Best Bets to Back for 3 NHL Divisions Still Up For Grabs
One of the NHL’s four divisions crowned its winner, the Tampa Bay Lightning of the Atlantic, approximately three months ago -- or so it seems. So, there will be no down-to-the-wire division title chase there, the three other division races still have some drama to them, some more than others.
Let’s take a look the three races and make some predictions for the NHL betting enthusiasts to consider:
Metropolitan Division Betting Tips
This is the closest race of all, with four teams still having a chance at the title and the No. 1 seed in that division when the playoffs start. This has all the makings a race that will need a Game 82 to decide. In fact, the two teams at the top - Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders - will play each other in the final game of their regular seasons, April 6 in Washington.
Can the Capitals Hold On?
The Capitals are currently the odds-on favorite to win it at -118 with 888Sport . There are several reasons to believe in the Caps, starting with their already champion-pedigree.
The Caps have had some ups and downs in their bid to repeat as Stanley Cup champs, but they’re playing well at the right time of year. They are 6-3-1 in the last 10 games, and have six games remaining on the schedule. Three will be at home, three on the road.
The last two games, against Montreal and the Islanders, will be at home. They also play a home-and-home set, starting Tuesday night against Carolina - and the Hurricanes are only five points back of Washington for the division lead (96-91).
Can the Hurricanes win it? Sure, but they must win both these games against Washington probably for that to happen, and that won’t be easy at all. Of the four teams with a chance still at the Metro title, Carolina has the toughest odds, at +800 with Karamba.
Will Feel-Good Story Continue for Islanders?
The fact that the Islanders are in this position at all remains one of the NHL’s biggest surprises of 2018-19. They lost John Tavares to unrestricted free agency and were picked to be one of the league’s worst teams by most pundits, but the opposite happened under coach Barry Trotz.
New York still has six games left, too, but four are on the road, including the final two in Florida and Washington. They also have a tough game Thursday in Winnipeg, and a game Tuesday on the road against a desperate Columbus team.
The Islanders are at +400 with 888Sport to win the division.
Metropolitan Division Best Bet
But here’s my pick to win the division: the Pittsburgh Penguins. How can I pick them, when they only have five games remaining and entered Tuesday one point back of Washington (96-95)? Because, the Penguins are hot, winners of three straight, and because four of the final five are at home.
And, two of those games are against the East’s second-worst team, Detroit. The Penguins also play the underwhelming New York Rangers in their final game, April 6 at home.
That final Washington-Islanders game won’t help Pittsburgh’s chances, because one team still ahead of them is guaranteed to get two points in that game, but I think the Pens are going to win out and steal the division title. So, I’m saying bet on Pittsburgh at +300 with Karamba.
You can bet on a Metropolitan Division winner here:
Central Division Betting Tips
Just two points separate the division leader (Winnipeg) from second-place Nashville. The Predators kept their title hopes realistically alive with a tough 1-0 win Monday night in Minnesota, one game after suffering a 5-0 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg.
Nashville's problem is it has played one more game than the Jets, and don’t have any remaining head-to-head games with them. Of the Preds’ final five games, one will be a toughie, in Pittsburgh, and another against that desperate Blue Jackets club.
Nashville’s final two games are at home, though, against two teams that won’t make the playoffs - Vancouver and Chicago (well, the Blackhawks are still alive, but it’d be a miracle to make it).
Winnipeg has six games left, but four - the final four of the season - will be on the road, and the Jets haven’t been too great for a division-leader on the road, just 20-17-0.
What About the Blues?
The St. Louis Blues can’t be counted out just yet, either. Although the Blues are four points back of Winnipeg, with six games to play, five of those games are against teams outside the playoff picture and the other is Colorado, who hold a tenuous hold on the final wild-card spot.
Central Division Best Bet
I think the Jets will hold on to win the title, though, and they hold the first tiebreaker (regulation plus overtime wins) by a fairly healthy margin (43-39). I’d bet the Jets to win at -286 with 888Sport.
Pacific Division Betting Tips
The second-place San Jose Sharks had a good chance to get closer to leader Calgary Monday night, but lost a home game to the lowly Red Wings. That probably blew it for any chance at winning the Pacific, as Calgary has a six-point lead, with both teams having six games to play.
The Sharks suddenly are playing some poor hockey, just 4-5-1 in the last 10, as the goaltending of Martin Jones has left lots to be desired. No surprise, then, that I’m picking the Flames, at -5000 to win their first division title since 2005-06.
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