once he talked with Poile and Laviolette and how they embraced him as a big key for the Predators.
”But we’re in this position because of everybody,” Subban said. ”It’s unbelievable. I’ve never been on a team that works as hard for each other as these guys do. And it shows.
[B][I]Penguins ride maturity, resilience to Cup
May 26, 2017[/I][/B]
PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.
On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.
A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.
This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL’s marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.
So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.
”Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim,” Crosby said. ”We’ve just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We’ve done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength.”
And they’ll have to do it one more time in the final against swaggering Nashville if they want to become the first team in nearly 20 years and the first in salary-cap era to win back-to-back championships.
It’s a daunting task. When the puck drops in Game 1 on Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will be playing in their 108th game in the last calendar year, and that doesn’t count another half dozen for those who played in the World Cup of Hockey and a handful of exhibition games.
Pittsburgh, however, has survived to do something even Chicago and Los Angeles – who have combined for five of the seven Cups awarded since 2010 – could not in putting itself in positon for a repeat.
Credit coach Mike Sullivan’s ever-prescient tinkering with the lineups, including his decision to throw Kunitz back into the fray with Crosby as Game 7 wore on, an experiment that ended with Crosby feeding Kunitz for the winner 5:09 into the second overtime .
Credit goaltender Matt Murray, thrust back into the lineup when Marc-Andre Fleury’s hot play that helped carry the Penguins through the opening two rounds finally cooled.
Credit a maturity – or maybe it’s wisdom – from the team leaders who watched the first half of the decade come and go with plenty of gaudy regular-season numbers but no Cup banners to join the one they captured in 2009.
Pinning down what changed is difficult. General manager Jim Rutherford’s ability to remake the team on the fly to build one of the fastest lineups in the league helped. So did Sullivan’s ability to cut through the noise when he replaced the professorial Mike Johnston in December 2015.
Yet the Penguins understand there’s something else at work too, a resiliency and accountability they lacked while falling to lower-seeded teams every year from 2010-14.
”I believe that the resolve and the resilience of this team is the strength of this team,” Sullivan said.
Both were on full display in Game 7.
Kunitz, who missed the first-round series against Columbus with a lower-body injury, returned to see himself bumped from the first line to the fourth, scored his first two goals of the playoffs. Conor Sheary, a blurring revelation last spring who suddenly found himself a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 against the Senators, returned to set up Kunitz’s first goal .
Justin Schultz, who has assumed the as the minute-hogging, puck-moving defenseman role held by the injured Kris Letang, returned from his own health scare and scored a go-ahead goal in the third period.
If the Penguins were a force of nature last spring while earning the franchise’s fourth Cup, this one is more of a throwback. More blue collar. More anonymous.
Some of the key cogs that helped Pittsburgh get to this point – rookie forward Jake Guentzel, 37-year-old playoff newcomer Ron Hainsey and career grinder Scott Wilson – weren’t even around last spring. Yet they and so many others not named Crosby or Malkin have become equal partners in pursuit of a title.
”This year it’s been back and forth, it’s been tough,” Kunitz said. ”We’ve had great individual performances. We had great goaltending. It’s something every night.”
It hasn’t been pretty. So what? Perhaps the biggest sign of the team’s growth is it has abandoned the pursuit of style points for something far more tangible. Like a 34-pound piece of hardware, one Pittsburgh has no intention of handing off anytime soon.
[B][I]Banged up Pens still finding ways to win
May 26, 2017[/I][/B]
PITTSBURGH — The number that Pittsburgh captain and center Sidney Crosby didn’t have off the top of his head is 38.
That’s how many players have dressed for at least one game for the club dating back to the start of the regular season.
It’s a number necessitated by a string of injuries at all positions, and the string has continued through three rounds of the playoffs even as the Penguins have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, which opens Monday against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena.
“What we’ve gone through to get to this point, with all the injuries, we found ways all year long,” said Crosby, who missed the first six regular-season games and another in the postseason because of concussions. “That’s a credit to everyone in this (locker) room. … If you look at the amount of guys who have played, who are on the roster, over the course of the year, it’s a lot of guys. Everyone’s a part of that.
“The biggest step is ahead, but to get to this point you need a lot of things to go right, and everyone deserves a lot of credit.”
Pittsburgh already knew it would be without top defenseman Kris Letang for the duration of the playoffs after he had disc surgery on his neck. Other defensemen were in and out of the lineup during the first three rounds because of injuries.
The Penguins regrouped. Pairings have been fluid, and the team has spread the responsibility and minutes, with no defenseman averaging as many as 22 minutes a game in the playoffs.
“I think our defense corps is a resilient bunch,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “They get knocked down, and they get up, and they get back in the fight. I think that’s what I love about them.”
It’s been the same at forward, where Pittsburgh has juggled lines and lineups.
It has made things all the more difficult, but the Penguins apparently are down to three injured players — forwards Patric Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. All three — particularly feisty winger Hornqvist, who will be facing his former team in the Final — seem close to returning.
“Win four more, and after that we can rest,” winger Carl Hagelin said. “We had some injuries throughout the course of the season, so some guys when you’re injured you actually get some rest. We’re getting more and more guys back, and that’s key right now.”
–Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray has played in just four games, including three starts, since returning from what was believed to be a groin injury that kept him out nearly a month.
He said he’s not only OK, but he’s also better than before physically.
“It was definitely a slow process,” he said. “It’s tough when you’re not able to skate and you’re not able to spend the days with your teammates when you’re hurt. So I definitely just tried to focus on my rehab. I think I came back stronger than before.”
His numbers, while a small sampling, bear that out. He is 3-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average, a .946 save percentage and one shutout. He stopped 27 of 29 Ottawa shots Thursday in the Penguins’ 3-2, double-overtime win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
On April 12, the night of the team’s playoff opener against Columbus, Murray consulted briefly with team head trainer Chris Stewart, then limped down the runway toward the locker room about halfway through the pregame warmup.
Former No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stepped in and carried the team partway into the Eastern Conference final before Murray was recovered and Fleury faltered in a game.
Even though Murray helped lead Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup last year after Fleury got hurt, he found that jumping into the playoffs midstream this spring required a headlong leap.
“That’s kind of all I could focus on,” Murray said. “I just tried to jump in and not kind of dip your toes in the water because then you’re going to get beat. So I just tried to jump in and be confident and just try and play my game.”
–Pittsburgh might still be a Steelers-first city, but the Penguins have made great inroads the past few decades. Winning Stanley Cups will do that — they are chasing their second in a row, third in nine seasons and fifth overall.
According to NBC Sports Network, which televised Game 7 Thursday, the Pittsburgh market delivered a 29.7 local rating, tops for any Penguins game, including past Cup Finals games.
The share in Pittsburgh was 47.0, which means almost half of the televisions in the market that were on Thursday night were tuned to Game 7.
–Another sign of the deep loyalty among Penguins fans is a strong road showing. At times, Pittsburgh contingents in opponent arenas have produced clearly audible chants and cheers for the visiting Penguins — particularly places within reasonable driving distance from Pittsburgh.
The Predators, apparently well aware of this, are working to try to ensure that Bridgestone Arena does not become home to any sizable Penguins Nation horde.
Ticketmaster, the agent for Finals games in Nashville, posted a notice on its website that buyers for games at Bridgestone Arena will be limited to credit card billing addresses in the Predators’ viewing area — Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. All others who purchase tickets will have their transaction voided.
[B][I]Predators notebook: The new Hockeytown USA?
May 26, 2017[/I][/B]
In 2007, the Nashville Predators almost left town. Canadian businessman James Balsillie entered into a tentative agreement with then-owner Craig Leopold to buy the team and move it to Hamilton, Ontario.
Leopold had lost money every year of the team’s existence. Canadian columnists were saying that Nashville simply wasn’t a market that could support the NHL. It appeared that Nashville was going to join the likes of Quebec, Kansas City, Hartford and Cleveland as markets that had the NHL and lost it.
Ten years later, Nashville not only still has hockey, but is now being held up as the place where you want to see a game. The Predators’ run to their first Stanley Cup Final has not only galvanized an entire city and state, but has also proven the hot takes of the past to be as fruitless as an odd-man rush on Pekka Rinne.
“Nashville has really taken on a life of its own,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said Monday night after a 6-3 win over Anaheim clinched the Western Conference title. “I think our fans who have been so supportive for so many years … the energy they bring into the building, it goes to a level that I’m not sure goes anywhere else in the National Hockey League.”
Dating to last spring’s playoffs, Nashville is 11-1 in its last 12 home playoff games. They have closed out their first three series at Bridgestone Arena. Players have noted before playoff games that they can hear the din of the crowd and that it takes their play up another level.
It certainly appeared to be the case in the last eight minutes Monday night. Immediately after killing a delay-of-game minor on Roman Josi, the Predators snapped a 3-3 tie with Colton Sissons’ third goal of the night, then iced the game with two empty-netters in the final 2 1/2 minutes.
“After we scored to make it 5-3, I had to hop on the ice,” Predators forward Austin Watson said. “You couldn’t hear what anyone was saying.”
That’s a far cry from a decade ago, when the building almost went quiet for good.
–DEEP DEPTH: To make a deep run in the playoffs, a team has to have more than one or two dominant lines and a dominant goalie. Nashville has epitomized that over the last six weeks.
The Predators have tied an NHL record this postseason by using 18 forwards. All of them have contributed in some way. The final two games of the conference finals showcased the organization’s depth and commitment to player development.
Of the nine goals scored in those games, eight came off the sticks of players drafted and developed by Nashville. Sissons and Watson each potted three while Colin Wilson and Pontus Aberg also lit the lamp.
Following Monday night’s win, Laviolette paid tribute to the coaching staff at the team’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.
“Not only are they a successful team in the minors, but every time they come up here, they’re better hockey players,” he said. “It’s a credit to the development that Nashville puts into the young players.”
The only marker in the last two games against Anaheim not scored by a player drafted by the Predators came from Filip Forsberg. He was acquired from Washington at the trading deadline in April 2013 for Martin Erat, and has blossomed into a 30-goal scorer in his age 21 and 22 seasons.
–P.K. PRAISES: After the initial shock of being traded in the offseason from the Montreal Canadiens, the only franchise he had ever known, wore off, defenseman P.K. Subban realized he had a chance to make a long playoff run with Nashville.
Following the win over Anaheim on Monday, Subban lauded Laviolette and general manager David Poile for their work in building the team, and in welcoming him to Nashville shortly after they acquired him from Montreal on June 29 for veteran defenseman Shea Weber.
“I said that when I got here, I thought we had a tremendous opportunity to win a Stanley Cup,” Subban said. “I got some flak for it, but what solidified it for me was when I talked with David Poile and (Laviolette). They just embraced me, and wanted me to do my job.”
Subban’s playoff stats haven’t been spectacular, as he has two goals and eight assists in 16 games. But he’s a plus-six, and has teamed with defense partner Mattias Ekholm to shut down opponents’ top lines consistently. They’re sure to see a lot of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby in the final.
[SIZE=4][COLOR=”#A52A2A”][B]Ten need-to-know NHL betting notes for the Stanley Cup final[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE]
[B]With the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators set to get the Stanley Cup final underway, here are 10 assorted stats and trends to help you determine which wagers to make:[/B]
* Don’t count on your sweep bet paying off. There hasn’t been a four-game Stanley Cup final since 1998, when the Detroit Red Wings blitzed the Washington Capitals. Strangely enough, that capped a four-year run of Stanley Cup sweeps. Pittsburgh is listed at +900 to win via sweep according to SportsInteraction, while a Nashville sweep pays at +1,700.
* Think teams that play more playoff games are at a disadvantage in the final? Think again. Teams that enter the Stanley Cup with more postseason games played than their opponents are 12-7 in the Cup final since 1992, while there have been five instances in which teams have played the same number of games. The Penguins have played 19 postseason games, which is three more than the Predators.
* Expect the magic betting total number for the series to be 5.5 goals. That’s the total for Game 1. Since the 2004-05 lockout, only two Stanley Cup finals have averaged better than 5.5 goals per game: the 2010 title series between Philadelphia and Chicago (7.83 gpg) and the 2012 final between New Jersey and Los Angeles (6.00 gpg).
* While the Penguins (-152) are considered heavy favorites, they’re actually a +143 underdog at a 1.5 series handicap. If you believe in Pittsburgh, you might want to consider those odds. The last five Stanley Cups have been decided in six or fewer games, and eight of the previous 10 finals have gone fewer than seven games.
* Looking at a total games bet? The magic number here is six. It offers the best odds on SportsInteraction (+189), and with good reason: six of the previous nine Stanley Cup championships have been decided in six games, including four of the past five. Pittsburgh upended San Jose in six games to win the 2016 title.
* An eighth seed has won the Stanley Cup just once since the league first adopted the current seeding system back in 1994. The Los Angeles Kings accomplished the feat in 2014, knocking off the New York Rangers. The 2006 Oilers also reached the finals as a No. 8 seed, but fell to Carolina in seven games. Nashville is installed at +120 to win it all.
* If recent history is an indicator, the Penguins might have an easier path to its title defense than experts suggest. Pittsburgh has prevailed in eight of the previous 10 meetings with the Predators dating back to the start of the 2010-11 season. The teams did, however, split a pair of meetings this past season.
* The Penguins employ two of the top three active postseason scoring leaders. Sidney Crosby ranks second with 157 career playoff points, while Evgeni Malkin is third at 153. Crosby is listed at -286 to outscore Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (+300) in the Stanley Cup final, while Malkin is installed at -154 to score more points than Filip Forsberg (+170).
* Pittsburgh has been one of the most dominant teams at home during the 2016-17 season, entering the Stanley Cup final with an impressive 38-7-4 mark at PPG Paints Arena, including the postseason. The Penguins opened as -140 home faves for Game 1, but that line has since been bet up to -165 (as of Saturday afternoon).
* Another reason to like the Penguins in the series opener: they’ve done well when given the opportunity to get a little extra rest. Pittsburgh is a perfect 5-0 in its previous five games on three day’s rest. Monday’s Game 1 will take place four days after the Penguins eliminated the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference final.
[SIZE=4][COLOR=”#A52A2A”][B]Should NHL bettors be concerned with these referees in the Stanley Cup final?[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE]
[B]Stanley Cup final referee Kevin Pollock doesn’t call many penalties. His 2.8 power plays per game in 2016-17 ranked as the third-lowest total among full-time referees. Could that hurt the Penguins potent power-play attack versus the Predators?[/B]
The NHL has named the four referees that will work the Stanley Cup final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, which gets underway Monday night in Pennsylvania. Veteran Dan O’Halloran, working his 10th final – and eighth in a row – is joined by Wes McCauley (fifth Cup final), Kevin Pollock (second Cup final) and Brad Meier (first Cup final).
Handicapping the officials is common place in sports like baseball and basketball ball, and NHL bettors may be able to find an edge with these zebras blowing the whistles. The Penguins are -152 favorites to win the Stanley Cup at SportsInteraction.com while the Predators are coming back at +120.
Here are the specifics of each referee as they pertain to their performance so far in the Stanley Cup playoffs and how bettors should treat them:
Home team ATS: 4-9
Goals per game: 3.84
Home margin: 1.08
No referee is involved in more low-scoring games than McCauley, who saw just 26 Overs in the regular season – costing Over bettors a league-high -$1,811 for the campaign (per $100 wager). That trend has continued into the playoffs, with just two of his games going over. Teams combined to average just 5.2 goals per game with McCauley on the ice during the year, while road teams managed just 2.24 goals per contest – the lowest figure for any referee who worked at least 40 games.
It’s worth considering that McCauley ranked fifth in Over units won among referees who worked more than 30 games in 2015-16 (+$882). And McCauley did finish tied for ninth during the 2016-17 regular season with 3.2 power plays allowed per game. That said, with the Stanley Cup often featuring more tightly-contested defensive battles and fewer man-advantage situations, don’t be surprised to see some low goal totals with McCauley on the ice. Home teams also won 66 percent of McCauley’s regular-season games.
Home team ATS: 7-7
Goals per game: 5.85
Home margin: 0.43
O’Hallaran has been the polar opposite of McCauley in the postseason as the only referee in this Stanley Cup quartet to boast a positive Over record. But that doesn’t mean O’Hallaran doesn’t have an outlier stat worth tracking. Despite what appears to be a solid home-team track record in the postseason, O’Hallaran was actually the stingiest referee for home teams during the regular season, with the host side going a remarkable 17-58 on the puckline for a units loss of -$4,173 – easily the worst return in the league.
O’Hallaran’s Over/Under record during the regular season was higher than McCauley’s (31-34), with teams averaging 5.42 goals with him in action. But he only allowed 3.2 power plays per contest in 2016-17 – slightly higher than McCauley’s average, but still below the league mark. The main takeaway here: O’Hallaran has been brutal on home teams so far this season, and while that trend has abated somewhat in the postseason, it’s still important to keep in mind moving forward.
Stanley Cup Final Game 1 Betting Preview: Predators at Penguins
The puck drops on Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final Monday night in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins attempt to win back-to-back titles against the Predators, who are making their first appearance in the Cup final.
Home team ATS: 3-8
Goals per game: 3.91
Home margin: -0.09
Two things stand out about Meier’s regular-season showing: he saw plenty of home victories (65 percent, tied for fifth-highest among full-time referees) and worked a lot of extra time (32 percent of his games went to OT, the second-highest mark in the league). He also saw more Overs (35) than Unders (33) in 2016-17, but that trend has reversed in the postseason. In fact, most of what made Meier stand out to bettors during the regular season has gone the opposite way in the playoffs.
Home teams averaged better than three goals per game with Meier on the ice during the regular season, but are averaging fewer than two per contest in the postseason. He’s one of only five referees to work the Stanley Cup playoffs that has a negative home goals margin. He has also been one of the stingiest referees in the league when it comes to allowing power plays, giving teams an average of just 2.9 man advantages in 2016-17. Suffice to say that Meier brings a mixed bag into the Stanley Cup final.
Home team ATS: 6-6
Goals per game: 4.92
Home margin: -0.08
Pollock made it home on time most nights during the regular season, posting a 15 percent overtime/shootout rate that ranked as the third-lowest percentage in the league. Yet, despite this, he still saw a 5.58 goals-per-game average this past season, ranking sixth in O/U units won ($616 for Overs). He also ranks third in the playoffs in home-team puckline units won at $368 (per $100 bet), behind only O’Hallaran and Chris Lee. He ranked just 28th in the category during the regular season.
Like Meier, Pollock doesn’t call many penalties. His 2.8 power plays per game in 2016-17 ranked as the third-lowest total among full-time referees. If he works with Meier, you might expect both officials to let things go a little more, which will limit power-play chances for both the Penguins and Predators. That will keep scoring down, which is significant given that the Game 1 total of 5.5 is already high considering the usual paucity of offense in the Stanley Cup finals. The Penguins have a power-play success rate of 25 percent in the postseason with 14 power-play goals, while the Preds are scoring on just 15 percent of their man advantages for seven power-play markers.
[SIZE=4][COLOR=”#A52A2A”][B]Predators are the latest NHL betting long shot to take a run at the Stanley Cup[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE]
[B]The Nashville Predators are the big Cinderella story in sports after advancing to the Stanley Cup final as a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.[/B]
The Predators, who were as big as 40/1 to win the Stanley Cup, upset the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks with a series sweep in the opening round and rode that momentum through St. Louis and Anaheim to win the West.
Now, Nashville is a +130 underdog to win the Stanley Cup versus the defending champion, Pittsburgh Penguins (-150).
How does the Preds’ improbable run to the Cup final measure up against other Cinderellas on ice? Here’s a look at all teams seeded sixth or lower in their respective conferences that reached the final, and how those teams fared once they got there:
[B]2002-03: Anaheim Mighty Ducks, seventh in West[/B]
The 2002-03 Mighty Ducks kicked off an improbable streak of three consecutive low-seeded teams representing the Western Conference in the NHL championship round. Despite finishing 16 points behind the conference-leading Dallas Stars, the Paul Kariya-led Ducks laid waste to their postseason opponents, rolling past the Detroit Red Wings, Stars and Minnesota Wild while losing just twice on the way to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance.
Anaheim quickly lost all of its momentum once the final started, dropping each of its first two games in New Jersey while failing to score in either of them. Anaheim responded with a pair of overtime victories at home, and the teams traded three-goal routs in the next two games to send the series to a Game 7. The Devils prevailed 3-0 to win the championship, but it was Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after posting a 1.62 GAA in 21 playoff games.
[B]2003-04: Calgary Flames, sixth in West[/B]
No team more perfectly summarized the slogging, defense-first style of the early-2000s NHL than the Flames, who advanced to the Stanley Cup final despite having just one player record more than 50 points in the regular season (Jarome Iginla, 73). Miikka Kiprusoff was sensational that year, posting a 1.69 GAA while recording four of Calgary’s 11 shutouts during the year. Still, Calgary finished just five points ahead of ninth-place Edmonton to sneak into the postseason.
The path to the final wasn’t an easy one. Calgary needed seven games to knock off the Vancouver Canucks, then went six games apiece with the top-seeded Red Wings and second-ranked San Jose Sharks. But the Flames proved they belonged in the final with a convincing 4-1 win over Tampa Bay in Game 1. The teams alternated wins over the next five games, setting up a deciding Game 7 in St. Petersburg. The Lightning won that one 2-1 for their first Stanley Cup crown.
[B]2005-06: Edmonton Oilers, eighth in West[/B]
Series price: Edmonton +120/Carolina -140
The first season after the year-long lockout featured plenty of surprises, most notably the Oilers coming out of nowhere to emerge as the Stanley Cup representatives out of the Western Conference. Edmonton reached the postseason by the slimmest of margins, finishing just three points ahead of the division-rival Canucks. In fact, Vancouver actually finished with more victories. The Oilers needed back-to-back wins at season’s end to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
But none of that mattered once the second season started. The Oilers stunned top-seeded Detroit (which has shown up on this list a lot) in six games – the biggest upset in a Western Conference opening round that saw the top four teams go home early. A six-game triumph over San Jose and a five-game drubbing of Anaheim sent Edmonton to the final, where it rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to force Game 7 but ultimately fell short 3-1 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the deciding contest.
[B]2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers, seventh in East[/B]
Series price: Philadelphia +200/Chicago -250
There was nothing spectacular about the Flyers’ regular season performance. They finished a distant third in the Atlantic Division race – 15 points behind division-leading New Jersey and 13 points back of runner-up Pittsburgh. They didn’t have a single player among the Top 48 leading scorers, with Mike Richards leading the way with a modest 62 points. But like the other teams on this list, Philadelphia caught fire at the right time.
The Flyers stunned second-seeded New Jersey in five games in the opening round, then caught a break when No. 6 Boston upended No. 3 Buffalo. Philadelphia needed seven games to dispatch the pesky Bruins, but rolled past the No. 7 Montreal Canadiens in five games to reach the final. Unfortunately, that’s where the good times ended for the Flyers, who ran into a buzzsaw from Chicago and ultimately fell to the Blackhawks in six games.
[B]2011-12 New Jersey Devils, sixth in East/Los Angeles Kings, eighth in West[/B]
Series price: New Jersey +110/Los Angeles -130
As co-headliners of one of the unlikeliest Stanley Cup matchups in history, both the Devils and Kings reached the final despite being at the back end of their respective conference seeding. New Jersey needed seven games to defeat Florida before upending the Flyers in five games and the New York Rangers in six. The Kings had a much easier time of things despite being eighth in the West, cruising past Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix while losing just twice along the way.
The Kings wasted no time gaining the upper hand, stunning Devils fans with overtime wins in each of the first two games in New Jersey. Los Angeles took a stranglehold on the series with a 4-0 victory in Game 4 before New Jersey made it interesting, prevailing in Games 4 and 5. But Los Angeles was not to be denied, rolling to a 6-1 rout at home in Game 6 to become the first No. 8 seed to capture the Stanley Cup championship.
[B]Season series:[/B] The teams split their two regular season meetings with the home squad winning each time. Nashville routed Pittsburgh, 5-1 on October 22 at Bridgestone Arena as a +110 underdog, as the Predators exploded for four goals in the second period. Predators’ star goalie Pekka Rinne actually didn’t play that night as backup Juuse Saros made 34 saves in the victory, while Penguins standout Sidney Crosby missed the game due to concussion-like symptoms.
Pittsburgh picked up revenge in the following meeting at PPG Paints Arena on January 31 by doubling up Nashville, 4-2. The Penguins cashed as -150 home favorites, as they broke open a 1-1 game after one period to tally three second period goals. Patric Hornqvist netted a pair of goals for Pittsburgh, while Rinne allowed four goals for Nashville, who suffered its eighth loss in the last 10 meetings with the Pens since 2010.
How they got here: The Predators have been the story of the postseason as they entered the playoffs as the lowest seed in the Western Conference. Nashville cruised past top seed Chicago in a four-game sweep in the opening round, including Rinne posting a pair of shutouts in the first two victories. The Preds knocked out another division foe in the second round by eliminating the Blues in six games, as Nashville picked up three victories at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville finished off its first Western Conference title by beating Anaheim in six games, as Peter Laviolette’s squad won the series opener on the road in each of the first three series. That nugget is important since the Predators open the Stanley Cup on the road at Pittsburgh in Game 1 on Monday.
Pittsburgh needed five games to eliminate Columbus in the quarterfinals, followed by an epic seven-game series win over Washington in the second round. The Pens knocked out the Capitals for the second straight season, while winning Game 7 on the road, 2-0. Pittsburgh won another Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals at home for the second consecutive season by edging Ottawa in double-overtime, 3-2.
Previous playoff outcome: The Penguins are seeking their second consecutive Stanley Cup title after dropping the Sharks in six games last June. Pittsburgh is playing in its fourth Cup Final in the Crosby era since 2008, as the Pens have won twice in this span, including in seven games over Detroit in 2009. In franchise history, the Penguins are 4-1 in the Cup Final with the only defeat coming to the Red Wings in 2008.
This is unchartered territory for the Predators, playing in their first ever Stanley Cup Final. Prior to this season, Nashville had never reached the Western Conference Finals, losing three times in the past six seasons in the second round.
Series Price at Sportsbook.ag[/B]
Exact Game Props – Prior to Series (5/28/17)[/B]
5 Games Penguins Win 7/2
7 Games Penguins Win 7/2
6 Games Penguins Win 15/4
6 Games Predators Win 9/2
7 Games Predators Win 5/1
5 Games Predators Win 17/2
4 Games Penguins Win 15/1
4 Games Predators Win 20/1
Exact Future Props – Prior to Series (5/28/17)[/B]
7 Games 8/5
6 Games 9/5
5 Games 11/4
4 Games 7/1
Below are each analyst’s predictions for the Stanley Cup Final:
[B][I]Power down? Why power plays are less successful in playoffs
May 28, 2017[/I][/B]
Having a potent power play is certainly useful in getting to the playoffs. Once there, maybe not as much.
Eight of the top 11 power-play teams in the playoffs this year lost in the first round, and the Ottawa Senators pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to double overtime in Game 7 despite going 1 for 20 in the Eastern Conference final. It doesn’t hurt to have a good power play, as the Penguins showed in getting some big goals with the man advantage, but it’s far less important in the chase for the Stanley Cup than strong 5-on-5 play.
Contrary to popular opinion, referees don’t swallow their whistles in the playoffs – at least not this spring. Through three rounds, power-play opportunities are up to 6.22 per game from 5.97 during the regular season
But power-play goals are coming less frequently in the playoffs – an average of 17 percent, down from 19.1 percent in the regular season. The Penguins buck that trend with a success rate of 25 percent going into Game 1 of the Cup final against Nashville on Monday night.
Senators coach Guy Boucher has a theory on why power plays are less successful in the playoffs: ”It’s a lot easier to destroy something than it is to build something.”
”Guys are so dedicated to defending: They’re in the lanes and blocking shots with a much higher percentage,” Boucher said. ”It’s like there’s five goalies out there, and it’s very tough to manufacture goals. … The playoffs are about paying the price. They’re about desperation. And there’s a lot of that on penalty kills.”
Blocked shots are part of that, as the Penguins average 18 a game. Penalty kills are also far more aggressive in the playoffs as defenders get their bodies and sticks in shooting and passing lanes.
Boucher recalled having a strong power play while coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011 and losing in Game 7 of the East final to the Boston Bruins, who scored on just 11.4 percent of their power plays and won the Cup. No Cup champion in the salary cap era that began in 2005-06 has led the playoffs in power-play percentage.
”The power play, it’s a difficult thing to maintain,” Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. ”It can get really hot, or it can go really cold. And when it goes cold, it’s tough to kind of work your way out of that.”
The West champion Nashville Predators have killed 88.1 percent of opposing power plays and would follow the pattern of recent champions as they’ve converted on just 14.9 percent of their own. In reaching the Cup final , it’s no coincidence that the Predators have outscored opponents 37-23 at 5-on-5, with defensemen playing an important role.
For Nashville, it’s all about timely stops on the penalty kill and goals on the power play.
”Power plays and when you’re short-handed, they make all the difference,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. ”You might get one or two chances the whole game and if you can go 1 for 2 or 2 for 2, that’s a big boost. If you can kill off whatever chances they get, I think special teams are probably one of the biggest factors in winning in the playoffs.”
Boucher pointed out that one factor in penalty-kill success in the playoffs is that goaltenders are at their best, ”their most alert.” That’s certainly the case for the Predators’ Pekka Rinne, though his save percentage on opposing power plays is just .906.
In just five games, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray has a .962 save percentage on the penalty kill. Couple that with the Penguins’ success on the power play and they’re four victories away from being the first repeat Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
”Our power play has won a lot of games for us throughout the course of the regular season and through the playoffs,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. ”They’ve been a very consistent group throughout the course of this playoffs. Even when they don’t score, they build momentum for our team. So power plays are few and far between in the playoffs. And the deeper you go, the less you get. At least that’s what it seems to be. When you have the opportunities and you can capitalize … it helps your team win games.”
Or maybe Senators goalie Craig Anderson has the right approach: ”You have to hope for the best, hope you’re scoring goals, but you have to expect the worst.”
[B][I]BC-AP Sports Preview Digest
May 28, 2017[/I][/B]
Some of the sports stories The Associated Press is covering Sunday. A full Sports Digest will be sent by about 3 p.m. All times EDT:
[B]- PARIS – [/B]Angelique Kerber becomes the first woman seeded No. 1 to lose in the French Open’s first round in the professional era. Also, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova returns to competition, winning her first match since being stabbed during an attack at her home six months ago.
– INDIANAPOLIS -[/B] Scott Dixon starts on the pole but all eyes will be one row back, where two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will try to win the Indianapolis 500. Race starts 12:15 p.m.
– CONCORD, N.C. -[/B] Settle in for NASCAR’s longest race. Kevin Harvick and All-Star race winner Kyle Busch start up front in the Coca Cola 600, an event that caps racing’s biggest day. Race starts 6 p.m.
– MONACO [/B]- Sebastian Vettel beats his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen to win the Monaco Grand Prix and comfortably extend his lead at the top of the standings.
– PITTSBURGH[/B] – The Pittsburgh Penguins have been here before. The Nashville Predators have not. An unlikely Stanley Cup Final starts Monday, when the upstarts from ”Smashville” will try to prevent the Penguins from being the first team in nearly 20 years to go back to back.
– Contrary to popular belief, NHL referees aren’t calling fewer penalties in the playoffs than in the regular season. There are more power plays a game through almost three rounds than in the regular season, but teams are scoring at a lower percentage on them.
[B]- PITTSBURGH [/B]- The Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets finish up a three-game series with a rare Sunday night meeting in Pittsburgh. Matt Harvey starts for New York against Pirates rookie Tyler Glasnow. Game starts 8:08 p.m.
-[B] HOUSTON [/B]- Houston starts Lance McCullers, who leads the majors with 22 consecutive scoreless innings, as the Astros looks to wrap up a three-game sweep of Baltimore. Alec Asher moves from the bullpen to start for the Orioles, who have lost a season-high six straight games. Game starts 2:10 p.m.
– LOS ANGELES[/B] – Clayton Kershaw starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers against Jon Lester of the Chicago Cubs in a matchup of left-handers in the series finale. Game starts 4 p.m.
[B]- FORT WORTH, Texas[/B] – Webb Simpson takes a two-stroke lead into the final round at Colonial. Masters champion Sergio Garcia and Colonial winner Jordan Spieth are among 11 golfers within five strokes.
[B]- ANN ARBOR, Mich.[/B] – Shanshan Feng takes a one-stroke lead over Lizette Salas into the final round of the LPGA Volvik Championship.
– STERLING, Va. – [/B]Vijay Singh takes a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer into the final round of the Senior PGA Championship at Trump National.