Player props alluring in NHL playoffs

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Bettors who followed my advice before the opener of the Stanley Cup Final now have a wager with some real positive expected value as the Tampa Bay Lightning picked up a 5-1 victory. Coming into the series, I estimated the Lightning would win 77% of the time. But now that they have a lead, their chances are closer to 84%, which means a fair series line is about -530. The Lightning are listed as -560 favorites at DraftKings to win the Stanley Cup, while the Canadiens’ odds are + 430. That implies a fair line of -450, or about an 82% chance that the Lightning will win three more games before the Canadiens win four. 

In other words, there’s no value in betting the Lightning to win the series now, and there certainly is no value in betting the Canadiens to win the series at + 430. Hopefully bettors took the opportunity to bet the Lightning at a bargain series price of -275. Series spread bets are also off to a good start, of course. For example, if you laid -135 or better on the Lightning to cover the -1.5 series spread, your chances of winning have gone from 59% to about 71% (-239) after the win, which matches the odds currently listed by bookmakers.

 

Now let’s talk Game 2. The Lightning have a game plan. They are ferocious on the forecheck, but they’re also incredibly dangerous in transition. So, unlike the Golden Knights, who could force turnovers and make it hard for the Canadiens to cross into the offensive zone, the Lightning can turn a defensive play into a scoring chance in a split second. That was evident in Monday night’s game. Oddsmakers have adjusted the game line heading into Wednesday’s matchup, and the Lightning’s price has risen about 15 cents. I estimate they’ll win Game 2 about 69% of the time, which translates to a fair line of -223. There’s some value in betting the Lightning to win the game, but shop around as sportsbooks are offering anywhere from -205 to -220 and you don’t want to lay the latter. As far as your Lightning series wager goes, if they can win the next one and take a 2-0 lead, they’ll win the Stanley Cup 94% of the time.

Player prop bets can be a bettor’s friend here, but there’s obviously a ton of variance (and correlation) that goes along with betting them. A lot of the time, I’m betting against players on the same line scoring points or getting assists, and when one of those bets goes wrong, another loser isn’t far behind. Of course, this also works in my favor. Besides the two prop bets I was able to throw out Monday at the tail end of my segment on “A Numbers Game,” I ended up betting a plethora of chalky prop bets in Game 1, and it was a good night. However, it could’ve easily been a bad one. I’m sharing the player props I bet in Game 1 because sportsbooks don’t put up most player props until game day. The game line and total haven’t changed much, so the odds on player props shouldn’t either. The books listed are the shops where I found the best available price on that prop.

 

It’s easy to estimate which bets I think are the best by comparing the difference between the true win percentage (what the line should be) and the odds offered by the sportsbook in the third column from the left. For example, Cole Caufield No Points at DraftKings was the biggest edge last time around. Jeff Petry Under 0.5 Points at Bet MGM was the smallest edge but still a great bet. I will likely take a similar approach to betting player props in Game 2, hopefully with some additions. The game line and the total imply a score of about 3-2 in favor of the Lightning, and future game lines in the series will likely convert to something similar. I’ll be banking on Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning to shut down the Canadiens in Game 2. Tune in to “A Numbers Game” and “Prime Time Action” on Wednesday for more.

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