Hockey fans and bettors should prepare for a thrilling battle in the Stanley Cup Finals that begin Monday night featuring the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins (NBC Sports, 8 p.m. ET)
Both teams played well down the stretch of the regular season. Both have played at a high level through the playoffs. Both surged to the finish line in their respective conference finals with the Bruins sweeping four straight from the Carolina Hurricanes and the Blues going 4-0-1 straight up in regulation over their last five games vs. the San Jose Sharks.
If you’ve been following sports betting media, you’ve probably heard that many gamblers have big payoffs riding on the Blues from futures bets made during the regular season. St. Louis was as distant as 200/1 to win the Cup at its nadir. Great results after getting healthy back in January pulled sharp action into the marketplace like a magnet. Sharps who missed the high points still got big money in at odds as high as 80/1.
What caused this upsurge of interest in the Blues so far back? St. Louis unleashed an 11-game winning streak on the league from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19. That included eight road games (a great indicator for quality), a road shutout of regular season juggernaut Tampa Bay (which raised eyebrows) and a home-and-home sweep of eventual Central Division winner Nashville.
Even though hockey playoffs are often a crapshoot, St. Louis was clearly mis-priced back then as a potential threat. The Blues were playing championship caliber hockey in February. Futures prices were slow to acknowledge this new reality. VSiN usually discourages bettors from investing in futures because of an inflated house edge. In this instance, the house had its eyes shut.
After opening 21-22-5 through their first 48 games, the Blues finished with a 24-6-4 blitz.
So, why are the Blues a series underdog to Boston? The Bruins are likely to close around -160 to claim the Cup (risk $160 to win $100, or anything in that ratio). The Blues should return around plus 140 (risk $100 to win $140, etc.).
The Bruins were 22-8-4 in their last 34 games, just two games worse than St. Louis down the stretch. Boston’s been more impressive in the postseason, going 12-5 vs. Toronto, Columbus and Carolina, while St. Louis was 12-7 vs. Winnipeg, Dallas and San Jose. And, of course, the Bruins have home ice if needed because of a superior regular season point total.
A key statistic compiled by hockey analytics website Natural Stat Trick also suggests Boston has been the more aggressive side of late. The Bruins won “high danger scoring chances” by a count of 58-36 in its sweep of Carolina. That’s a differential of plus 22 in four games. St. Louis was only plus 11 in six games with San Jose, winning that indicator stat 68-57.