The Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators begin their best-of-seven faceoff tonight in Pennsylvania, and bettors are taking the defending champs to emerge victorious and hoist the famed metal trophy for a second straight year.
Following an epic, double-overtime thriller in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last week to eliminate Ottawa, the Pens move on to battle the Predators. Nashville took care of the Anaheim Ducks in six.
Las Vegas sportsbooks (Westgate SuperBook, Station Casinos, Mirage, and Wynn) currently have the finals series price at Pittsburgh -170, Nashville +150.
That means a $100 wager on the favorited Penguins returns just $58.82 should they win. The same bet on a victorious Predators outcome nets the gambler $150.
First awarded in 1893, the Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.
While Nashville is playing perhaps the better hockey of the two Stanley Cup Finals teams, their playoff inexperience is the predominant reason why bettors are mainly sticking with Pittsburgh.
Only one player on the entire Predators roster, captain Mike Fisher, has been to the title round before.
Still, the series line is relatively close for two teams that are seemingly very different. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016, and scored the second most points (111) in the entire National Hockey League this year.
Pittsburgh also has a winning road record for the year, while the Predators struggled, going 17-20-4 during the regular season.
The Predators are loaded with young talent. The Penguins are loaded with stars that have much experience, most of it together.
On paper, it seems a bit of a mismatch. But those at the sportsbooks think it will be closer than some might think.
As for the Stanley Cup Finals MVP, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne leads the way at 9-4. He’s allowed 28 goals on 474 shot attempts during the playoffs this year for a 94 percent save percentage.
Pittsburgh centers Evgeni Malkin, who won the finals MVP award in 2009, and Sidney Crosby, the standout player in last year’s contest, are next at 3-1. They’re followed by teammate Phil Kessel at 7-1.
The 29-year-old Crosby has been the face of the NHL since he arrived on professional ice back in 2005. He’s won two Stanley Cup titles with Pittsburgh.
Oddsmakers are gearing up for a busy two weeks in Nevada. Along with Pittsburgh and Nashville fighting for Lord Stanley’s Cup, the NBA Finals also get underway on Thursday.
For the third consecutive year, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will play for the championship. But unlike the defending NHL champs being the favorite, the reigning titleholders in the NBA, LeBron James’ Cavs, are the underdog.
New for the 2017 NBA Finals is that sportsbooks will be able to take bets on the MVP. The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently motioned to allow oddsmakers to accept wagers on the best player.
Betting on other most valuable player awards, the Stanley Cup Finals and Super Bowl MVPs, for example, was approved in previous years.