Blues bring zig-zag theory back to life

May 30, 2019 12:07 AM
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Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson celebrates with left wing Pat Maroon (7) after scoring the game winning goal against the Boston Bruins in OT.
© Imagn

A dramatic bounce back from the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night in the Stanley Cup Finals showed why so many bettors consider using the “zig zag” theory in playoff betting.

The pre-series underdog was badly outclassed by the Boston Bruins in Monday’s series opener, getting outshot 38-20, and losing the analytic stat “expected goals” by a wide 3.83 to 1.24 margin according to hockey website Natural Stat Trick.

In Wednesday’s rematch? 

  • St. Louis virtually reversed shot count, winning the stat 37-23. Now, through two games, the Bruins only hold a slim 61-57 edge in shots despite being a medium favorite on home ice. 
  • St. Louis won “high-danger scoring chances” 15-10, after dropping that important indicator stat 10-3 in the opener. The Blues were getting the best of “flow of play” all evening, not getting discouraged when they could only forge a tie through three periods.
  • St. Louis won “expected goals” 2.88 to 1.86. More than a full goal better than Boston despite having to play on the road…and despite the Bruins enjoying five power play opportunities (compared to just three for the Blues). That’s the power of the zig-zag. The Game One loser brings more intensity just as the winner takes its foot off the gas. 

Before the series began, Boston was in the neighborhood of -150 to -160 to win the Stanley Cup. Heading to St. Louis for Saturday’s third game, the market is now showing a virtual toss-up. Boston is still seen as the superior “neutral ice” team. But three of the final five games will be in St. Louis if it goes the distance. 

The Bruins can put the odds back in their favor by “breaking serve” on the road Saturday or Monday to regain home ice advantage. 

Zig-zag bettors will definitely be looking at Boston to bounce back Saturday, with the intangibles in its favor after watching an eight-game winning streak come to an end. Oddsmakers will try to reduce their exposure by shading prices against the preferred strategy. 

Are the Bruins a smart bet? Many sharps believe Boston still has a higher performance ceiling given recent playoff form, and what appears to be an ability to create more power play opportunities in this matchup with aggression. That angle could be the ultimate tie-breaker if this remains a hard-fought series. 

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