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Golden nights for home teams in NHL playoff openers

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Tomas Nosek celebrates after scoring a goal in Game 1--the only goal in the Golden Knights' first playoff victory.

Big news from Vegas as the Golden Knights win their historic NHL playoff opener, and VSiN begins an exciting new relationship with the Arena Football League. Bonus NBA and MLB coverage from the city that never sleeps. Hey…we mean VSiN City!

NHL Playoffs: Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, and Vegas defend home ice with Game One victories 

Plenty of drama (at least in two games) but no upsets as ice turned to chalk on the opening night of the 2018 NHL playoffs. Quick recaps in Nevada Rotation order…

Winnipeg (-200) 3, Minnesota 2

Shots on Goal: Minnesota 20, Winnipeg 40

Power Plays: Minnesota 0/1, Winnipeg 1/2

Things got dicey for the big favorite when it trailed 2-1 early in the third period. But, the raw stats show that Winnipeg was getting the best of “flow of play” all evening. You see the monstrous 40-20 edge in shots on goal. Through a scoreless first period, it was 13-4 for the Jets. In the third period, when it was time to tie and win the game, the edge was 19-4 for the home team. 

While the Wild can take solace that they were in it the whole way…there’s no chance this dog is going to spring a series upset unless it equalizes those shot counts. Game Two will be Friday in Winnipeg. The winner of this series gets the winner of Nashville/Colorado in the next round. 

Pittsburgh (-185) 7, Philadelphia 0

Shots on Goal: Philadelphia 24, Pittsburgh 33

Power Plays: Philadelphia 0/4, Pittsburgh 1/4

Defending NHL champion Pittsburgh was already ahead 1-0 a couple of minutes into the game, before many remembered the 7 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. Pacific start time. By 14:09 of the first period, it was already 3-0 Penguins and the rout was on. 

Horrible sign for the Flyers that they couldn’t win shots on goal while trailing big almost the whole game. Pittsburgh threw a shutout without ever having to go into a protective shell. Handicappers shouldn’t expect seven goals per game from the favorite. But, this is the #3 offense in the league facing the #15 ranked defense. 

Game Two will be Friday in Pittsburgh. The winner of this series gets the winner of Columbus/Washington in the next round. 

Vegas (-145) 1, Los Angeles 0

Shots on Goal: Los Angeles 30, Vegas 28

Power Plays: Los Angeles 0/3, Vegas 0/3

The Golden Knights scored just over three minutes into the game on a deflection in front of the net. And…you could have gone to bed then! No more scoring, as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury earned the shutout. Not surprising it was a defensive struggle. Los Angeles had the best goals-against defense in the league during the regular season. Vegas was a respectable eighth.

Shots on goal ended tight even though the visitor trailed for almost 57 minutes out of 60. The Vegas offense isn’t the type to back off with only a one goal lead. Game Two will be Friday in Las Vegas. The winner of this series gets the winner of San Jose/Anaheim in the next round. 

NHL Playoffs: Crowded five-game Thursday schedule highlighted by debuts for favorites Tampa Bay and Nashville  

Plenty to look at, using the same indicators stats we discussed yesterday. We’ll take the games in Nevada Rotation order…

New Jersey at Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET on NHL Network)

Series Price: Tampa Bay -340

Game One Price: Tampa Bay -230, total of 5.5 (Over -130) 

Point/Goal Comparison

New Jersey: 97 points, plus 4 goal differential, -8 when 5-on-5

Tampa Bay: 113 points, plus 60 goal differential, plus 49 when 5-on-5

Offense/Defense Rankings (goals scored/allowed per game)

New Jersey: #15 on offense, #17 on defense

Tampa Bay: #1 on offense, #13 on defense

Tampa Bay entered the postseason as slight favorites over Pittsburgh to win the East at most betting shops. The Lightning do get a soft opener based on those huge goal differentials. But, they’re in the tougher half of the Eastern brackets, with the winner of Toronto/Boston waiting in the next round. 

Tampa Bay brings the best offense in the NHL to proceedings. But, the defense is less impressive, which often matters in the postseason. Pittsburgh has a similar profile with a #3 ranking on offense and #20 on defense. Tampa Bay really sets itself part from the whole league in that 5-on-5 category. Second best of the playoff teams is Nashville at plus 39. Second best in the East is Toronto at plus 28. As we noted yesterday, Pittsburgh was a shocking minus 13. 

New Jersey goes on the list of generic playoff teams who will need to catch some breaks to gain victories. 

Toronto at Boston (7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports)

Series Price: Boston -150

Game One Price: Boston -155, total of 6 (Under -115) 

Point/Goal Comparison

Toronto: 105 points, plus 45 goal differential, plus 28 when 5-on-5

Boston: 112 points, plus 56 goal differential, plus 27 when 5-on-5

Offense/Defense Rankings (goals scored/allowed per game)

Toronto: #4 on offense, #12 on defense

Boston: #6 on offense, #4 on defense

Fantastic series, with a pair of elites suffering the misfortune of running into each other out of the gate. Boston could have avoided this by winning its regular season finale. Now, we have virtual clones in goal differential and goals-per-game on offense squaring off. Key differences are defensive ranking and home ice advantage. Toronto is good enough to swipe one of the first two battles in Boston. It’s easy to imagine this series going the distance. 

If you only watch one game tonight, this is the one to see. Also, worth thinking about Toronto in a rolling parlay. Not because they’re “the best team in the league.” But, this is a talented team that’s a series dog here…and would be a bigger series dog vs. Tampa Bay in the next round…then isn’t likely to be any sort of pricey favorite after that. Even a sequence of plus 130, plus 140, plus 120, plus 120 would yield a rollover return of 25.72 to 1…higher than the current 20/1 on the futures board at the Westgate (it’s only 10/1 at the South Point). 

Columbus at Washington (7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network)

Series Price: Washington -135

Game One Price: Washington -145, total of 5.5 (Under -120) 

Point/Goal Comparison

Columbus: 97 points, plus 12 goal differential, plus 21 when 5-on-5

Washington: 105 points, plus 20 goal differential, plus 16 when 5-on-5

Offense/Defense Rankings (goals scored/allowed per game)

Columbus: #17 on offense, #10 on defense

Washington: #9 on offense, #16 on defense

Should also be an entertaining series, though it involves teams who were less accomplished than Boston and Toronto during the regular season. Those offense/defense rankings don’t impress. This winner will probably face Pittsburgh in the second round. Both teams were better in 5-on-5 goal differential than the Penguins this season. 

You might recall that Andy MacNeil (@pucktails) had a grading toward Columbus to win the series slightly more than half the time. He’ll be guesting on “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander throughout the playoffs. (Look for wall-to-wall coverage of the Vegas Golden Knights through the postseason on all VsiN shows!)

Colorado at Nashville (9:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports)

Series Price: Nashville -600

Game One Price: Nashville -270, total of 5.5 (Over -115) 

Point/Goal Comparison

Colorado: 95 points, plus 20 goal differential, plus 12 when 5-on-5

Nashville: 117 points, plus 56 goal differential, plus 39 when 5-on-5

Offense/Defense Rankings (goals scored/allowed per game)

Colorado: #10 on offense, #14 on defense

Nashville: #7 on offense, #2 on defense

Nashville is the top power in the West because a solid stat composite is anchored by a great defense. Defensive wins championships, especially in hockey. Though, you can make a good case that the exorbitant series and Game One prices are out of whack. Nashville is clearly the better side…but Colorado isn’t a minor league team. Avalanche go on the list of generic playoff sides with Minnesota, Philadelphia, Columbus, and New Jersey…teams with double digit rankings in goals scored and goals allowed, near league average or slightly better. 

San Jose at Anaheim (10:30 p.m. ET on USA Network)

Series Price: Anaheim -125

Game One Price: Anaheim -145, total of 5 (Over -130) 

Point/Goal Comparison

San Jose: 100 points, plus 23 goal differential, minus 8 when 5-on-5

Anaheim: 101 points, plus 19 goal differential, plus 23 when 5-on-5

Offense/Defense Rankings (goals scored/allowed per game)

San Jose: #13 on offense, #9 on defense

Anaheim: #18 on offense, #3 on defense

A late-night attraction for you on the East Coast, prime time out West. Fans of the Vegas Golden Knights will be watching this series closely because the survivors meet up in the next round. A lot of similarities across the board. But…Anaheim does get meaningful clearance in 5-on-5 goal differential and on defense. That plus home ice might be enough to push them through. 

You’ll note the Over/Under here is only five goals (though some spots are at 5.5 with Under juice). The mix of mediocre offensive rankings with strong defensive rankings is the cause of that. 

Best of luck with your picks. We’ll run the game summaries from all but the latest curtain opener in our Friday report. 

NBA: Denver and Minnesota go overtime for the eighth seed, and the right to lose to Houston in the opening round of the playoffs 

Well, you can’t accuse either team of NOT wanting to make the playoffs despite the daunting task of having to face Houston in a best-of-seven that begins this weekend. An overtime thriller sends Minnesota to its inevitable doom.

Minnesota (-4) 112, Denver 106 

2-point Pct: Denver 48%, Minnesota 50%

3-pointers: Denver 13/32, Minnesota 9/23

Free Throws: Denver 11/18, Minnesota 19/25 

Rebounds: Denver 47, Minnesota 40

Turnovers: Denver 12, Minnesota 8

Pace: 89.6 (pro-rated for overtime, super-slow)

Classic, slow, playoff style basketball game. It was higher scoring in the first half than you’d expect at this pace because shots were falling. Scoring slowed down so much after that, it almost stayed Under 217 even with the extra five minutes. 

Keys for Minnesota were a clean offensive effort that scored very efficiently in such a slow encounter. Denver was able to hang tough with extra three-pointers and rebounds. Credit to what should have been tired Denver legs winning the fourth quarter 20-15, and the second half 47-39. Not a good sign for the Timberwolves that they were unable to protect an 8-point half time lead on home hardwood. 

Why did we say “inevitable doom” for Minnesota against Houston? The Timberwolves were only 9-9 their last 18 games, with wins coming mostly over tanking or disinterested opponents (like Memphis, the Lakers, Dallas, Atlanta, and New York). Minnesota was 2-7 in that stretch during teams who ultimately qualified for the brackets. 

You’re going to beat the Houston juggernaut in THAT form? 

Playoff matchups are set. We’ll run key preliminary stats in our Friday report, along with estimated “market” Power Ratings based on early point spreads. 

EAST (teams with home court advantage listed first)

Toronto vs. Washington

Boston vs. Milwaukee

Philadelphia vs. Miami

Cleveland vs. Indiana

WEST

Houston vs. Minnesota

Golden State vs. San Antonio

Utah vs. Oklahoma City

Portland vs. New Orleans

Action begins Saturday. Look for comprehensive coverage on VSiN broadcasts from now through the first tip off…and then all the way through the NBA Finals in June. 

MLB: Updating some stories we’ve been following

Only time for some baseball quickies today…

In the National League, Washington (-125) lost to Atlanta 5-3. That dropped the Nats 4.5 games behind the New York Mets, who won again in Miami as a favorite of -130. NYM moves to 10-1 for the season with that eighth straight win. Amazingly, the Nationals are currently in FOURTH place in the NL East, also trailing Atlanta and Philadelphia. (The Mets are the most profitable betting team in the Majors thus far, at plus 10.5 units…Atlanta is four units…Philly around break-even…Washington minus about 3.5 units.)

The Chicago Cubs (-160) routed Pittsburgh 13-5 to move within two games of the Pirates for first place in the NL Central. Arizona (pick-em) bullied San Francisco 7-3, to move to 9-3 atop the NL West standings. Who would have thought that NONE of Washington, Chicago, nor the LA Dodgers would be in first place two weeks into the new season? (The Cubs are still down two units for the season. Pittsburgh is up five units. Arizona is plus 6.5 units in the West.)

In the American League, the New York Yankees (pick-em) bounced back from a Tuesday blowout to beat Boston 10-7. The Red Sox still lead the AL East with a 9-2 record. The Yankees are back to .500 at 6-6, a game-and-a-half behind Toronto at 8-5. (In betting units, Boston is plus around 6.5 units, Toronto plus around 1.5 units, the Yankees down three units.)

Cleveland (-300) beat Detroit 5-1, and Minnesota (plus 140) beat Houston 9-8 (after blowing all of an 8-1 lead) to stay tied atop the AL Central. (Cleveland is still down a unit for the season, even with a 7-5 record, while Minnesota is plus about 2.5 units.)

The Los Angeles Angels (-115) finished off their sweep of Texas with a 7-2 win. Great start for the Halos (10-3, one game ahead of the 9-4 Astros). Texas looks to be in real trouble this season given its lack of competitiveness. Shohei Ohtani went 1 for 3 with an RBI as DH for the Angels. (LAA is the best profit team in the AL right now at plus seven units. Houston is plus 1.5, Texas down about 4.5 units.)

VSiN News: Arena Football League announces relationship with VSiN

Wednesday, the Arena Football League announced new partnerships with VSiN, DraftKings, Facebook, and Sportradar designed to intensify the fan experience in a sport that already features 50 yards of fury.

More on this story as it develops. Jonathan Von Tobel has already announced on twitter that he’ll be handicapping the AFL for Point Spread Weekly. Look for special programming every week of the season previewing games from the market perspective.

The 2018 season will feature four teams playing a 12-game schedule over 13 weeks (four games against each other with one bye week). Those four teams are:

Albany Empire

Baltimore Brigade

Philadelphia Soul

Washington Valor

The Cleveland Gladiators are still part of the league, but are on hiatus because of planned construction at the Quicken Loans Arena once the Cleveland Cavaliers finish their NBA Playoff campaign. 

Regular-season results will determine seeding for the championship playoff. In an interesting wrinkle, the semifinals consist of a home-and-home series between the #1 seed and the #4 seed; and the #2 seed vs. the #3 seed. The winners will play a one-game Arena Bowl Championship showdown. 

Action begins Friday, with Baltimore at Washington (7 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. Las Vegas time). Saturday, Philadelphia visits Albany with the same start time. 

In market terms, the AFL has historically seen its Las Vegas and offshore point spreads driven by sharp action. Be sure you respect early line moves these first few weeks…as it’s a battle of “oddsmakers vs. sharps” in arriving at the closing number. 

If the league’s new relationships help drive public interest, handle will increase through the season. VSiN is looking forward to opening kickoff. And we thank Washington Valor quarterback Nick Davila for being the first active pro athlete to appear as a live guest on our network!

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