Hockey bettors were surprised early and often Saturday while getting a glimpse into what will be the new normal on Day 1 of the restart.
The first shocker coming when the New York Rangers took the ice for warmup and veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was in the starters net in place of Igor Shesterkin. Just about everyone believed the rookie sensation would start the game. In the 30 minutes that followed before puck drop, the market moved from as low as -120 to as high as -135 in favor of the Hurricanes who won the game 3-2. Of course, Lundqvist wasn’t the reason that the Rangers lost the game, and this wasn’t a coaching decision. Head coach David Quinn’s hands were tied due to a suspected injury to his preferred starter. Shesterkin was the better of the two in 2019-20, though, so the line move made sense.
The same can’t be said for Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippet, who chose to start 38-year-old Mike Smith in place of Mikko Koskinen. The decision predictably backfired as the Chicago Blackhawks skated to a 6-4 win. The Blackhawks price fell from as high as 130 to as low as 110 after the announcement was made and the bettors responsible for that price move were rewarded as Smith allowed 5 goals on 1.9 expected goals. Koskinen was the projected starter heading into the series and we should expect to see him in Game 2. However Tippett and Smith spent time together in Arizona, so we shouldn’t totally dismiss that he gets a chance to redeem himself, even if he shouldn’t.
In the late marquee game, Matt Murray got the start for the Pittsburgh Penguins. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise due to the fact that he and head coach Mike Sullivan have a long history together that includes multiple Stanley Cup runs. However, Murray’s counterpart, Tristan Jarry is regarded by many to be the better option. The Montreal Canadiens ( 145) came away with the victory, though. However, they were very fortunate to do so. The Habs scored goals by any means necessary and received phenomenal goaltending from Carey Price who saved 2.8 goals above expected. In a game that was decided in overtime (3-2) one has to wonder if Jarry could’ve tipped the scale for his team. However, since Murray didn’t have a bad game by traditional hockey standards (.914 Sv%) he will likely get the start in Game 2.
Going forward, expect more of the same when it comes to news—particularly related to starting goaltenders—hitting the market about 30 minutes before the game gets underway. If informational handicapping is your game, you’re going to have a hard time finding an edge as every other bettor will be receiving news at the same time. Readers of VSiN’s 2020 Hockey Betting Guide were made aware of the fact no independent media would be permitted into the bubble and, as a result, were already anticipating a surprise or two during the warm-ups.
All statistics come courtesy of Evolving Hockey.