Ten need-to-know NHL betting notes for the Stanley Cup final

Jan 31, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) talks with Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (76) during a time-out in the second period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

* 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.

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