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Come and get it: Caps underdogs vs. Knights

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

Get ready Vegas, the Washington Capitals are coming to visit and they won’t be suffering from the flu! A Game 7 NHL recap…plus the Celtics stay playoff perfect at home…and ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt checks in with Brent Musburger. All right now in VSiN City.

NHL Playoffs: Washington dominates from start to finish to win Game Seven in Tampa Bay
Hope appeared lost for Caps fans (including our own Gill Alexander) a few days ago. Washington had blown an early 2-0 series lead against Tampa Bay, and was down three-games-to-two to the pre-series favorite. The Lightning were once again heavy chalk to advance. 

Well, Washington has played its best hockey this postseason with its backs to the wall. Back to back shutouts…and it’s the Caps advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the Vegas Golden Knights. 

Washington (plus 120) 4, Tampa Bay 0 
Shots: Washington 23, Tampa Bay 29
Power Plays: Washington 0/2, Tampa Bay 0/1

First time all series that Tampa Bay won shot count. But many Wednesday were long and manageable…designed more to create rebound opportunities. From the get-go, we’ve talked about how Washington has dominated even-strength play. A 7-1 edge in the first two games, bookended by a 6-0 advantage in the final two. 

Very impressive result for a projected also-ran that was only a slight favorite over Columbus in the first round, an underdog to Pittsburgh in the second, and a bigger underdog to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals. This would be the feel-good story of the year if not for VGK. Alex Ovechkin will finally play for a championship.

Las Vegas sports books were keen to get a betting line up quickly for the finals that begin Monday night in Las Vegas. The Westgate tweeted out the following when it was still 3-0 Washington in the third period.

Game 1
Vegas -150, Washington plus 135

Series
Vegas -160, Washington plus 140

That was much steeper than rumored. But sports books do have to defend against local money…from a position where they’re already exposed to a very large loss if VGK lifts the Cup. Those lines are literally begging for bets on the Caps. Sharps will oblige. Many of the strongest market influences liked the Caps in Game 7 Wednesday, which is why that Game 7 line was so far below earlier meetings at that site. 

Be sure you watch VSiN programming all day Thursday for initial market moves. You can be sure we’ll provide comprehensive preview coverage this weekend for the biggest professional sports event ever to be played in Las Vegas!

NBA Playoffs: Boston stays undefeated at home in the postseason with another rout of Cleveland
We’re still waiting for a compelling game in this series. Once again, the home team built a comfortable lead and coasted home. Cleveland was able to make some inroads here and there…but never put a scare into the Celtics after stopping the first quarter 32-19.

Boston (-1) 96, Cleveland 83
2-point Pct: Cleveland 55%, Boston 39%
3-pointers: Cleveland 9/34, Boston 13/39
Free Throws: Cleveland 12/19, Boston 21/23
Rebounds: Cleveland 39, Boston 45
Turnovers: Cleveland 15, Boston 8
Pace: 94.0 (for the series, 93.4, 93.2, 93.6, 99.0 and 94.0)

Extremely similar to Game Two on this floor. Boston won that one by 11 points as well. Both teams scored 11 fewer here even though pace was the same. Fewer second chances for Cleveland because of a bigger loss on the boards. Boston shot worse inside. But otherwise…the Celtics forced turnovers and protected the arc while making enough treys to pull away. The same Cleveland guys who disappeared earlier went back to being invisible here. 

We may be destined for a home sweep until the finale, when Cleveland must crack the code or go home. If some of the veterans are already thinking about going home…then Boston will have a chance to spring an upset in Game Six. For now, you have to assume the Celtics will save everything for a peak effort on a court where they haven’t been defeated yet in the postseason.

Boston at HOME in the Playoffs
Boston (-3.5) beat Milwaukee 113-107 in overtime
Boston (plus 1.5) beat Milwaukee 120-106
Boston (-4.5) beat Milwaukee 92-87
Boston (-4.5) beat Milwaukee 112-96

Boston (plus 4.5) beat Philadelphia 117-101
Boston (plus 3.5) beat Philadelphia 108-103
Boston (-1.5) beat Philadelphia 114-112

Boston (plus 1.5) beat Cleveland 108-83
Boston (-1) beat Cleveland 107-94
Boston (-1) beat Cleveland 96-83

That’s 10-0 straight up and against the spread, though the first Milwaukee game didn’t cover in regulation…and two other covers were only by a half-point. Cleveland hasn’t even sniffed being competitive yet on this floor. 

Can’t forget to note that Game Five of Cleveland/Boston was another Under. That’s four of five games staying Under so far in this series, landing on 191, 201, 202, 213, and 179. We talked about the possibility of a game being VERY low scoring if both teams every played defense with peak intensity at the same time. Close to that here, though Cleveland didn’t force turnovers to keep pace with relatively impressive shooting defense. Market prices have been way over the scoreboard average of 197.2, and a few points over the median of 201. 

That’s seven of nine conference final games staying Under, as it’s been three of four so far in Golden State/Houston…a series that resumes Thursday night…

Houston at Golden State (9:05 p.m. ET on TNT, series tied 2-2)
Game 1: Golden State (plus 1.5/225.5) 119, Houston 106
Game 2: Houston (-1.5/225) 127, Golden State 105
Game 3: Golden State (-8/226.5) 126, Houston 85
Game 4: Houston (plus 8.5/227.5) 95, Golden State 92
Game 5: pick-em, total of 219.5 

You can see a big drop in the Over/Under there. Intense defense from both teams in the last game, at the very slow pace Houston embraced late in the regular season (just a 91.4 pace factor after 98.4, 99.8, and 95.1 prior). Through four games, the series average is 213.75. Golden State tends to play very aggressive defense when it’s time to get things done. Market is anticipating a mix of Houston keeping it slow and Golden State forcing more turnovers. Warriors forced 19 after their last loss, just 13, 13, and 10 in the other three games. 

MLB: Pitching continues to dominate the recent baseball radar 
A few offenses put up big numbers Wednesday (particularly the two playing in the scoring paradise of Arlington Texas). For the most part, a continuation stellar pitching in a season where ball construction is back to normal instead of inflating home run counts. 

Let’s run through the matchups we’ve been keeping track of this week…

Milwaukee (-100) 9, Arizona 2
Total Bases Plus Walks: Arizona 12, Milwaukee 26
Starting Pitchers: Godley 3.1 IP, 6 ER, Suter 5.2 IP, 2 ER
Bullpen: Arizona 4.2 IP, 1 ER, Milwaukee 3.1 IP, 0 ER

Another day, another Diamondback debacle. Just four hits for Arizona, though two of them were solo home runs. Milwaukee clustered its bases to score seven runs in the fourth. This was more of a 6-3 type game in terms of raw production. 

Arizona is now 1-13 its last 14 games. The D-backs have fallen out of first place in the NL West, looking up at Colorado for the time being. Let’s update their depressing scoring number line through the slump. From low to high…

0-1-1-1-1-1-2-2-2-2-2-3-4-4

Tough to win when two runs is your ceiling most of the time. Milwaukee moves to 31-19, gaining some distance on challengers in the NL Central. 

Philadelphia (-120) 4, Atlanta 0
Total Bases Plus Walks: Atlanta 12, Philadelphia 15
Starting Pitchers: Gohara 4 IP, 2 ER, Arrieta 6.2 IP, 0 ER
Bullpen: Atlanta 4 IP, 2 ER, Philadelphia 2.1 IP, 0 ER

The wily veteran Jake Arrieta made it tougher for Atlanta to scratch through on their offensive bases. His ERA is down to 2.45 this season, though this is the first Phillies win in his last five outings. Season high pitch count of 109 for Jake. Looks like only long-established veteran stars are allowed to top 100 these days. Phillies are back within a half-game of first place. Atlanta is 29-19, Philadelphia 28-19. 

Cleveland (plus 160) 1, Chicago Cubs 0
Total Bases Plus Walks: Cleveland 10, Chicago 8
Starting Pitchers: Plutko 6 IP, 0 ER, Lester 7 IP, 1 ER
Bullpen: Cleveland 3 IP, 0 ER, Chicago 2 IP, 0 ER

Cleveland scattered nine singles and a walk. Chicago had one double, the only extra-base hit of the game. One of the advantages of the recap format we’re using is that it forces you to pay attention to the bullpens. Handicappers MUST be including that in their analytical mix in 2018. All goose eggs for these projected contenders. Cleveland scoots over the .500 mark to 24-23 atop the AL Central. Chicago falls to 25-21, fourth place but just four games out in the tougher NL Central. 

Texas (plus 170) 12, NY Yankees 10
Total Bases Plus Walks: New York 30, Texas 25 
Starting Pitchers: Sabathia 4.1 IP, 7 ER, Fister 4.1 IP, 6 ER
Bullpen: New York 3.2 IP, 5 ER, Texas 4.2 IP, 2 ER

Getting ahead of the Yankees and staying there is the best way to keep Aroldis Chapman out of the game. Second straight night the Rangers could pull that off. Also, the second straight night the Yankees won home run count but lost the game. You can see the Yanks had more offensive bases. They let Texas do way to much with theirs. First time in two weeks the Yanks have lost two in a row. Only the second time since April 8 and 10. 

A couple of late Wednesday games will end after our publication deadlines. It’s already certain to be an Under night. Over the past few days…

Sunday: 6-9 to the Under
Monday: 2-7 to the Under
Tuesday: 3-11-1 to the Under
Wednesday: more of the same

While the get-away influence could still be in play (a lot of Wednesday teams are off or playing in a different park Thursday), nobody was catching any planes Monday or Tuesday. Pitchers utterly dominating this week (though not in great hitting conditions in Arlington). 

Industry News and Notes: Scott Van Pelt of ESPN joined Brent Musburger Wednesday on “My Guys in the Desert”
Hope you caught a very special guest appearance from ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt Wednesday afternoon. If you missed it, you can check out the replay by clicking here. Scott’s segment with Brent Musburger, Vinny Magliulo, and Amal Shah begins about 17 minutes into that recording. 

Don’t forget that South Point sports book director Chris Andrews will be posting College Football “Game of the Year” lines Thursday at 10 a.m. Las Vegas time. Marquee matchups throughout the whole season. Join the sharps on line at the windows for the openers. Limits are $1K per game, with a maximum of three per trip to the window. Make your three bets, then head back to the end of the line. Betting will open on the app and at the Rampart at 11 a.m. Pacific. 

Finally, Paddy Power Betfair made headlines Wednesday by purchasing fantasy site FanDuel. For more details, click here to read a comprehensive story from Dustin Gouker of Legal Sports Report

Back tomorrow to run the numbers from Golden State/Houston and the start of the return MLB engagement featuring the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians. Always something to talk about in VSiN City!

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