What’s The Probability Your Team Wins Its First Round Matchup In The NHL Playoffs? Just Check The Odds.

  • Matt Rudnitsky

The 2013 NHL Playoffs schedule is out. So are the betting odds on each series. And, by looking at the odds, you can gauge the probability each team has of advancing. I did this with the NBA Playoffs, but most odds were absurdly high, because the first round of the NBA playoffs is awful and predictable. The NHL playoffs are not. Last year’s champions, the Los Angeles Kings, were an 8-seed. You are dumb if you don’t watch the NHL playoffs. They’re awesome.

Here are the odds for each series, courtesy of BetOnline.ag.

(Note: For astute readers, realize this math doesn’t account for the book’s vigorish. This is technically the “break-even” price, the percentage of bets you need to win at that price to break even. Also, there’s some rounding and stuff, so this isn’t 100% precise. And the prices are fluid, as the market reacts.)

First Round

1) Blackhawks vs. 8) Wild

Series Price: Blackhawks (-475), Wild (+390)
Implied Probability: Blackhawks 82.6%, Wild 20.4%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Maybe slightly towards the hyped-up Blackhawks, but not much. Chicago is legit, and Minnesota is not. Minnesota is probably the worst team in the playoffs, and they limped in. Their only chance is Niklas Bäckström standing on his Finnish head, which is vaguely conceivable, but unlikely. He’s struggling, too.

Verdict: Don’t bet on this. You’re stupid to bet on a team that has an implied 82.6% chance in an NHL playoff series. But you’re also stupid to bet on the worst team in a 16-team tournament that is best-of-seven.

4) Blues vs. 5) Kings

Series Price: Blues (-110), Kings (-110)
Implied Probability: Blues 52.4%, Kings 52.4%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Yes. These teams are very evenly matched, but St. Louis nabbed home-ice advantage, and LA has had the biggest home-away discrepancy in the league. Many will argue that’s a “Stanley Cup hangover” thing, but I’m unsure why it persisted the entire year. I have written previously on how bad Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has been on the road this year, but I’m not sure people realize. It’s entirely possible he’ll turn things around in the playoffs, and the Kings are talented, but what signs has he shown? None. (The blame obviously falls on his defense, especially for the shots allowed, too.)


Oh yeah, St. Louis is really good, too.

Verdict: I need to look a little bit more into this, but at first glance, I think there’s a lot of value on the Blues.

2) Ducks vs. 7) Red Wings

Series Price: Ducks (-140), Red Wings (+120)
Implied Probability: Ducks 58.3%, Red Wings 45.5%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

I think so. Nobody has bought the Ducks all year, and that’s reflected in this price. The Wings were garbage all year, and then came on strong in the final few weeks. But they’re an 7-seed for a reason, and the Ducks dominated everyone until letting up a bit late in the year. They could do that, though, since they were basically locked into the No. 2 seed for a long, long time. The Red Wings can’t score, and their main advantage is goalie Jimmy Howard. But I don’t think he’s better than Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller, and he may not even be better than Hiller’s backup/platoon-mate Viktor Fasth.

The Ducks are better than the Wings. And, while home ice doesn’t mean much in the NHL, the Red Wings historically have one of the biggest home-road discrepancies in the league. They are the 7-seed, and they don’t have home-ice.

Verdict: I like the Ducks.

4) Bruins vs. 5) Maple Leafs

Series Price: Bruins (-220), Maple Leafs (+190)
Implied Probability: Bruins 68.8%, Maple Leafs 34.5%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

A little bit. I don’t think the Bruins should be -220 favorites, and I think that number will decrease as people bet the Maple Leafs. But the goalie/defense edge is vastly in the B’s favor, and I think they should win. I was hoping to bet Boston as slight favorites, but that didn’t happen. The Leafs aren’t built like a playoff team; they score a ton of goals, but their peripherals suggest that some of that may be luck. They don’t play good defense, and goalie James Reimer isn’t on the same level as Tuukka Rask.

Verdict: For now, no bet. Maybe a bit of value on Toronto. Hopefully, it drops a lot, so Boston is in play.

1) Penguins vs. 8) Islanders

Series Price: Penguins (-560), Islanders (+455)
Implied Probability: Penguins 84.8%, Islanders 18%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Yes. No NHL team with potential goaltending issues should have an implied 84.8% chance of winning a best-of-seven series against a high-scoring, talented squad. We don’t know if Sidney Crosby will play, either.

Pittsburgh is better, all around. By a lot. I don’t think the Islanders will win. But these odds are certainly a bit too high. Like I said, this isn’t the NBA. The Penguins aren’t the Spurs; the Islanders aren’t the Kobe-less Lakers.

The bet to watch for in this series will be the over. Two mercurial goalies, two elite power plays, two bad penalty kills, and only one good defense (Pittsburgh). Goals galore, unless Pitt’s defense really steps up.

Verdict: Not sure it’s worth a bet, but the Isles aren’t a horrible flier to take. If you must indulge.

3) Canucks vs. 6) Sharks

Series Price: Canucks (-140), Sharks (+120)
Implied Probability: Canucks 58.3%, Sharks 45.5%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Maybe a tiny bit. I don’t think the Sharks are especially good. But, they made some nice additions at the trading deadline, and they’ve improved. They may have the best goalie in the NHL right now, in Antti Niemi. If he plays his best, they can beat anyone. I’m not sure they can score enough, but it’s rarely a good idea to bet against a goalie this good, in the playoffs. I think the Canucks are better (and that the Sharks struggle on the road), but I’m not all that confident betting this.

Verdict: There might be some value on Vancouver, but I’ll probably stay away. If you wait, you may see a better price, too.

2) Canadiens vs. 7) Senators

Series Price: Canadiens (-160), Senators (+140)
Implied Probability: Canadiens 61.5%, Senators 41.7%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Probably not. But I do like the Senators a bit. They have Craig Anderson in net, who was out much of the season, but has probably been better than anyone in the NHL when healthy. They are superior on defense. Also, Montreal has one of the worst penalty kills in the league (OTT has one of the best). The Senators’ biggest weakness is scoring, and an opponent with a poor penalty kill is a perfect matchup for them.

Montreal’s Carey Price gets a lot of hype, but he hasn’t been great this year. He’s capable of outplaying Anderson, but in his current form, he’s much worse.

Verdict: Probably a fair price, but I do lean towards the Senators. Not sure if they’re worth a bet yet, but I’ll look into it.

3) Capitals vs. 6) Rangers

Series Price: Capitals (-110), Rangers (-110)
Implied Probability: Capitals 52.4%, Rangers 52.4%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Yes. It pains me to say this, as a Devils fan, but the Rangers are probably your best value bet in the playoffs. They’re worth a hard look at 26/1 to win the Stanley Cup. Henrik Lundqvist gives them a massive edge in net against the Caps. Their offense has struggled on the road, but they’ve come on late in the season, and their defense is very good.

I only have one worry here: the Rangers are ranked 22nd in 4-on-5 plus/minus per 60 minutes (penalty kill). The Capitals are first in 5-on-4 (power play). Goals are tough to come by on Lundqvist, but special teams could be the difference.

Verdict: There’s definitely value on the Rangers, but special teams could be their undoing.

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