Complete NHL Western Conference Playoffs 2019 Betting Guide
Three years ago, the San Jose Sharks met the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference final, and the Sharks were a slight underdog. This year, the teams meet again for the right to play for the Stanley Cup, but the Sharks are the slight favorites with the bookmakers.
The Sharks pulled off the upset in 2016. Can the Blues return the malodourous favor? Let’s take a closer look at why hockey bettors might want to bet either way, and give a final prediction.
(If you're looking to bet the matchups in the East, you need to be reading our other conference betting preview).
Odds to Win the West
|San Jose Sharks||4/5 (1.80)|
|St. Louis Blues||21/20 (2.05)|
3 Reasons to Bet the Sharks
- Pixie Dust: The hockey gods may just want the Sharks to win it all this year, and if that’s the case, there’s not a darn thing that can be done about it.
The first sign that maybe fate favored the Sharks came in Game 7 of the first round against a Vegas team that was clearly better to that point. Vegas was up 3-0 with the clock nearing the midway point of the third period, but a five-minute major penalty resulting from a hit on captain Joe Pavelski led to four power-play goals and an eventual 5-4 overtime victory.
Then, in the second round, Pavelski returned after missing the first six games and scored the first goal in the Sharks’ 3-2 win over Colorado. Maybe this is just the year San Jose gets its first Cup, along with the Fagin of the NHL, Joe Thornton.
- Home Ice: They say home-ice advantage isn’t much in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and for the most part that’s been proven right. But in Game 7s, home teams are 104-73 overall in seventh games in NHL history, after San Jose’s second straight such win in these playoffs.
The Shark Tank is just a really tough place to play for a visiting team. The visiting dressing room is small and spartan, and the hallway outside the room is dark and dank. The locals come with their lungs in strong working order, and if this series goes to seven again, it’s a big advantage for the Sharks.
- Big Three on Defense: The Sharks have three great defensemen - Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic - who play a lot of minutes, usually in an effective fashion. Karlsson seems to skating better and better as the playoff move along, after a late-season groin injury, and Burns remains the iron horse of the league.
3 Reasons to Bet the Blues
- Wild-Card Rookie In Goal: The St. Louis Blues have played three elimination games so far in these playoffs (one against Winnipeg, two against Dallas), and in them rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has allowed four goals.
Nothing makes opposing coaches or general managers more nervous than a hot goalie, and that goes double for rookies who come out of nowhere like Binnington has. What’s the book on him? Well, there really isn’t one still. So, the Sharks will be the third playoff team that tries to solve the mystery of Binnington, and it won’t be easy based on his play so far.
- Pixie Dust: It will definitely be very cruel, to the fan base that loses this series. The Sharks have had many excellent teams in the last 20 years, some of them runaway President’s Trophy winners, only to be frustrated in the end in their hunt for Lord Stanley’s silver punchbowl.
Blues fans, though, have a longer history of frustration. They’ve been in the league since 1967, but have yet to win it all. The Blues have not been to a Stanley Cup Final since 1970, and you know what that game was? It was the game in which Bobby Orr was pictured flying through the air, with the game-winning goal to the ‘70 series, for the Boston Bruins.
Yet, here the Blues are, one step away from the Finals. This team was in last place in the NHL in early January. Now, here they are. This is the other team of destiny in this series.
- Ryan O’Reilly: A great two-way centerman, O’Reilly is just the kind of player who can match up well against a Sharks squad that has similar pivot men. O’Reilly, like Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, can win key faceoffs in the defensive zone.
Plus, he can score big, timely goals, like his counterparts. If O’Reilly keeps playing like he did in the first two rounds, he will be a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
I have to go with the Sharks to win, because of that extra game at SAP Center, and also because I think San Jose’s defensive depth is just a bit better than that of St. Louis. The Sharks aren’t perfect, but they really come to play when they need to. I say take the Sharks to win in seven games.
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