Last Updated: 2019-04-18
PLAYOFFS EDITION – Thursday, April 18th
The NHL Playoffs continue tonight and oh my, it’s been quite the fireworks day on the ‘ol Twittersphere after former NHL great Theo Fleury weighted in with his thoughts about what it takes to win in the playoffs yesterday evening, and then punctuated those thoughts with a dig at the analytics community later in the night. The stats guys have seemed to take the comments personally (as usual) and have spent the afternoon fighting back. Feel free to give Theo’s timeline a browse and get lost down the rabbit hole if you have a few hours to waste this evening (I really don’t recommend doing that).
Personally, I agree a lot with what Fleury said in his first comment. The playoffs are about much more than just the numbers and the intangibles do play a larger role, with the main reason for that being a 7-game series is simply an insanely small sample size and anything really can happen in just a few games. Considering most simulations are based on something like 10,000 games, it’s no coincidence that there’s a crazy amount of higher variance during the playoffs. It’s just expected to be that way and it’s why the NHL Playoffs are so much damn fun. But stats are fun too and can go a long way in explaining why some things are happening the way they’re happening on the ice.
I hope Mr. Theo Fleury doesn’t mind, but we’re still going to go over the box score stats from last game and for the series overall for tonight’s three games.
Quickly recapping last night, Boston jumped out to an early lead and then hung on late as the Maple Leafs scored twice in the final 10 minutes to trim the deficit to one in what has arguably been the most exciting of the first round series this year.
The Dallas Stars scored two quick powerplay goals in the first few minutes and hung a four-spot on Pekka Rinne with just eight shots, chasing the star of Game 3 before the opening period ended.
And the Calgary Flames played more to their style over the first 40 minutes but then curdled into a defensive shell in the third, trying to protect just a one-goal lead. Colorado continued to destroy the Flames in high danger slot chances and finally found a game-tying powerplay marker in the dying minutes before surviving a penalty of their own in OT just before Mikko Rantanen sniped the winning goal.
It was another exciting night, but our lone wager on the under in Dallas was crushed with those early powerplay goals in the 5-1 final. Losing just the one play may have been fortunate as my leans on Toronto and Nashville would have also been sunk, on a night where I just didn’t see things well. Betting on the playoffs has never been a strength of mine and the start to this year’s has been no exception. Somehow, we’re just on the right side of even though at 7-9, +0.21 units, all thanks to the series win on Columbus.
Our remaining three series wagers are all in action tonight, so our rooting interests are clear. We’ll take a shot at a couple more totals and see how things go.
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Lot at all that Carolina red above, wow. After arguably being the better team in the first two games of the series but coming up on the wrong end of the scoreboard, the Hurricanes left no doubt in Game 3 with a good old-fashion 5-0 beat down where the final score really was indicative of how lopsided the play was throughout.
It’s been a series where the Canes have controlled play for most of the three games and now they finally have the lead in that all-important top category of ‘goals’, with a 7-5 edge while 5-on-5. The defending champs vow to be better tonight and no doubt they will be in what I expect to be the best game of the series to this point.
Will Carolina control play again? Probably. Will they come out on top in the goal category again? We’ll see. I think chances are good this series heads back to Washington two apiece, but I’d rather take a shot on the total. Special teams have been a factor each game with the powerplays clicking, so a couple more goals tonight would help get this over. Scoring chances have been there and the pace has been high, so after scoring a win with the under in Game 3, it’s time to switch gears tonight and go with the over.
After a Vladimir Tarasenko powerplay goal broke a scoreless tie 35 seconds into the third period of Game 4 Tuesday night, it appeared Jordan Binnington was going to put the team on his back and guide St. Louis to a commanding 3-1 series lead with an incredible shutout performance. Mark Scheifele had other ideas though and broke through the Blues defense to tip in the tying goal later in the period and Kyle Connor scored in overtime to draw the Winnipeg Jets even in the series.
It was a 2-1 OT win for the Jets, but Game 4 was really anything but close while 5-on-5. As what began in Game 2 and continued in Game 3, the Jets continued to tilt the ice and control play for the majority of the game, with the Blues powerplay really the only bright spot in what’s becoming a series that’s slipping away.
The Blues held a 2-0 series lead after winning the first two games on the road and most folks (myself included) expected this series to be short work against a Jets team many felt entered the playoffs overrated (I wasn’t in that crowd).
The market likes the value on St. Louis tonight with the -123 opener at Pinnacle bumped down twice today to the current -118 number. I really hope they’re right, but the credit I gave Winnipeg for their home crowd advantage is enough to keep me away. We have a lot invested with our Blues series wager, To Win the West Future and Stanley Cup Future, so this may seem like a good spot to hedge out a bit but looking for hedges in just the opening round is rarely ever a good idea. So, we’ll nervously sit back tonight and hope for the best. If this gets to a Game 7, then we may see what we can do.
The two best teams in the Western Conference are back in San Jose tonight for the first elimination game of the series and it appears I’ve backed the wrong dog in this fight from the start. We held high Cup Futures with Calgary and Colorado in this half of the Western bracket and with St. Louis and Nashville already covered in the top half, grabbing a good number on this series should have covered all our bases through to the Western Final.
In the end, I felt the home ice in this series was the tipping point and expected the home side to hold serve throughout, but the Sharks blinked in Game 2 to give up the advantage and Vegas did exactly what was expected in Games 3 and 4 with two dominant victories. Was Game 4 really that dominant though?
This has been an intense, physical series and the Sharks have certainly let Ryan Reaves and company get to them and the two games in Vegas saw them completely lose their composure. It was a 5-0 blowout but a look at the box score shows the Sharks may have actually held the edge during 5-on-5 play (which was only the first 40 minutes really as it seemed Vegas played the majority of the third on the powerplay) and even adjusting for score and venue, the numbers don’t change much, as San Jose still held their edges. Their powerplay was also incredibly dangerous even with just half the time Vegas saw, compiling more shots and scoring chances while having nearly 2.5 Expected Goals. The Game 4 scoreboard could have looked a lot different if just one or two bounces had landed the right way.
So, as bleak as things look for the Sharks, I’m sticking with the home ice advantage tonight and taking a shot on a reduced price here. I also believe the nastiness ended in Vegas and the Sharks will get back to playing hockey, so all those trips to the penalty box should lessen tonight and without all those extra powerplays, we should see a lower scoring game for the first time in this series (extreme high risk with Martin Jones still starting, I know. Please, please, be better Martin).
Bookmaker is still hanging 6.5 at normal juice while other shops are using a flat 6 at plus money for their default. If your book is only offering the 6 and you can’t get an alternate line, I’d still recommend the 6 at plus money (currently +120 at BetOnline).
I expect Vegas will finish this off back home in Game 6 and I have a game plan in mind prior to that game. Hopefully, San Jose can extend this series to Sunday to give us those options.
– END OF APRIL 18 REPORT –
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