Beating the sports books in NHL Playoff conference finals

May 10, 2011 6:34 AM


Unlike the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs where bettors witnessed only one sweep in eight playoff series, the second round produced two sweeps in 4 and both came in the Eastern Conference.

Out West, the Sharks had a chance to follow suit but the Red Wings avoided the sweep with back to back 4-3 wins. San Jose is a +125 underdog for Game 6 in Detroit and must win or be forced into a Game 7 at home to get to the Conference Finals. Vancouver held a 3-2 series edge over Nashville in the other semifinal out West. The game was played Monday night.

Historical probability gave both Nashville and Detroit the edge in advancing as 75.5% of teams who had the home ice in a quarterfinals round went on to the semifinals.

Overall in the NHL Playoffs, those same home teams who were up 3-2 in a 7 game series advanced 82% of the time.

Time will tell if the Canucks and Sharks can do the same but we already have the Eastern Conference Finals set between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s no secret that based on my Futures Bet, I would like to see the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Finals. With home ice advantage the books have installed Boston as the favorite. Both teams finished the regular season with identical records and exactly 103 points.

The teams met four times during the regular season with Boston winning 3. The Bruins outscored the Lightning, 15-8.

Simon Gagne who hasn’t played since Game 1 against the Capitals is expected to return for Tampa Bay. Patrice Bergeron is listed as doubtful for Boston in Game 1. Otherwise, both teams come in relatively healthy and will have had an equal time to heal.

So how should we look to profit in the Conference Finals ?

I suggest bettors PASS in Game 1 of both Conference Finals and instead focus on Game 2 to find value. More importantly, I believe that the value will come in the form of backing the HOME team.

If the Bruins defend home ice and win Game 1 then odds makers should only adjust slightly for Game 2. As it stands, the Bruins are hovering around -145 in Game 1.

Historically, when the home team wins Game 1 in the Conference Finals, they also win Game 2 almost 65% of the time. That win percentage translates to a money-line of -186.

If the Bruins lose Game 1 then we should see a slightly more significant adjustment by odds makers to reflect the fact Boston won’t want to go down 2-0. Since Game 1 will go off around -145, that adjustment won’t be enough to reflect the historical odds.

Historically, when the home team loses Game 1 in the Conference Finals they come back to even the series 66% of the time in the NHL Playoffs. The money-line conversion for that is -196 and I don’t believe odds makers will make that huge of an adjustment.

Bottom line, it appears that regardless of the Game 1 outcome…the best bet for Game 2 is to take a position on the Home Team (Bruins).

We can then also take this same data and apply it to the West Finals if the money-line is close to what we are seeing in the East. With that said, since the Canucks are listed as such an overwhelming favorite when looking at future book odds, we may not get the same opportunity we will in the East.

Finally, I do not plan to hedge my future bet on the Bruins before the Conference Finals by taking the Lightning. I believe that after getting past their nemesis Montreal and then getting revenge by sweeping the Flyers, this team is primed for a Stanley Cup run.

On the other side, we may have much of a hedge with San Jose because the Canucks will be heavily favored if both advance. Again, I really like the Bruins and feel the Sharks remain one of the most undervalued teams in the current betting market.

Vegas-Runner is a pro sports bettor & handicapper in Las Vegas who has been featured on CNBC & ESPN. Follow VR on Twitter @Vegasrunner and