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October 18, 2019

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World’s biggest sports book runs down this year’s most popular Stanley Cup bets

Game 3: Stanley Cup Watch Party

Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Hockey fans pack Toshiba Plaza during a watch party for Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals Saturday, June 2, 2018.

Most sports books won’t be facing multimillion-dollar losses like two years ago, or even small setbacks like last year, if the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup this season. The Golden Knights’ odds are too low to create any real liability.

The Golden Knights are the favorite to win the Western Conference at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, at 3-to-1 odds, and the second choice to win the Stanley Cup, at 7-to-1 odds, behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We’re really high on them,” says Jeff Sherman, the SuperBook’s vice president of risk management. “You look at the makeup of the Western Conference, and specifically the Pacific Division, and you have to be favorable on them. Look at the teams that would have to come out of the East, like Florida. We’re also high on them, but you look at what’s ahead of them, like Boston, Toronto and Tampa in the same division. The Knights aren’t faced with anything like that.”

Vegas is also tied with Toronto for the second-highest over/under regular season point total at 102.5. The high asking prices have kept Golden Knights’ fans away from the betting window, at least to an extent.

Conspicuous absences

Neither last year’s historically dominant regular-season team nor either Stanley Cup Final participant is commanding much action at the SuperBook.

Bettors inundated the SuperBook with limit wagers on Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup at 5-to-2 after last year’s 128-point regular season, but now they aren’t even biting on 6-to-1 following the Lightning’s disappointing first-round playoff exit. There’s not much exposure on the defending champion St. Louis Blues at 16-to-1 or the runner-up Boston Bruins at 12-to-1, either.

Be wary of the aging Bruins, as last year felt like their final chance, but both the Lightning and Blues might be available at slight discounts.

Two weeks before the regular season began, the Golden Knights were second in both ticket count and money wagered to win the Stanley Cup at the SuperBook. They finished first in both measures going into last season.

They could reclaim those top spots when action picks up in the days leading up to the regular-season opener, but Sherman says he’s confident the support will fall short of the past couple years.

“We put this stuff out earlier than ever—we’ve had it up for a couple months—and haven’t seen a whole lot,” he said. “Starting at such lower odds than they were the two previous years has really curtailed it all.”

Don’t be afraid to back the Golden Knights at the current prices, especially at over 102.5 points and even money to win the Pacific Division. Vegas looked like the best team in the West for multiple stretches at the end of last year and seems poised to pick up right where it left off.

Here’s a look at four other NHL teams drawing significant action at the SuperBook—and whether or not to buy into their preseason hype.

Chicago Blackhawks

• 40-to-1 to win Stanley Cup

• 20-to-1 to win Western Conference

• over/under: 89.5 regular-season points

The Blackhawks have drawn the most tickets of any team to win the Stanley Cup, and it’s not because of anything they’ve done on the ice. It’s largely because of Chicago sports fans’ unwavering—and largely misguided—support of their teams in the betting market.

“It’s the same thing you see with the Cubs or the Bears every year,” Sherman said. “But especially this year with the Blackhawks when they’re 40-to-1 and people are used to seeing them win titles a few years back at much lower odds.”

Chicago has arguably been the NHL franchise of the decade—winning three Stanley Cups (2010, ’13, ’15), but it has now missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The Blackhawks don’t appear to be very improved this year, so don’t pay for past glory.

Dallas Stars

• 16-to-1 to win Stanley Cup

• 7-to-1 to win Western Conference

• over/under: 97.5 regular-season points

Sherman expects the Stars and Colorado Avalanche to take the next step after both teams unexpectedly won a first-round playoff series last season.

He priced Dallas and Colorado at lower odds than other sports books, trying to limit liability on those teams. It has worked for the Avalanche but not so much for the Stars. “We tried to stay aggressive on them, but apparently we weren’t aggressive enough,” he says. “Everyone likes them.”

The Stars have gone from 20- to 16-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup while drawing the most money of any team at the SuperBook. Total money is arguably more meaningful than ticket count, because it’s a better measure of where the big bets—typically from the more sophisticated gamblers—have come in.

Watch out for the Stars with veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry joining an already-dangerous set of forwards.

New Jersey Devils

• 25-to-1 to win Stanley Cup

• 12-to-1 to win Eastern Conference

• over/under: 90.5 regular-season points

A surefire way to draw attention from the betting market is to have a splashy offseason, and the Devils had the splashiest of all.

New Jersey swung two of the biggest trades to acquire P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev, signed a top free agent in Wayne Simmonds and won the draft lottery to take Jack Hughes No. 1 overall. “You can’t argue against anything they did,” Sherman says. “They’ve made strides to get into the conversation in the East.”

The scary part is, New Jersey wasn’t one of the league’s worst teams before the personnel splurge. They made the playoffs two years ago behind a Hart Trophy-winning season from superstar Taylor Hall. There’s no longer any value on the Devils to win the Stanley Cup—they opened 60-to-1—but look for them to go over their regular-season win total and make the playoffs.

New York Rangers

• 30-to-1 to win Stanley Cup

• 15-to-1 to win Eastern Conference

• over/under: 88.5 regular-season points

Think of the Rangers as a lite version of both the Devils and Blackhawks. New York sports fans don’t back their teams quite as blindly as their Chicago counterparts, but they’re prone to overreaction when there’s any reason for excitement. And the Rangers might have managed the second-most exciting offseason in the league behind the Devils.

They signed star Artemi Panarin in free agency and drafted Kaapo Kakko second overall. The two are expected to pair together on the top line.

“They’ve been attracting action in all the different markets,” Sherman says. “They’re a team a lot of people can’t see not making positive strides this year.”

Still, calling for the Rangers to even compete for the playoffs feels a little premature. They’re light on depth, and 37-year-old goalie Henrik Lundqvist has declined as his career winds down.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.