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Despite trending in different directions, Caps and Penguins given same Stanley Cup odds

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite trending in different directions, Caps and Penguins given same Stanley Cup odds

Sitting in first place in the Metropolitan Division at the start of the new year, the Capitals saw their Stanley Cup odds improve, but not as much as you may think.

After going 10-2-2 in December, the sports betting site Bovada gives Washington 18/1 odds to win the Cup, improved from the 25/1 odds they were given at the start of December. Those are significantly better odds and it seems about right…until you see the other teams listed at 18/1.

Also given 18/1 odds are the New Jersey Devils, the Columbus Blue Jackets (what?) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (WHAT!?!).

The Devils are among one of the bigger surprises of the NHL season. They sit just two points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand over the Caps. The fact that the oddsmakers put them on equal footing as Washington is understandable. It is a bit stranger to figure out how they came to 18/1 for Columbus and Pittsburgh.

RELATED: BARRY TROTZ HAS A PLAN TO GET T.J. OSHIE GOING AGAIN

Columbus struggled in December, particularly at the end of the month when they lost four of five games. For the month, they went 6-7-2. The Penguins went 6-8-0 in December and are not even in a wild card spot.

Has Pittsburgh earned the benefit of the doubt as the two-time defending champs? Absolutely. But it sure seems like the postseason history of both teams is playing a bit more into those odds than you would expect.

Here are the full Stanley Cup odds:

Tampa Bay 6/1
Vegas Golden Knights 15/2
Toronto Maple Leafs 12/1
Nashville Predators 14/1
St. Louis Blues 14/1
Winnipeg Jets 14/1
Los Angeles Kings 16/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 16/1
New Jersey Devils 18/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 18/1
Washington Capitals 18/1
Boston Bruins 20/1
Chicago Blackhawks 22/1
San Jose Sharks 22/1
Anaheim Ducks 25/1
Dallas Stars 25/1
New York Rangers 25/1
Edmonton Oilers 28/1
Minnesota Wild 28/1
Calgary Flames 33/1
New York Islanders 33/1
Carolina Hurricanes 40/1
Philadelphia Flyers 40/1
Florida Panthers 66/1
Montreal Canadiens 66/1
Vancouver Canucks 75/1
Colorado Avalanche 100/1
Ottawa Senators 100/1
Detroit Red Wings 150/1

The Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres are off the board.

The conference odds are also a bit confusing.

Washington is given 9/1 odds to win the conference, the same as Pittsburgh. Above them is Columbus who sits at 7/1.

Someone has a lot of faith in a Blue Jackets team that has really struggled of late. While postseason history could explain the oddsmaker's faith in Pittsburgh, it is harder to think of an explanation for why they hold Columbus in such high regard after a rough December.

MORE CAPITALS: RED-HOT OVECHKIN TABBED AS METRO CAPTAIN FOR ALL-STAR GAME

Here are the full conference odds:

Tampa Bay Lightning 11/4
Toronto Maple Leafs 6/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 7/1
New Jersey Devils 9/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 9/1
Washington Capitals 9/1
Boston Bruins 10/1
New York Rangers 12/1
New York Islanders 18/1
Philadelphia Flyers 18/1
Carolina Hurricanes 22/1
Montreal Canadiens 28/1
Florida Panthers 33/1
Ottawa Senators 50/1
Detroit Red Wings 66/1

Buffalo is again off the board.

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLYERS

But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

The Capitals never gained possession of the puck in overtime on Sunday before Travis Konecny scored the game-winner. Despite playing better than they had in their previous two games, Washington still walked away with a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and only one point to show for their effort. Here are four reasons why.

A blown 2-on-1

Alex Ovechkin made a great defensive play in the first period with a steal high in the defensive zone to launch himself and Evgeny Kuznetsov on a 2-on-1. Ovechkin took the first shot which was saved by Brian Elliott. The rebound went right to Kuznetsov who was in position to tap it into the empty net, but instead, he sent the puck right back to Elliott. To be fair, it was a bit of a difficult angle for Kuznetsov, but that's a play that has to result in a goal, especially in a game as close as this one.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-FLYERS

Brian Elliott

Elliott had a fantastic game as he denied the Caps on 27 of their 28 shots, many of which were very quality scoring opportunities. Two saves in particular stood out starting with a save on Ovechkin in the first period. The Great 8 was all alone in the slot, but Elliott managed to get in front of the puck and send up and over the net. In the second period, he made another dynamic save as he denied Nicklas Backstrom with the pad when the Caps' center managed to get his stick on the puck in the slot.

A lost faceoff in overtime

Many people wondered why Alex Ovechkin was not on the ice to start overtime, but it was another player's absence that really cost them: Jay Beagle. Beagle's faceoff win percentage of 57.5-percent puts him among the top faceoff men in the league, but Kuznetsov was the first center for the extra session. Sean Couturier beat Kuznetsov on the faceoff to start overtime and the Caps never gained possession at any point before Travis Konecny fired the game-winner past Holtby. Beagle is not the type of player you would typically want out on overtime, but when one possession can cost you the game as it did on Sunday, perhaps the Caps need to get him out there just for the opening faceoff to give themselves a better shot at gaining the first possession and thus a better chance of winning the game.

A neutral zone misplay by John Carlson

If you are going to try to hit a player with the puck in the neutral zone, you better make sure he doesn't get past you or you have put your team in a tough position. That is exactly what happened in overtime when Carlson attempted to pin Konecny along the boards. Konecny squeezed his way through the hip check immediately creating a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Flyers which he would turn into the game-winning goal.