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Books starting to like Penguins, and Sidney Crosby’s push for the Selke begins

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Las Vegas odds makers are starting to believe in the Pens, and why the team’s best chance for an award might be with Crosby and the Selke.

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NHL: Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

From Bovada, the Penguins’ odds are starting to improve.

2019 Stanley Cup - Odds to Win

3/1/19 Current (4/1/19)

Tampa Bay Lightning 4/1 11/4

Calgary Flames 10/1 8/1

Boston Bruins 12/1 10/1

San Jose Sharks 10/1 10/1

Washington Capitals 16/1 10/1

Winnipeg Jets 9/1 10/1

St. Louis Blues 16/1 12/1

Nashville Predators 12/1 14/1

Pittsburgh Penguins 22/1 18/1

New York Islanders 14/1 20/1

Toronto Maple Leafs 9/1 20/1

Vegas Golden Knights 18/1 20/1

Carolina Hurricanes 33/1 25/1

Columbus Blue Jackets 20/1 25/1

Dallas Stars 50/1 33/1

Colorado Avalanche 50/1 40/1

Montreal Canadiens 28/1 50/1

Arizona Coyotes 66/1 100/1

Minnesota Wild 66/1 100/1

Chicago Blackhawks 150/1 500/1

Philadelphia Flyers 66/1 Off the Board

Conference Odds

2018-19 Eastern Conference Winner

3/1/19 Current (4/1/19)

Tampa Bay Lightning 2/1 5/4

Boston Bruins 6/1 5/1

Washington Capitals 9/1 6/1

Pittsburgh Penguins 11/1 9/1

Toronto Maple Leafs 5/1 9/1

New York Islanders 15/2 11/1

Carolina Hurricanes 16/1 14/1

Columbus Blue Jackets 10/1 14/1

Montreal Canadiens 16/1 25/1

Divisional Odds

Odds to win the 2018-19 Metropolitan Division

3/1/19 Current (4/1/19)

Washington Capitals 11/4 1/20

New York Islanders 9/4 7/1

Columbus Blue Jackets 3/1 Off the Board

Carolina Hurricanes 6/1 Off the Board

Pittsburgh Penguins 6/1 Off the Board

It’s good to see the numbers improving, and to be honest, 18/1 is still a really good value play for Pittsburgh this year. The Penguins are likely to be in a favorable side of the playoff bracket, probably playing two of NYI, Washington, Carolina, and/or Columbus in the first two rounds.

That’s a lot better than Boston (currently a 10/1), who have to play Toronto in round one and then likely Tampa in the round two.

It’s just something to consider, as odds will swing quickly. So if you’re so inclined, and it’s legal and all and you want to bet the Pens, for best results do it much sooner than later.

As the end of the regular season draws near, talks on award voting will pick up. I’m not going to go out on a limb and predict Sidney Crosby will actually win the Selke trophy this season, however it’s too easy to simply say that he will have his highest finish ever in the voting.

Crosby has actually picked up Selke votes in each of the last six seasons, peaking at seventh so far back in 2015-16. Sid has been in the top-10 in voting the last three years. So a bold position might be to predict him to be a finalist, which seems very possible based on media chatter.

Here’s some of that chatter from Greg Wyshynski:

The “Crosby for Selke” talk has been growing louder all season, and for good reason: He’s one of the best in the NHL in limiting high-danger shot attempts when he’s on the ice, he’s at 55.1 percent on faceoffs and has a 7.30 Corsi relative to his teammates. His expected goals against of 49.8 percent -- the metric that averages out goals based on shot location and quality -- rivals that of Stone. Sid’s deserving, but it also feels like there’s a movement afoot to get him some notoriety for his defensive game. Because, you know, we simply haven’t appreciated him enough.

Well, no amount of appreciation will ever suffice for hockey’s best player in the past 20 years. Our dear, close, personal friend Jesse Marshall ($) made a really good case for Crosby’s Selke worthiness last month, that if every voter read, Sid probably wins running away.

Sam Kasan at the Pens’ official site had a nice article about Crosby’s 200-foot game go up today too:

Sidney Crosby was on the ice for three of the final five minutes of the game as Pittsburgh held on for a win that helped solidify their playoff positioning and kept alive their hopes of earning home-ice advantage in the First Round.

”I thought his defensive play was on display tonight,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of Crosby after the game.

The Pens have relied on Crosby all year long in dire defensive situations. Whether it’s late in games, killing penalties, facing the opposition’s best line or winning defensive zone faceoffs, Crosby has been the club’s go-to guy all year.

”I think when people look at Sid and his game, they don’t think about his defense because he’s so dynamic offensively and always has been,” Sullivan said. “But when you look at his overall game, it’s the most complete game I think that any player possesses.”

Crosby has still been getting the job done on the offensive side of the game. He leads the club with 94 points and 61 assists while producing his ninth 30-goal campaign (33). But the extra attention he’s garnered with his defensive play has sparked talk of him being a candidate for the NHL’s Selke Trophy - which is given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”

Wysh also mentioned Crosby as a finalist for the Hart Trophy (MVP):

Crosby has 94 points in 76 games, or 16 more than the second-highest scorer on the Penguins (Phil Kessel). He has been dynamic on offense and superb on defense (more on that in a bit), and he’s piloted the Penguins to the playoffs through a turbulent, injury-riddled season for the club.

This year it has to be Nikita Kucherov’s, given how much he has scored. No one has broken the 120 point mark since Crosby did it in 2005-06. Kucherov’s at 122 (and counting) this season.