Stanley Cup Finals Not as Close as Odds Suggest: Angles to Consider When Placing NHL Picks

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 1:29 PM GMT

Take advantage of our free Stanley Cup betting analysis with trends & angles based on recent matchup performances for the Chicago Blackhawks & Tampa Bay Lightning.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Like many hockey fans, we are excited to see the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning square off for the Stanley Cup. We believe this is truly a coin-flip series, and should be magnificent to watch unfold. Chicago entered the playoffs as the second best NHL team in goals allowed per game at 2.27, but have given away an ugly 2.95 in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, potentially playing into the hands of the NHL’s best regular season offense. Scoring 3.29 per game during their run to the Cup, the Blackhawks' offense is red hot, though, and facing a Lightning squad who let in a pedestrian 2.51 per contest this year (2.49 during the playoffs). Tampa, however, led the league in scoring with 3.16 goals a game, and has proven they can knock off the strongest defensive squads in a seven-game series, beating the Canadiens and Rangers, who ranked first and third in goals against per game in the regular season. Tampa is averaging 2.9 goals a contest in the playoffs, slightly below their average, but have played tough as nails as underdogs away from home. Since their 0-3 loss against the Detroit Red Wings in their first road playoff game, the Lightning are 7-2 as the visiting team, outscoring opponents 28-18 in this span, with both losses coming by only one goal. We like the Blackhawks to win in seven, and believe there will be a lot of scoring, making for a memorable and exciting Finals. All the while, we will be scanning over the box scores prior to each game to see if one of the trends we wish to share with you emerges, giving us added confidence in any wager we may have invested in a game.

In the Finals, we often lack a substantial head-to-head history between the two non-conference teams. Since the resurgence of the Blackhawks franchise in 2008, coincidentally marking the start of the Steven Stamkos-led Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago has clashed with the Florida franchise nine times in the regular season. Tampa holds a 6-3 edge over the Hawks during this period with an average moneyline of slightly more than +130. The teams combined for an average of 6.1 goals a contest, despite a 4-5 record for the over in game totals. When lacking a sizable data set, we often like to isolate recent games of both teams set within the odds criterion we are likely to see in the series. We particularly look at follow-up games against the same opponent in a specific win probabilities range to give us a framework most applicable to a playoff series. Under this scenario, we believe the betting market has weighed the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and the performance of a squad or given results under such conditions can be very helpful in handicapping ice hockey games.

Wednesday’s game one opened at +100/-120 on the moneyline with the Lightning favored at home. In the NHL playoffs, lines can move wildly throughout the series. Depending on injuries, momentum, goalie selection, etc. it is not uncommon to see a 5% shift in win probability for any given team. With that in mind, we can confidently predict the Hawks-Lightning games will settle somewhere within the -150/+150 parameters throughout, and it is under this specification we can uncover an angle or two to boost one’s confidence in their investment.

Stanley Cup Betting Angle: Revenge
Over the last two seasons, playoffs included, the NHL odds favorites to win the series, the Blackhawks, are 20-5 with a -122 average moneyline in follow-up games against their current opponent when held to two goals or less in the last matchup within our -150/+150 rubric. Chicago lost 20 of the previous games, so one can possibly deem this a revenge angle. In fact, they come back to score 3.5 goals on average under this trend. Another Hawk angle worth chasing under the same conditions as above is to follow how many shots on goal either Jonathon Toews or Patrick Kane records in the previous game. When either place three or more shots on target while being held to two goals or less as a team in the prior matchup, then Chicago is 18-2 in the next contest with average odds of -113. One of the top two offensive stars need to prove they harassed the netminder last time out, and the top line or power play unit was able to offer production despite being held under their average goal-per-game total. Although not terrible, defense is not the Lightning’s strength, and we expect both Chicago superstars to pepper Ben Bishop at some point during the series and come up empty-handed. Dating back to 2007, in their ten career starts against Tampa, the dynamic duo have both put up three or more shots on goal in six of the prior games, while reaching the benchmark together in two contests.

 

Betting Angle & Trends for Keith vs. Stamkos 
A couple of more angles worth following in the series focus on the play of Duncan Keith and Steven Stamkos. As the Hawks’ number one defenseman, it’s Keith’s job to keep the two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner, the award designating the NHL’s top goal scorer, in check. In addition to having the natural ability to find the back of the net, Stamkos is an exceptional playmaker and has performed well against Keith and Chicago historically. In his 6-3 career record versus the Hawks, Stamkos has never recorded a negative plus/minus rating. In fact, if you believe Tampa will win the series, then the current +800 price on Stamkos to win the Conn Smyth Trophy designating the playoff MVP is great value, but I digress. Keith, on the other hand, has recorded a below zero plus/minus figure in four of the nine matchups since Stamkos entered the league. Over the last three seasons, though, playoffs included, the Blackhawks are 24-5 with an average moneyline of -117 when Keith posts a zero or less plus/minus rating in the previous matchup against his current opponents within our -150/+150 guideline. In Stamkos’ career, when considering the Lightning under the -150/+150 framework, the Bolts are 20-7 when he registered a plus/minus rating of zero or greater in his prior game against his present foe. The matchup between these two stars may be the key to the series, and one of the many angles we will be looking for throughout the Stanley Cup Finals.

As always, use this information to support your NHL picks, and beast of luck.