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Conference finals pairings set in NHL

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

May 11, 2017 01:05 AM
Marc-Andre Fleury was one of the heroes for the Penguins.
© USA Today Sports Images

It probably shouldn’t have been as big a shock to the markets as it was.

The Washington Capitals were only -125 on the pre-series price vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins in their much anticipated second-round Eastern Conference showdown. But, when Game 7 skated up, that price had risen all the way to Washington -170 (off a one-time peak of -190!). Pittsburgh looked down and out. Washington was ready to end years and years of postseason frustration. Then... 

NHL: Penguins shock Caps to reach Eastern finals

This game broke the mold of those prior in fairly dramatic fashion. The big shocker: Pittsburgh dominated the flow of play virtually from start to finish. Let’s get to the numbers…

Pittsburgh (plus 150) 2, Washington 0

  • Shots: Pittsburgh 28, Washington 29

We’ve talked all series about Washington’s enormous edge in shot totals. You saw the game-by-game listing back in Tuesday’s newsletter. Entering Wednesday, Washington had outshot Pittsburgh 198-133 over just six games. NOW, they seemed certain to control that stat in Game 7 because they were trying to make history at home…against an opponent that had seemingly thrown in the towel with a lethargic Game 6 non-effort. 

First Period: Pittsburgh won shot count 10-8, the first time it had done that in the opening third all series. And in sharp contrast to an 11-3 first-period shot deficit back on Monday.

Second Period: Pittsburgh drew first blood with a goal mid-period. That largely came against the flow of play, and inspired Washington’s attack to win shot count 15-7 in this 20-minute hunk.

Third Period: Against all odds, PITTSBURGH (with a lead!) took seven of the first eight third-period shots, and 10 of the first 12 on their way to an 11-6 advantage…an insurance goal…and a shutout victory. It was Pittsburgh who rose to the occasion and dominated flow of play when the series was on the line. Made crystal clear by those in-game shot counts. 

Pittsburgh will have home ice in the Eastern finals against the Ottawa Senators. 

NHL: Ducks rally past Oilers to reach Western Finals

In sharp contrast to the first game of the night, here we had a pre-series favorite of -135 laying only -120 in Game 7 on home ice. The Anaheim Ducks fell behind the Edmonton Oilers early, but used a 16-3 shot explosion in the second period to trigger a comeback. 

Anaheim (-120) 2, Edmonton 1

  • Shots: Edmonton 24, Anaheim 30

The most contained game of a wide-open series, which is fairly common for Game 7s in hockey and basketball. Only three goals (tied for series low) on only 54 total shots (series low). Anaheim very clearly controlled the flow of play after that 1-0 goal deficit in the first period. Edmonton had 13 shots in the opening stanza, only 11 the rest of the night despite playing from behind almost the whole third period. 

Anaheim will have home ice in the Western finals vs. the Nashville Predators. 

NBA: Another boring blowout, Boston bullies Washington

In their first two games in Boston, the Washington Wizards made a point of trying to get off to fast starts. They jumped ahead 38-24 and 42-29 after a quarter in those outings, and came close to a service break in an overtime loss in Game 2.

The Celtics would have none of that in their third home game. Boston blew away the Wizards 33-21 out of the gate…and kept right on blowing all night. 

Boston (-4) 123, Washington 101

  • Two-Point Pct: Washington 45%, Boston 56%
  • Three-Pointers: Washington 7/29, Boston 16/33

Obviously three-pointers were the big difference-maker. Boston was plus 27 points from long range on just a few more attempts. This was reminiscent of the series opener where Boston was 19 of 39 from behind the arc. In fact, you could say that Boston starts any battle with Washington plus a few treys on the scoreboard because of its skill set. The Wiz have to make up for that with a lot of extra 1’s and 2’s. 

Washington’s wins:

  • Boston plus 6 points on treys, Washington plus 25 points on 1’s and 2’s
  • Boston plus 15 points on treys, Washington plus 34 points on 1’s and 2’s

You can see the Wizards were dominant inside the arc in their two home victories, keyed by an aggressive offense and a stingy defense.

Boston’s wins:

  • Boston plus 27 points on treys, Washington plus 15 points on 1’s and 2’s.
  • Boston plus 9 points on treys, Boston plus 1 point on 1’s and 2’s in OT victory
  • Boston plus 27 points on treys, Washington plus 5 points on 1’s and 2’s

No way Washington can compete when Boston wins the trey category huge. Washington must now win two games in a row by staying aggressive on offense, while also doing a great job of hustling defensively around the arc. As handicappers and bettors, YOU must determine how these linchpin stats are going to play out the rest of the way. If Boston takes Game 6 off Friday to save everything for an all-out home effort (with extra rest) next Monday, then we may see one or two more alternate blowouts. 

The Over/Unders continued their Over trend for the series (now 4-1), as the market gradually climbs closer to reality. Games have landed on 234, 228 in regulation, 205, 223, and 224 on pace estimates of 93, 97, 96, 99, and 98 in regulation. It’s a consistently brisk series by playoff standards (average pace 96.6, average regulation scoring total 223, with medians of 97 and 224). The market started at 216, and was only up to 218 Wednesday night. 

Thursday brings Game 6 from Spurs/Rockets…

Thursday’s point spread (San Antonio leads 3-2)

  • San Antonio at Houston (-7, total of 214); 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

That price clearly assumes that Kawhi Leonard won’t be able to play at 100%. Houston was only -5.5 and -5 in their prior home games, and could only manage a straight up and ATS split. Game day news could cause a quick market adjustment, so be sure you stay in touch with VSiN programming and our Twitter account. If Leonard is ruled out, that line might move to -8 or more. If Leonard is shown recovering quickly from a tweaked ankle (which can happen with that particularly injury), we’d likely see a drop down to six. 

MLB: Quick Interleague update

The favorites all won Wednesday, creating a 3-3 split in Interleague action. Though, Washington had to stage a frantic late rally to survive Baltimore as big favorites. 

Wednesday’s AL winners in IL matchups

  • Seattle (-120) 11, Philadelphia 6
  • Texas (-200) 4, San Diego 3
  • Houston (-200) 4, Atlanta 2

Wednesday’s NL winners in IL matchups

  • Washington (-175) 7, Baltimore 6
  • Milwaukee (-120) 7, Boston 4
  • Arizona (-130) 7, Detroit 1

Interleague records (through Wednesday) 

  • American League 30, National League 20
  • Adjusted for money lines: American League plus 8.7 units
  • American League at home: 16-6 (plus 9.1 units)
  • American League on the road: 14-14 (minus 0.4 units)

The AL did win both home games (Texas and Houston), while falling to .500 on the road for the season with a 1-3 mark (Seattle the only road winner). We’ll do our best to squeeze in updates through the season whenever multiple IL matchups are on the schedule. (Remember that unit counts are approximate because different locales have different closing lines).

Golf: “Fifth Major” begins Thursday at TPC Sawgrass

Pro golf returns to the sports betting spotlight over the next four days, with its “fifth major” sitting nicely between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness on the sports calendar (and helped by the temporary absence of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers from the NBA Playoff schedule).

The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass will have one of the strongest international fields of the year. Here are consensus Las Vegas odds entering Thursday’s first round.  

  • Dustin Johnson 5 to 1
  • Rory McIlroy 10 to 1
  • Jordan Spieth 12 to 1
  • Sergio Garcia 15 to 1

All other golfers return 20 to 1 or more. As Gill Alexander and guest Brady Kannon explained on “A Number’s Game” Wednesday, analytics-based handicapping strategies have found more randomness than usual in this event. There aren’t clear statistical indicators that tell you in advance who’s likely to play well beyond the basics of raw talent. Obviously the ultimate winner will have sterling stats once the weekend is in the books. Can you see through the sawgrass in advance? 

Matt Youmans talked about his favorite longshots and outlined the event here at the website to help gamblers consider their options.  

NFL: How many games will bad teams win?

With Cantor Gaming recently releasing early point spreads for the first 16 weeks of the 2017 NFL regular season, discussion has been rampant about what those spreads imply for betting Regular Season Win propositions. 

If you’re new to sports betting, or tackling this particular prop, be careful…it can get tricky and counter-intuitive. Let us ask you this. If you knew in advance that a poor team was going to be 5-point underdogs EVERY time they took the field in their 16 games, what would you project their final record to be?

  • 0-16, because “the line” says they’ll never win?
  • 3-13, because even bad teams win sometimes?
  • 5-11, because upsets are even more common in that price range?

Too many casual fans knee-jerk to horrible results when they hear that a team is likely to be underdogs every time (or almost every time, like Cleveland in the early 2017 point spreads). Turning those point spreads into percentage equivalents makes it much easier to visualize true expectations. 

A 5-point underdog is equivalent to about plus 200 on a no-vigorish moneyline. Meaning, they’ll lose two out of every three games over the long haul. That's a 33% win percentage and a 67% loss percentage. If you’re expected to win 33% of 16 games, your projected record is 5.3 wins and 10.7 losses. The team in our example would have a Regular Season Win total on the Las Vegas board of either 5 or 5.5 even though they wouldn’t be favored to win any one single game. Counter-intuitive the first time you confront the concept…but logical once you think it through. 

South Point Sportsbook Director Chris Andrews talked about this to Brent Musburger on the day his Regular Season Win totals were posted for public betting. And he’s talked to other hosts about it since. As Chris explained, at their most basic level, win totals are derived by:

  • Using Power Ratings to project game-by-game point spreads
  • Turning those projected point spreads into equivalent moneyline percentages
  • Adding up the fractions

If a game is pick-em, each team is “given” half a win. One that grades out as 80/20 for the favorite goes down as eight-tenths of a win for the favorite, two-tenths of a win for the underdog. And, so on. 

If you’re just now starting your NFL handicapping process, knowing full well that you still have about 3.5 months to bet the Regular Season Win props and early lines, understanding the creation process will help your search for edges.

Thanks for visiting VSiN City Thursday. If you have any handicapping strategies or topics you’d like to see discussed on these pages, please drop us a note. Subscribing for morning email delivery is very easy. You can do so by clicking here. And, every new day brings more reasons to follow us on Twitter. Don’t miss a single bulletin!

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