Now that’s more like it. After a disappointing 5 for 8 start in my postseason predictions, we came roaring back in round 2, picking every series correctly and pocketing a nice chunk of change depending on how much risk you were willing to take. That +466 payout on the Blues/Sharks/Pens parlay sure looks sexy though, doesn’t it? Hopefully you’ve banked on my suggestions up to this point because things are about to get tough. Both Conference Final series should be fantastic battles and all both match-ups are fairly even. So how do we bet this round? Very, very carefully.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (+185) vs PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (-220)
Pittsburgh is a nearly 2-1 favorite here and I don’t exactly understand why. Sure, the Pens are the favorites to take home the Cup and they just dispatched the President’s Trophy-winning Capitals in six games. They’ve gotten unreal goaltending from rookie Matt Murray and the Crosby/Malkin duo has even really gotten going yet (yes, under a PPG for these two is ‘slow’). On the other hand, you have the Lightning, who made quick work of the Red Wings and Islanders despite not having Steven Stamkos or Anton Stralman in the lineup. Stamkos and Stralman should be back later this series, but both remain out for tonight’s Game 1.
I’m taking the Pens again here, but not without some trepidation. The Lightning are the quickest team the Pens have faced so much and they’re experts at sending opponents into gut-wrenching losses (ask any Islanders fan who attended Games 3 or 4 last round). Penguins were the East’s best possession team down the stretch and I think they’ve got one more round in them.
PICK: PENS IN 7
SAN JOSE SHARKS (+115) vs ST LOUIS BLUES (-135)
The Sharks actually beat Peter Laviolette in a Game 7 and now head to St. Louis to take on Brian Elliott and the red-hot St. Louis Blues. Neither team has ever made an appearance in the Finals, so there’s a lot on the line in this series. Possession-wise, it’s pretty even – Blues had a 52.1 score-adjusted Corsi percentage to the Sharks 51.8. Both have gotten solid, if unspectacular, goaltending from Brian Elliott and Martin Jones. And both have been dominant on the power play in the postseason (30.9% for Sharks, 27.5% for Blues).
I’ll be honest, I have no idea who’s winning this series. It’s tight. A good strategy for these situations in the NFL is when in doubt, take the points. And that’s what I’m doing here, I’ll take the underdog Sharks to pull off another upset and advance to their first ever Stanley Cup Final. Both these franchises deserve good things and one of them is going to win the Western Conference. It’s kinda nice not having to deal with the Kings and Blackhawks, isn’t it?
PICK: SHARKS IN 6
HOW TO BET THE CONFERENCE FINALS
It depends on who you like. If you think Tampa has the edge, just bet them straight up at +185. I think Pens have a slight edge in this series, but +185 odds imply that Tampa only has a 34% chance of winning the series and that’s simply not accurate. If you think the Pens are going to win, I’d avoid the -220 (too risky) and simply split your bet on exact results. A 220 unit bet on the Pens wins only 100. However, if you put 110 each on Pens in 6 (+350) and Pens in 7 (+300), you increase your winning dramatically without taking on a ton of extra risk. This series is close and if Tampa doesn’t win at least 2 games, I’ll eat one of my shoes.
I like the Sharks so just bet them straight up at +115. If you’re thinking Blues have the edge, bet them straight up too. No need for hedging or exact results plays when the odds are this close. Just take who you like and sit back.
Yeah don’t do parlays this round. If you have money you don’t mind lighting on fire, a Lightning/Sharks parlay pays out a whopping +513. But I do NOT recommend doing that. The time for parlays has passed, unless you want to throw some NBA teams in and that’s not in my field of expertise.
Lightning are 8 wins away from a championship and are STILL only +600 to win the Cup. If you bet on the Penguins to advance, this is a nice hedge.
(Stats from nhl.com, puckon.net. Odds from sportsbook.ag)