Bodog picks Canucks to face Capitals in 2012 Stanley Cup finals

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With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the hockey world approaches what is delightful to some and stomach-churning to others: season previews time. After a summer full of changes, pundits and hockey fans alike will attempt to forecast the future so that they can prove their brilliance (or ability to make lucky guesses, depending upon who you ask).

Bragging rights are great and all, but some hope to parlay their crystal ball skills into some cash. That’s where gambling venues/Web sites come in, but for the rest of us, gambling odds can provide an interesting take on public opinion.

They can tell us all sorts of things. Which teams are the obvious favorites? Are there some clubs who might be dark horse candidates? Perhaps most amusingly, which clubs do people have virtually zero confidence in?

Bodog is one of the leading sites for such speculation, so here’s a look at their odds for the 2011-12 champions – along with the expected conference winners. (This backs up Bodog’s early odds following the 2011 Stanley Cup finals in mid-June, while factoring in off-season moves. Thanks to Neil Greenberg for pointing out a correction.)

Let’s start with the coin toss for the Stanley Cup winner first.

Odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup

Vancouver Canucks                   7/1
Washington Capitals                  7/1
Boston Bruins                            10/1
Pittsburgh Penguins                   10/1
Philadelphia Flyers                     11/1
San Jose Sharks                       11/1
Chicago Blackhawks                  12/1
Detroit Red Wings                      12/1
Los Angeles Kings                     14/1
Tampa Bay Lightning                  16/1
Buffalo Sabres                           18/1
Anaheim Ducks                         25/1
Montreal Canadiens                   25/1
Nashville Predators                    28/1
New Jersey Devils                      30/1
New York Rangers                     30/1
Phoenix Coyotes                       35/1
St. Louis Blues                          35/1
Calgary Flames                         40/1
Dallas Stars                              40/1
Carolina Hurricanes                    45/1
Toronto Maple Leafs                   50/1
Winnipeg Jets                            60/1
Colorado Avalanche                    65/1
Edmonton Oilers                        65/1
Ottawa Senators                        70/1
Columbus Blue Jackets              75/1
Florida Panthers                        75/1
Minnesota Wild                          75/1
New York Islanders                    80/1

It’s interesting to see the Islanders in last place, but maybe that’s just a summer’s worth of optimism about that team talking. The Red Wings, Rangers and Devils are interesting choices for teams that are slightly underrated, while some might upset that the defending champion Boston Bruins came in third place.

Moving on, here are the odds-on winners for the Western Conference.

Odds to win the 2012 NHL Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks                   3/1
Detroit Red Wings                      11/2
San Jose Sharks                       11/2
Los Angeles Kings                     6/1
Chicago Blackhawks                  13/2
Anaheim Ducks                         12/1
Nashville Predators                    14/1
Phoenix Coyotes                       18/1
Calgary Flames                         20/1
Dallas Stars                              20/1
St. Louis Blues                          20/1
Colorado Avalanche                    35/1
Columbus Blue Jackets              35/1
Edmonton Oilers                        35/1
Minnesota Wild                          35/1

The Avalanche and Wild seem like they have a better chance to win the conference than the Blue Jackets and Oilers, in my opinion. It’s interesting to see that the Kings are doing pretty well in both areas – does this mean that gamblers aren’t worried about Drew Doughty’s contract situation?

Finally, here are the East odds.

Odds to win the 2012 NHL Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals                  4/1
Pittsburgh Penguins                   9/2
Philadelphia Flyers                     5/1
Boston Bruins                            11/2
Tampa Bay Lightning                  8/1
Buffalo Sabres                           10/1
Montreal Canadiens                   14/1
New Jersey Devils                      15/1
New York Rangers                     16/1
Carolina Hurricanes                    24/1
Toronto Maple Leafs                   28/1
Winnipeg Jets                            35/1
Florida Panthers                        40/1
Ottawa Senators                        40/1
New York Islanders                    45/1

Strangely enough, the Bruins are ranked lower in the East odds (fourth) than they are to win the Stanley Cup (tied for third). The Panthers’ off-season moves haven’t impressed odds markers just yet, obviously.

What are your thoughts about these odds? Did any teams get snubbed? Which ones are overrated? Let us know how you feel in the comments.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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