NHL Hockey Betting: Stanley Cup Series Preview

NHL Hockey Betting:  Stanley Cup Series Preview&h=235&w=320&zc=1

Only the second Stanley Cup playoffs *ever* without a Canadian team is down to the final round as the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the San Jose Sharks beginning Monday night in the ‘Steel City’. Pittsburgh outlasted Tampa Bay in seven games to advance to the Finals and that looked very improbable when former head coach Mike Johnson was fired in early December. He was replaced by Mike Sullivan who had been coaching the Penguins’ AHL affiliate. Pittsburgh went on a tear with Sidney Crosby quickly reverting to MVP-like form. Johnson was sort of screwed out of a nomination for the Jack Adams Trophy (Coach of the Year). He probably deserves the spot that went to Dallas’ Lindy Ruff and particularly after Ruff stubbornly kept at it with the ‘goalie tandem’ routine in the playoffs.

San Jose is also a somewhat improbable finalist. During the past decade or so the Sharks had a reputation as a ‘choker’ in the playoffs. Year after year they had one of the best teams in hockey but never made the finals until now. The Sharks were a very strange team–they were solid most of the year except for a dismal 4-7-2 record in the month of December. Their strangest eccentricity has to be their regular season home/road dichotomy. The Sharks were one of the worst home teams in the league and would likely have one of the worst home records *ever* for a Stanley Cup Finalist. They had a worse home record at 18-20-3 than did the Winnipeg Jets (last place in the Central) or the Edmonton Oilers (last place in the Western Conference and Pacific Divisions). On the other hand they had the best road record in the NHL at 28-10-3. That was one game better than the Washington Capitals who basically ran away with the regular season title.

Like last round Pittsburgh is overvalued here–they’re a ‘public’ team and their captain who is the captain of Canada’s National Hockey Team in his ‘spare time’ also gets a lot of love. They’re a good team, but we’d rather back a Sharks team playing their best hockey at just the right time and who went 20-11-1 against the Eastern Conference.


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