NHL Betting: Value Present in Pittsburgh
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 02/23/2009
In terms of teams that are hard to figure out, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been downright mystifying this season. The Penguins have two of the top scorers and young talents in the NHL, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and are coming off a memorable run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Now to the negatives.
The Penguins have proven to be the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season, sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference after 60 games. The failure to meet or even come close to expectations cost head coach Michel Therrien his job on Feb. 15.
Even with the dismal record (29-26-6), the Penguins are still within striking distance of a playoff spot. Through 61 games Evgeni Malkin (27 goals, 60 assists) and Sidney Crosby (23 goals, 56 assists) are first and second in the NHL in scoring.
If you cannot figure this team out then don't feel bad because Las Vegas has had equal difficulties. Pittsburgh has routinely been pegged as big money line favorites and its Stanley Cup odds remain reasonable at 20/1 on Bodog. They have by far the lowest odds to win Lord Stanley for any team that is currently out of the playoff race.
On a game-by-game basis, the oddsmakers continue to respect Pittsburgh as well. The Penguins have been money line favorites in 39 of their 61 games so far this season and eight of those times they have been listed as at least -200 money line favorites. Surprisingly, in the games when the Penguins are the most heavily favored they have gone only 4-4, including a head scratching 3-2 loss to the lowly New York Islanders Feb. 16 in head coach Dan Bylsma's first game at the helm.
However, when the Penguins are not expected to win they have been playing at around .500, with a 10-11 record as money line underdogs. The 10-11 record as an underdog is enough to turn a profit for bettors if they took the Penguins in every underdog situation.
In two recent games as underdogs, the Penguins have picked up two very impressive wins. A 2-1 win over NHL-leading San Jose nearly saved Therrien's job and then a 5-4 road win at Philadelphia on Saturday had Penguin fans thinking playoffs again.
As the team has continued to drop in the standings, the money lines have become more reasonable and the Penguins are starting to emerge as a solid value for bettors. This is about the same time of the season that the Penguins started to emerge as a Stanley Cup contender last year as they were hot down the stretch. Also, Marc-Andre Fleury is at 100 percent health and has been in net for the Penguins in 10 consecutive games to start February. Without Fleury in net the Penguins are three games under .500 (8-11) and with him they are two games over .500 (21-19). Veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar have also rejoined the lineup after long absences. Gonchar scored the game-winning goal in a back-and-forth 5-4 win over Montreal to give Bylsma his first win as Penguins head coach and he added another goal against Washington on Sunday.
The motivation factor will also be on the Penguins side for the remainder of the season. In a game as physical as hockey, motivation could often be the x-factor when dealing with a team fighting for its life and a team with its post-season fate already secured. Currently sitting just four points out of the last remaining playoff spot, the Penguins will play few if any games that are meaningless to them.
Six of the Penguins 20 remaining games are against teams that are hopelessly out of the playoff race. Down the road as teams continue to clinch playoff spots and the Penguins are fighting for a spot in the postseason, the advantage swings even further to the Penguins.
Under the radar right now the Penguins provide solid value but be weary if the oddsmakers start to place the Penguins back on the pedestal they were on at the beginning of the season. Pittsburgh has shown us throughout this season that when the expectations (and money lines) are high, it most likely will not deliver.