'Bounce Back' Playoff Favorites Part II: What About Goalies?

Jay Pryce

Thursday, April 23, 2015 8:57 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 23, 2015 8:57 PM UTC

The NHL playoff “bounce back” favorite angle is off to a solid 3-0 start. Our expert handicapper shares with you this angle for two different games on the schedule tonight, so join us before you place your NHL picks!

The NHL playoff “bounce back” favorite angle is off to a solid 3-0 start after the Minnesota Wilds game three victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday. For those following along, you'll know that tonight the situation offers us the rare treat of backing two teams: the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators. I'm particularly intrigued by the latter game against the Chicago Blackhawks because it triggers a condition with goalies and shots on goal that has proven remarkably successful when we review past performances of the trend.

The original angle is as follows: wager the favorite in a NHL playoff game where the underdog has more goals in their last two contests with less than or equal to the number of shots on goal during that time span. From 2007 to date, this situation sports a 71% win rate (94-38) with an average closing line of -150. One can read the original article here to understand the rationale behind the angle, but in a nutshell, we are backing favored teams who chased the lead and played ineffectively for much of their last two games. What effect might this have on a team's goalie in their next contest?

The keystone to our analyses is built upon shots on goal, a diminishing statistic in the flood of new analytic research covering the sport. NHL.com site correspondent Kevin Woodley, for example, recently pointed out that much of the current analysis into goalie performance is primarily based on state-of-the-art shot-tracking research focusing on shot quality over shot volume, you might want to keep this in mind when looking at the NHL odds. Giving our angle a confidence boost, he suggests that, although it maybe more difficult to evaluate, the idea of shots on goal as meaningful data should not be dismissed as irrelevant when evaluating netminders. For one, Woodley cautions against the popular notion that the more shots a goalie faces is worse than one facing fewer shots. He writes, “There is such a thing as a 'good' busy goalie.” Former New York Rangers netminder and current MSG Network analyst, Steve Valiquette concurred “Ask every goalie in the NHL whether he would rather face 35 or 15 shots,” he joked with Woodley, “and they'll choose 35.” Concerning our angle,  although much more of an intangible measurement, one can theorize facing greater shots in preceding contests influences a player's psyche or confidence in positive ways, and offers physical reactions and conditions in game situations that can't be replicated in practices and morning skates.

Over the last couple of seasons, teams average roughly 29-30 shots on goal per game, including 30.2 during the 2013 playoffs. Taking our original situation, if the favorite's goalie faced 53 shots or more in the previous two games, which is a touch below average or greater, than their record is an eye-popping 57-13 (81%) with an -152 average line. If he faces shots well below average, or less than 52 during that time span, then the record sinks to 34-25 (58%). As we mentioned in the original article, playoff hockey is often played from the goal forward, as teams seek solid defending and puck possession for success. When chasing the lead, opposing teams often resort to more cautious play and take less chances in the offensive zone, potentially presenting the goalie with fewer save opportunities. If our netminder sees enough of the the opposing teams puck in preceding games to keep him sharp and practiced, though, look out.

The Predators-Blackhawk series has been an action-packed matchup filled with shots. Thanks to a triple-overtime contest on Tuesday, the Blackhawks have given Pekka Rinne plenty of “practice” over his last two games, firing 78 shots on goal in that time. When Rinne faced the same conditions as our playoff angle in the 2014 regular season, the Predators were a perfect 3-0. If you consider games where Nashville were underdogs in this situation, the record is 7-2. Using this data, look for the Predators to extend the series and force a game six in Chicago with your NHL picks.

As always, use this information to support your leans, and best of luck!

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