With less than a third of the NHL regular season remaining, all four division races are extremely tight. And so are the division odds at the Westgate sportsbook.
“I’ve never seen four divisions closer, as far as the odds to win the division,” Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said.
The Westgate has been offering NHL division odds during the day Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays before the games start, and on Tuesday the biggest favorite was 4-5.
Entering Wednesday’s games, one point separated the top two teams in the Pacific, Central and Atlantic divisions, while the Capitals led the Penguins by three points in the Metropolitan Division.
“Tampa and Boston are almost identical. Washington is playing awful lately, and Pittsburgh is catching up to them,” Salmons said. “Colorado is catching St. Louis, and the Knights are one of five teams within three points of first.
“It is wide open.”
Ride the Lightning
The streaking Lightning, who have won eight straight games and 20 of 23, are the 5-1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins, Blues and Avalanche are each 8-1, and the Penguins and Golden Knights are each 10-1.
“The Knights are always going to be undervalued here because we always take liability on them,” Salmons said. “We lose six figures on the Knights if they win the Stanley Cup.”
Vegas was at 8-1 before its 4-0 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday that ended a stretch of nine of 10 games on the road.
Two years removed from a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Knights (28-22-8) have been one of the biggest losers this season for NHL bettors.
According to Covers.com, a bettor who wagered $100 on Vegas in every game would be down $994. Only the Red Wings (14-40-4, -$2,015), Kings (19-33-5, -$1,371) and Senators (18-27-11, -$1,340) have cost their backers more.
“Analyticswise, the Knights are a top-five team in the league, but their goaltending has been bad,” Salmons said. “I hate to say that about (Marc-Andre) Fleury. He’s a fan favorite. But he has not been good this year.”
Fleury is tied for 30th in the NHL in goals-against average (2.87) and tied for 35th in save percentage (.904).
Vegas, which entered Wednesday tied for third place in the Pacific, starts a crucial stretch of nine of 10 games at home Thursday when it hosts the Blues.
“This is going to be their season right now. They’re going to have to start winning some home games,” Salmons said. “They’re definitely in a battle to make the playoffs.
“But the one thing about hockey is the regular season and playoffs, they don’t add up. Once you get in, anything can happen. Especially if the Knights play in their division. That’s, by far, the easier route to the Western Conference Final.”
Salmons said the Avalanche, who have won five straight games and eight of nine, lead the Westgate’s Western Conference power ratings, followed by the Blues, Knights and Stars.
“Their goal differential is (28) goals higher than the next team in the West. I think they’ll eventually overtake St. Louis to win their division,” he said. “The only problem is they’re a young team. I don’t know if they’re experienced enough to go through three rounds of the playoffs to go to the Stanley Cup Final.
“But they’re definitely going to be a tough out.”
Colorado is one of the top money winners for bettors, behind the Islanders, Rangers, Capitals, Oilers and Penguins.
The Lightning are riding an 11-3-1 under streak, and Washington is on a 7-0-2 over run. Arizona has lost 11 of its last 14 games without injured goalie Darcy Kuemper, second in the league in GAA (2.17) to Boston’s Tuukka Rask (2.14).
The Knights have a 36-22 over-under record in the first period, including 20-8 at home, according to handicapper Alex B. Smith, who added that Anaheim is riding a 16-4 first-period over streak.
“The Ducks’ defense is sloppy at times,” said Smith (Axsmithsports.com). “But they also find ways to score early, so it’s a good combo to look for when playing that angle.”
NHL betting winners, losers
Amounts based on a $100 money-line bet on every game through Tuesday:
Statistics from Covers.com
Team record amount won
Islanders 33-22 $865
Rangers 28-27 $762
Capitals 36-20 $708
Oilers 30-26 $693
Penguins 34-21 $671
Avalanche 33-22 $620
Team record amount lost
Red Wings 14-44 -$2,015
Kings 19-38 -$1,371
Senators 18-38 -$1,340
Golden Knights 28-30 -$994
Sharks 24-32 -$817
Maple Leafs 30-27 -$803
Best over teams
Maple Leafs 33-24
Best under teams
Blue Jackets 36-19-2