Betting on hockey is reaching a critical point. The NHL has announced the dates, starting times and television information for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals. The Eastern Conference Final will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Tampa Bay Lightning and will start on Friday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. On the other side, the Western Conference Final will feature the St. Louis Blues against either the San Jose Sharks or Nashville Predators and will start Sunday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The Pittsburg Penguins are the online betting on hockey favorites (-170) versus the Tampa Bay Lightning (+150), but history favors the latter. Tampa Bay bested the Penguins in seven games the one time they met in the post-season in the first round in 2011. What’s more, the Lightning came back from 1-3 deficit and won the last three games of the series, two of which took place in Pittsburgh. Additionally, Tampa won all three games against the Penguins during the regular season. The Lightning will attempt to make it to their second Stanley Cup Final in a row – they were beaten 4-2 by eventual champions the Chicago Blackhawks last year. Pittsburgh reached the Final for the last time so far in 2009, when they defeated the Red Wings to win their third Stanley Cup trophy.
The Penguins can win and uphold their status as online betting favorites if they keep using their speed and skill to force opponents into backing off, in order to allow easy penetration of the offensive zone. In addition to that, Kris Letang must make sure to use his power for good. He was suspended for a game against the Capitals and barely avoided being penalized in the first round for trying to use his stick as a tongue depressor on Viktor Stalberg. The Lightning can win if they are able to score from all sectors, and they should be able to do so with Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin, and Brian Boyle. On the other hand, the absence of Steve Stamkos could hurt them, even though he hasn’t been really missed up to now.
The Predators and the Sharks will settle their series – tied 3-3 at the moment – to determine who will face the Blues. For those betting on hockey, San Jose is the favorite (-185) over Nashville (+150). However, in the end it’s going to come down to who wants it more. The San Jose Sharks have not been to a Western Conference Final since 2011, while the Nashville Predators have never made it that far. Moreover, it’s only the second Game 7 in the history of the Predators. They won their first in Round 1 versus the Anaheim Ducks, while the Sharks have lost their last two Game 7s to the Los Angeles Kings in 2013 and in 2014.