Need some quick odds on the week’s biggest storylines? (“Need” might be an overstatement; kind of want?) You’ve come to the right place. Let’s run through the newsworthiest happenings and transpirings from the world of sports, entertainment, and politics from the last seven days.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 3/2
Anaheim Ducks: 2/1
Nashville Predators: 9/2
Ottawa Senators: 11/1
Now that the final four teams have been determined, the odds to win one of North America’s oldest trophies have been updated. And it’s no surprise Sidney Crosby and the Pens sit as 3/2 favorites. They’re the defending Cup champs and they have the easiest road to the finals.
Now, I’m not counting out the Ottawa Senators, but c’mon. They’re extremely lucky to be here. They suffer from a serious lack of depth, especially up front. They’re essentially relying on the duo of Norris candidate Erik Karlsson and goalie Craig Anderson to steal games. The matchup between Karlsson and Sidney Crosby (if he can stay healthy) will be fascinating (if Crosby can stay healthy/conscious). The Penguins are a bit lucky to be here as well. They’ve been outshot in all but one playoff game and are getting far better goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury than anyone could have expected.
But regular-season starter Matt Murray is healthy again and provides a nice insurance policy if Fleury’s play drops off. Moreover, this Ottawa team isn’t one that will dominate possession and shot stats like the Capitals. Take the playoff-tested Penguins.
Out West, the Ducks are, surprisingly, decent-sized favorites over the Predators. While Edmonton took Anaheim to Game 7 in the conference semifinals, the Ducks looked good in the end, bullying the young Oilers in a 2-1 win. It’s like they, all of a sudden, remembered they have the size and skill to dominate in the playoffs, something they’d long forgotten in Game 7s.
Don’t count on the Ducks coming out of the West, though. They Predators are solid in goal, and have dominated the post-season so far. They have the speed to expose Anaheim’s flaws, much like Edmonton; but they also have more experience with vets like Mike Fisher, PK Subban, and James Neal. Plus, they have the hottest goalie at the moment in Pekka Rinne (1.37 GAA; .951 SV%). There’s serious value on the unassuming Predators at this point.
Golden State: 3/17
San Antonio: 17/3
Golden State has been the favorite to win it all since … like 2015. The way they’ve been playing this postseason, there’s no reason for that to change. They swept both their first and second-round series, and are hungry to take on the Spurs. San Antonio finished second in the West (61-21), but still needed six games in each of their first two series to get to the conference final. The Spurs are pegged as huge underdogs, and well they should be with Tony Parker out and Kawhi Leonard less than 100-percent. But coach Gregg Popovich put his genius on full display last round, routing Houston on the road in Game 6 (114-75) without Parker or Leonard in the lineup. If there’s one man who can slow this Warrior train, it’s San Antonio’s Donald Sutherland doppelganger.
Things are stacking up a little more evenly in the East, but that’s only because neither of the East finalists are Golden State. Cleveland is still a massive favorite despite finishing second to Boston in the regular season. The Cavs, like Golden State, swept their first two series this playoffs. A seventh and deciding game is needed before we find out who the other contender out of the East will be. If it’s Boston, the last time they faced Cleveland in the regular season, the Cavs found another gear and spanked the Celtics, 114-91, in Boston. They’ve only gotten more dominant and cohesive since, thanks in large part to some deadly three-point shooting. And if it’s Washington? Well…that probably won’t happen. And if it does, let’s just say the Wizards would be heavy underdogs.
Surprise, surprise, the Patriots pulled a bit of a fast one. This time, their victim is LeGarrette Blount. The Pats made a rare move earlier this week, issuing a UFA tender to the running back. That means New England acquires exclusive negotiating rights with Blount if he doesn’t sign anywhere before July 22nd. If he does sign elsewhere, the Pats would get a 2018 draft pick from that team. If Blount stays with the Pats, he would receive 110-percent of his pay from last year, roughly $1.1 million.
This is both good and bad for Blount. The bad part of it is that other teams who may have been interested (e.g. the Ravens) likely aren’t anyone; the good is that, if he returns to NE, he’ll be getting a raise. Not to mention, he’ll be back with the team that won him two Super Bowls.
Ohh the good ol’ Madden Cover Curse. Those who hate the Patriots are thanking EA for putting Tom on the cover, and now praying the dreaded curse continues. Since 2001, 13 different Madden cover stars have missed games in the upcoming season (including Tom’s teammate Rob Gronkowski just last year) and many have seen their production dip significantly (see Peyton Hillis, Daunte Culpepper).
Betting against Brady has rarely been a good choice, and he’s coming off an MVP performance in the Super Bowl and is surrounded by offensive weapons. That said, he’s no spring chicken, turning 40 in August. As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated.
Still, I’m not going to do anything crazy, like bet on the Bills, Dolphins, or Jets to win the AFC East.
Photo credit: Keith Allison [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
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