As Pens, Flyers Prepare For Puck Drops, Hockey Bettors Have Range Of New Options

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Will the Flyers make the playoffs this year? You can bet on it – at about even odds.

Will the Penguins have at least 98 points by season’s end, after getting 100 last year? Also an even wager.

Will either of Pennsylvania’s NHL teams hoist the Stanley Cup in June? Well, that’s a much bigger longshot.

The key thing, as the 2019-20 season gets underway for the Pens and Flyers, is their fans can place legal wagers on their teams at the drop of the first puck in a way they never could before. Pittsburgh opens at home Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres, while Philadelphia’s first game takes place Friday in the Czech Republic vs. the Chicago Blackhawks.

Futures bets on the outcome of the NHL season are being offered on all five online sites operating in Pennsylvania, in addition to the retail sportsbooks now open at most casinos in the state. Pennsylvania’s first online/mobile sites – which is where some three-quarters of wagers are made currently – only began operating late in the 2018-19 season.

So, if you have a lot of faith that one or the other of the two teams has upgraded in the offseason – or just got really unlucky last year – you can visit the FanDuel site and bet Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup at 25/1 or Philadelphia at 36/1. FOX Bet has them at 20/1 and 40/1, respectively. Parx, SugarHouse, and BetRivers all use the same odds supplied by Kambi, and they list the Penguins at 20/1 and Flyers at 32/1.

What that means is, if you’re willing to risk some gas money (hopefully not mortgage money) on your favorite hometown team, you’d want to do it at FanDuel for the Pens and FOX Bet for the Flyers, in order to receive the best payback on your investment.

Futures bets cover both player and team performances

There have certainly been other years when the two Pennsylvania clubs were deemed stronger contenders than this one, but the Penguins got swept in the first round of the playoffs last season after finishing third in the Metropolitan Division and the Flyers failed to make the playoffs, finishing sixth of eight teams in the division.

All of the sportsbooks have the Tampa Bay Lightning as the favorite to win the NHL title, with FanDuel and FOX Bet listing them at 7/1 odds and the Kambi sites at 7.5/1.

Pittsburgh’s chances of winning the Eastern Conference are placed at 11/1 on the Kambi sites and 14/1 on the two others. Philadelphia’s conferences hopes are placed at 20/1 by Kambi, 23/1 by FanDuel, and 25/1 by FOX Bet.

Will the Flyers get back into the playoffs after taking a season off from them? That’s a +100 bet at Kambi, and a more bettor-friendly wager of +108 from FanDuel.

The Pens, with their aging but still talented stars, are a heavy favorite to make it to the playoffs for the 14th consecutive year. They are -240 at Kambi and -230 at FanDuel.

Where it gets even more interesting is with some of the player props posted on the sites.

On the Kambi sites, you can bet which player will finish the season with the most goals scored for his team. For the Penguins, that’s Sidney Crosby at +135, Jake Guentzel +200, and Evgeni Malkin +250, and for the Flyers, it’s Sean Couturier +135, James van Riemsdyk +225, and Claude Giroux +450.

FanDuel sets an over/under on different players’ point totals, such as Giroux o/u 84.5 and Crosby o/u 96.5.

FOX Bet posts odds for top individual performances in the NHL, including who will be the league’s top goal scorer (e.g. Guentzel 25/1 and Couturier 60/1) or lead the league in points scored (Crosby 13/1 and Giroux 40/1). Alexander Ovechkin is deemed the league favorite for goals at 6/1 and Connor McDavid for points at 3/1.

Game betting can get as exotic as you want

The issue with futures bets, of course, is they tie up a handicapper’s money for the next eight months. To avoid that, wide-ranging bets can be placed before (or during, for in-play wagers) each of your favorite team’s 82 games.

The options go far beyond just the moneyline (such as FanDuel listing the Penguins at -150 to win Thursday night’s game) and over/under on goals scored (6.5 in the Pens-Sabres tilt).

If you want to take a chance at a bigger reward for your guesswork, you can try such wagers as who will be the game’s first goal scorer (Guentzel is 9/1) or whether a player will score at any time in the contest (Malkin is +125).

And to get really wild, go ahead and pick the game’s outcome as precisely as the final score for each team. You think the Pens will beat the Sabres 4-2? FanDuel will multiply your money at 17/1 odds if you succeed as such an exacting soothsayer.

Just remember, all such considerations used to be merely for recreational fun in Pennsylvania. We’re talking about real money, now, so be judicious (though if you want to do a FanDuel “player performance double,” combining a Pittsburgh win with newcomer Alex Galchenyuk scoring at least one goal, we won’t stop you from placing that +220 wager).

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press.

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