The NHL’s COVID-shortened season has cleared the halfway point, and one of the Pennsylvania teams is performing better than had been projected by oddsmakers for the state’s online sportsbooks.
The other, unexpectedly, is being booed off the ice not so long after fans were permitted to watch the team play in person again.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are third in the Eastern Division, given -550 odds of making the playoffs by FanDuel. Before the 56-game season started on Jan. 13, FanDuel listed that price at -180.
The Philadelphia Flyers were supposed to be better than the Pens this year, and that was certainly the case for the first two games of the season, when the Flyers swept an intrastate series at the Wells Fargo Center.
But in March, Philadelphia has won just four of 13 games, and it has fallen into fifth place in the division, when only four teams make the playoffs. The Flyers started the year -190 to make the postseason, and FanDuel now has them +230.
Pens are contenders, at the very least
Pittsburgh has blown a little hot and cold in different stretches this year, but overall, its 19-11-2 record with 40 points puts it 6 points behind the New York Islanders and 4 behind the Washington Capitals within the division.
And if those two teams ahead of them are the toughest in the division, as records suggest, the schedule works in their favor. The Pens have already played six of the eight games against each of those opponents, with the last two against New York coming up at home Saturday and Monday.
Pittsburgh got on a roll early this month by winning seven of eight games, but its forwards — most notably veteran star Evgeni Malkin — have been beset by injuries of late. The Penguins have lost three of their past four. They will have a chance before the April 12 trade deadline to acquire more help.
FanDuel has Pittsburgh +550 to end up winning the division, with the Islanders the favorite at +175. Any Pens backer is better off, however, going to one of the sites using Kambi odds (DraftKings, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Unibet, Barstool, Parx), where the payoff for them winning the division title is +750.
Before the season, most of the sportsbooks had the Pens +400 to win the division.
Also before the first game, they were anywhere from 16/1 to 22/1 to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since going back-to-back in 2016 and 2017. And that’s pretty much where they are right now, with FanDuel listing them 20/1 and Kambi sites 22/1. For an optimist about them, Betfred is actually the best choice, by offering 25/1.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the Stanley Cup favorite right now, with odds ranging from +475 by Kambi to +600 by FanDuel and Caesars.
Flyers fans were happier when barred
Hopes had been high before the season that the Flyers could have their best team in a decade, and things started well enough with an 11-4-3 record in their first 18 games.
With a defense giving up the second-most goals in the league, however, all has gone south. Things hit a new low Tuesday in their fourth consecutive home loss, when they fell behind the New Jersey Devils 4-1 before the second intermission. There were fewer than 3,000 fans present under COVID-19 limits, but their boos were nonetheless resounding, and Philadelphia ultimately lost, 4-3.
While the Flyers are only 2 points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the division standings, it’s misleading in that Boston has played three fewer games, 28 compared to 31. The Flyers have a lot of ground to make up, without showing any intent of doing so.
The team is allowing 3.52 goals per game, compared to 2.68 last year. It is killing power plays defensively at a 74.5% rate compared to 85.1% last season. And on offense, the Flyers are taking just 28.4 shots per game, down from 32.5.
All that considered, the Flyers are considerable longshots to win the Stanley Cup, at anywhere from 20/1 at Caesars to 35/1 from FOX Bet and the Kambi-backed sites. Before the season, they were 14/1 to 16/1 to win it all.
The odds of Philadelphia claiming the division title are 30/1 from Kambi and 31/1 from FanDuel.
While the chances seem slim of the Stanley Cup being hoisted anywhere in Pennsylvania come July, FOX Bet is dangling a special offer some hockey fans might consider: 13/1 for either the Pens or Flyers to win the championship, which it says is a “boost” from 11/1.