(Note: This article has been updated to reflect new information on Sidney Crosby.)
The Penguins lead their first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series against the New York Rangers 3-2 and have home ice advantage Friday night, yet they are underdogs. What are we missing here?
Well, Sidney Crosby, for one. Local media reported late Friday morning that he would miss Game 6.
Sidney Crosby was absent from the Penguins’ morning skate.
— Post-Gazette Sports (@PGSportsNow) May 13, 2022
Pittsburgh’s longtime captain and star took a high elbow from Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouda in the second period of Wednesday night’s contest and left the ice. From that point forward, the game turned from a 2-0 Penguins lead into a 5-3 Rangers win, costing the Pens the opportunity to close out the series that night at Madison Square Garden.
Crosby has a history of concussions — no surprise for a top NHL player with 17 years of experience. Even before conclusive word surfaced that he would miss the game, PA’s online sportsbooks seemed to doubt his availability.
Despite Pittsburgh scoring a combined 14 goals in winning games 3 and 4 of the series at home, the betting sites early Friday all listed Mike Sullivan’s team somewhere between even money and +105 to win, with the Rangers at -120 to -125. The +105 on the Pens could be obtained at BetMGM, PointsBet PA, Betfred, and Caesars. After reports circulated that Crosby would be absent, DraftKings shifted its Penguins moneyline to +110 from +100.
The over/under on goals was set at 6.5 across the board. Each of the five games in the series has seen at least 7 goals scored, and those wanting to follow that pattern and bet the over could get even money on it from DraftKings, Betway, BetMGM, Betfred, and PointsBet.
Penguins heavily favored to win series
The Rangers started the series as a small favorite to advance to the second round, anywhere from -110 to -115. That has turned on its head, in no small part due to the Pens often making Vezina Trophy candidate Igor Shesterkin look like a third-string goalie — which is exactly what Pittsburgh has in net in Louis Domingue, who has become a potential Steel City folk hero due to injuries to Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith.
Crosby’s absence does heavy damage to a Penguins first line in which he, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust have combined for 20 points at even strength in the five games thus far. A lot of responsibility would shift to Pens co-star Evgeni Malkin, whose 53 career multi-point playoff games is second only to Crosby among active players.
Despite Friday night’s odds, the sportsbooks still list the Penguins as a better than -200 favorite to win the series, since they have two chances to do so — either Friday night at home or Sunday in New York, when Crosby and/or Jarry may be more likely to play.
The best bet for a Pens backer on winning the series is currently -220 from DraftKings. Pittsburgh remains a longshot to win its fourth Stanley Cup since 2009, however, with BetMGM being the most optimistic on their chances at 16/1. A Pens believer would be best off using BetRivers, where they could get both 22/1 odds and a 25% profit boost on an NHL first-round bet.
Special sportsbook offers available
The Penguins are the lone Pennsylvania sports team remaining in postseason action now that the 76ers have been eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Miami Heat, and multiple sportsbooks are advertising odds boosts or other incentives trying to attract action on Pittsburgh.
Among the offers, with more potentially to be available before the puck drops shortly after 7 p.m:
- Barstool is offering a moneyline parlay, at +440, on the Pens, Florida Panthers, and Calgary Flames all to clinch their series Friday night.
- BetMGM has “overtime insurance,” in which a moneyline wager that loses in overtime gets up to $25 returned as a free bet.
- DraftKings is encouraging an NHL single-game parlay wager by returning up to $10 as a free bet if the parlay loses.
- For those doubting the Pens’ chances Friday night, FanDuel is boosting its payout to +250 (from +180, it says) for a parlay on the favored Rangers and Flames both winning.
Photo: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY