A crowning weekend: Maybe in NHL and NBA; definitely in Belmont

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne had a tough night.

Champions could emerge this weekend in the NBA and NHL. Plus a Belmont Stakes winner will be crowned.

NHL: Pittsburgh grabs series lead with 6-0 rout in Game 5 in Stanley Cup Final

That was quick. The pre-series favorite Pittsburgh Penguins jumped ahead 3-0 in the first period…then matched that in the second period on the way to an extremely comfortable victory over the Nashville Predators Thursday night. 

Pittsburgh (-160) 6, Nashville 0

  • Shots: Nashville 24, Pittsburgh 24

There’s not much reason to go into the stats because this was never really a game. Pittsburgh came out breathing fire after losing the last two in Nashville. The visitors were either a step slow, or a few steps too comfortable after tying up the series.

The result continued the series theme of home team dominance. Hosts are 5-0, having covered every game on the -1.5 goal puck line as well. Only the opener was as close as two goals. The last four have been “hockey blowouts” won by at least three goals each. “Winners” lead “losers” in the series 24-6 on the scoreboard.

Game 6 will be in Nashville Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC. The Predators will likely be favored again by about -150 on the moneyline. Game 7 if necessary will be Wednesday June 14 in Pittsburgh (also on NBC). That’s two days off before both of the potential series finales, allowing for plenty of recovery time between games.

Will the NBA Finals still be going on Sunday? 

NBA: Golden State tries to wrap up 2017 championship Friday night in Cleveland

You’d be hard-pressed to find many analysts who believe Cleveland is going to rise up and win Game 4 of the NBA Finals Friday night on their home court. Not only is there a sense of doom after they fell apart in the final minutes of a Game 3 heart-ripper. But, all three of these recent Golden State close-outs are still fresh in everyone’s minds…

Golden State Road Close Out Opportunities in 2017

  • Golden State (-9) won at Portland 128-103
  • Golden State (-8.5) won at Utah 121-95
  • Golden State (-11.5) won at San Antonio 129-115

That’s not just taking care of business. That’s throwing a party and making the opposing fans re-fill your champagne glasses all night. 

Straight up victory margins: 25, 26, and 14

  • Cover Margins: 16, 17.5, and 2.5
  • Games went Over by: 8.5, 14, and 26 points

Like oddsmakers want to hear “Golden State and Over” again. 

The Warriors are currently favored by 6.5 (way up from -4 Wednesday because no-shot playoff teams are prone to throw in the towel). The Over/Under is currently 228.5.

There’s not anything relevant to add to matchup analysis at this point beyond the listing of Golden State close-outs. Neither team is planning on making changes in strategy (which is insane for Cleveland!). Golden State could cover this spread even if Cleveland doesn’t throw in the towel (though Game 3’s 118-113 final tally wouldn’t have done so). Another laugher if the Cavs no-show.

It will take a fantastic game from the hosts and a lethargic performance from the visitors just to set up what would probably be another Oracle blowout next Monday. 

(Gill Alexander’s prominent series of bets on Golden State to sweep the playoffs 16-0 will officially be determined Friday night. Should Golden State wrap it up, that would also make Nashville to have more final round wins than Cleveland a ticket casher as well.)

Belmont: Start spreadin’ the news…anyone can win Saturday’s big race!

Will an Irish War Cry be heard across the land? Or will you be Lookin at Lee as they cross the finish line? Can Tapwrit make his opponents tap out? How about an epic day for Epicharis? Anything can happen at a mile-and-a-half…so Saturday’s Belmont is wide open!

Time to make your final decisions for what’s shaping up as a wide-open 2017 Belmont Stakes. The third jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown is missing the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. But that just opens the door for another ready-and-able three-year old to step forward and make history.

Several relative longshots have a real chance to get to the finish line first. And that means YOU have a chance to earn a big payout that will make you “king of the hill” at the “top of the heap” in New York Saturday afternoon (6:37 p.m. ET, 3:37 in Las Vegas on NBC).

Handicapping legend Andy Serling of NYRA joined Brent Musburger and Ron Flatter in the first hour Thursday on “My Guys in the Desert” to talk about betting options. If you missed that interview, you can check it out by clicking here

And here’s a link to Andy’s extremely in-depth Belmont preview. Along with top-flight analysis, this video features footage of:

  • Irish War Cry in the Wood Memorial 
  • Epicharis in the Hyacinth in Tokyo
  • Tapwrit in Tampa Bay Derby
  • Gormley in Santa Anita Derby 
  • J Boys Echo in the Gotham
  • Meantime in the Peter Pan
  • Twisted Tom in the Federico Tesio
  • Patch in the Louisiana Derby

See if you can spot the winner! For additional analysis and context, please check out “Maggie and Mig” discussing Saturday’s full Belmont Racing Festival that features SIX grade one races. Maggie Wolfendale (who appeared Wednesday with Ron Flatter and Amal Shah) and Richard Migliore begin talking about the Belmont Stakes at about 13:55 of the video.

Here’s one last newsletter look at late week composite betting odds from Las Vegas and offshore:

  • Irish War Cry 7/2
  • Epicharis 4/1
  • Lookin at Lee 9/2
  • Senior Investment 6/1
  • Tapwrit 7/1
  • Gormley 12/1
  • J Boys Echo 14/1
  • Meantime 14/1
  • Multiplier 16/1
  • Twisted Tom 18/1
  • Patch 28/1
  • Hollywood Handsome 40/1

VSiN’s Ron Flatter will be flying on another “race-week red eye” so he can report live in person from Belmont Park. (And, it’s really a “red eye” when you fly from one city that never sleeps to another city that never sleeps!) Look for those live broadcast reports, and bonus home page articles as part of our extensive coverage up to and just after the 149th running of this storied event.

NFL: While we’re talking championships, the Golden Nugget has posted odds on ALL possible Super Bowl matchups!

There are a lot of fun betting opportunities in Las Vegas for football fans during the offseason. Thursday, the Golden Nugget posted odds on ALL possible Super Bowl matchups. Pick your best out of 16 AFC teams…pick your best out of 16 NFC teams…and there’s a payoff for that pairing. 

(This article posted today on VSiN includes a link to a PDF file showing the Golden Nugget’s sheets)

The favorites on the openers…

  • New England vs. Dallas 7/1 (13% expectation)
  • New England vs. Green Bay 8/1 (11% expectation)
  • New England vs. Atlanta 10/1 (9% expectation)
  • New England vs. Seattle 10/1 (9% expectation)
  • New England vs. NY Giants 12/1 (8% expectation)
  • Oakland vs. Dallas 12/1 (8% expectation)
  • Pittsburgh vs. Dallas 14/1 (7% expectation)
  • Oakland vs. Green Bay 15/1 (7% expectation)
  • Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay 20/1 (5% expectation)

The top nine possibilities already gobble up 77% of the win expectation because these things always fly way past 100% due to the house edge. You can see that New England is a relatively heavy favorite to win the AFC given their inclusion in the top five spots. Worth noting here that the Golden Nugget is pricing Oakland as the second most likely AFC representative, even though most futures prices in the global marketplace have Pittsburgh rated better than Oakland. If you want to show support to the future Las Vegas Raiders, you have to pay a bit of a tax for that. 

Wondering about the longest of the long shots? It’s San Francisco vs. the NY Jets at 5000/1.

Is there a “smart” way to bet these? Propositions like this are more about fun than value. That’s true for most futures prices except in rare occasions. What seem like big payouts on the long shots aren’t paying at true odds. And, it’s hard enough nailing one Super Bowl team let alone two in an era where quarterback injuries can derail any contender. Nothing wrong with a little fun. 

MLB: Rockies still playing better ball than the Cubs!

Yesterday we showed you that the Colorado Rockies have been for real so far in the 2017 season. A comfortable 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs Thursday night (that was the score in the top of the second inning!) is even more evidence that these up-and-comers are going to stick around awhile. 

Once again the Cubs were way overpriced considering their disappointing level of performance this season. Losing tonight at -190 drops them down to a little worse than -13.5 betting units in 2017. Colorado is now up about 19 units thanks to their plus 170 return as live underdogs. 

That was Game 1 of a four-game set. Colorado/Chicago is one of three series this weekend matching teams with winning records. Let’s look at Friday’s pitching matchups in those…with our usual emphasis on the “three true outcomes” that pitchers have most control over. 

Colorado (39-23) at Chicago Cubs (30-29) (day game)

  • German Marquez: 21.9% K’s, 7.5% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 4.14 xFIP
  • Mike Montgomery: 16.6% K’s, 13.5% walks, 0.3 HR/9, 4.30 xFIP

Montgomery is making his first start of the season (unless there’s a pitching change between now and game time). You can tell he’s not exactly a hard thrower given the low K-Rate and home run count. Pitchers who move from the bullpen to the rotation usually see their stats worsen…so the Cubs are in a vulnerable spot again here. 

Baltimore (31-27) at NY Yankees (34-23)

  • Dylan Bundy: 17.5% K’s, 6.9% walks, 1.1 HR/9, 4.86 xFIP
  • Jordan Montomery: 22.3% K’s, 9.2% walks, 0.8 HR/9, 4.67 xFIP

Many in the media have been raving about the great year Dylan Bundy has been having for Baltimore. His ERA of 2.93 has created some illusions. He’s likely to regress back to norms in batting average on balls in play and hold percentage…which will make that disappointing K-Rate become a headache. Don’t fall into the “he’s the only good starting pitcher the Orioles have” trap. If he were controlling his own destiny…that xFIP would be much closer to his ERA. Jordan Montgomery (great, we preview three games and two have Montgomery’s scheduled to start!) is in the same boat. His ERA of 3.67 is overstating his case for quality. That’s a mediocre xFIP in the stat line. Might be worth thinking about the Over. 

Milwaukee (32-29) at Arizona (37-25)

  • Zach Davies: 16.4% K’s, 8.5% walks, 1.4 HR/9, 4.68 xFIP
  • Randall Delgado: 22.9% K’s, 4.1% walks, 1.1 HR/9, 3.50 xFIP

Big edges for Delgado across the board. Davies is a pitch-to-contact guy facing weapons in a hitter’s park. That could be a real disaster for him. Delgado has a fantastic spread between his K-Rate and Walk rate. The early line of -140 might offer some value for the hosts. Delgado had the bad luck to run into Edinson Volquez’s no-hitter in Miami last time out. 

Worth noting in that pair of NL Central vs. NL West matchups that Colorado and Arizona have superior won-lost records than Chicago and Milwaukee, while also playing tougher schedules so far. Milwaukee might not even be a .500 team if they hadn’t played 10 more home games than road games. The Cubs are below .500 when not bullying the Reds (5-1 vs. Cincy, 25-28 vs. everyone else).

That’s it for this week. See you again Monday as the sports betting universe continues to heat up for an exciting summer. If you’re reading this on the VSiN home page, don’t forget that special PDF files of the daily South Point betting sheets are available exclusively to newsletter subscribers. That doesn’t cost you anything. Just click here, and VSiN City will be emailed to you every weekday morning along with those very handy line reports. 

If you have any questions or comments about VSiN programming, or anything you read here in the newsletter, please drop us a note. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter. You’ll see broadcast schedule bulletins, news alerts, and both audio and video capsules from daily programming (sometimes moments after they air!). In very short order, we will be your favorite follow.

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