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Strange but true playoff stories

By Staff
VSiN.com

April 18, 2017 12:03 AM

Which is more amazing…FOUR hockey playoff games going OT on the same night…or one NBA player scoring 27 points on 7 shots from the field before another scores 37 on 14?! Just another night of intense sports action in VSiN City.

Through the looking glass, NHL wonderland is even more upside down
It was already pretty crazy before Monday night. Road teams were winning more than home teams. Pre-playoff Stanley Cup favorites were struggling badly with big underdogs. Projected zigzaggers just kept zigging, while bounce back teams got closer to getting bounced. 

And…then…FOUR OVERTIMES IN ONE NIGHT. That hadn't happened since 1985!

Toronto ( 130) 4, Washington 3 (in overtime) 

  • Shots: Washington 26, Toronto 28

Yes…three games in this series…three overtimes…and three head scratchers as Toronto’s “shock the world” story continues. It was already a surprise that pre-series 330 underdog Toronto took Washington to extra time in the opener. Nobody thought they’d win the next TWO!
 
Washington jumped out to a 3-1 lead just over five minutes into the second period. Instead of tucking tail and accepting their pre-ordained doormat fate, the Maple Leafs forced a tie by the end of the second period. Then, they won shot attempts by a very decisive 9-3 in the third period. That aggressiveness was paid off 1:37 into extra time with the game winner by Tyler Bozak on a power play. 

We alerted you Monday that the least market-respected team in the playoffs led “equal strength” scoring 5-3 in the first two road games over the most market-respected team. That’s now 8-6 after a 3-3 tie here. Washington only leads shot attempts 120-116 after that 3-shot dud in Monday’s third period. 

This series was supposed to be a tune-up for the Caps. They haven’t yet established in the flow of play that they’re even the superior side.  

Ottawa ( 145) 4, Boston 3 (in overtime)

  • Shots: Ottawa 32, Boston 20

Boston was the only first round favorite that didn’t have home ice advantage. They were seen as so superior to Ottawa that they were -180 to advance anyway! Now, they trail two games to one and have yet to launch more shot attempts in any of their three outings. 

Ottawa caught Boston surprisingly flat, jumping out to a 3-0 lead less than 24 minutes into the game. Like Toronto, Boston would rally to tie by the end of the second period. Unlike Toronto, they weren’t able to send their fans home happy. 

Even strength scoring is 6-6 to this point, with Ottawa leading shot count 88-74. 

Nashville (pick-em) 3, Chicago 2 (in overtime)

  • Shots: Chicago 36, Nashville 49

Order was on the verge of being restored in this series when Chicago led 2-0 in the third period. Nashville forced overtime. “Normal” may be a city in Illinois but it ain’t the word for this series or the NHL playoffs. 

Note that host Nashville outshot Chicago 18-9 in the first period, when it was supposed to be the road dog playing with fire. Then won the third period and overtime 3-0 on the scoreboard with a shot advantage of 22-15. Predators are now up three games to none in the race to four, with an 8-1 series edge in "even strength" scoring. 

Anaheim (plus 115) 5, Calgary 4 (in overtime)

  • Shots: Anaheim 27, Calgary 32

Calgary blew a 4-1 lead! Anaheim came all the way back to force the eleventh overtime of the 2017 postseason. Then the Ducks won on a fortunate goal just moments into extra time. That's a three games to none lead for Anaheim as well.  Three of Calgary's goals tonight were on the power play. Anaheim leads "even strength" scoring 8-2 in the series. So many oddities to report tonight. Here's another. This is the first game in the Western brackets to go Over the market total in 12 opportunities. One Over, six Unders, five pushes.

What a night. Teams blew leads of 3-1, 3-0, 2-0, and 4-1. Only Ottawa righted its ship. 

A quick look at the Las Vegas betting lines for Tuesday’s action...

  • Montreal at NY Rangers (pick, 5--Under -135); 7:05 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network
  • Pittsburgh at Columbus (-120, 5.5--Under -210); 7:35 p.m. ET on CNBC
  • Edmonton at San Jose (-120, 5--Under -130); 10:05 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (and an early guest on VSiN) wrote about the zigzag theory in the NHL and NBA in an article that was posted late Monday. You can read it here for additional postseason handicapping context.

NHL Championship odds in constant flux
The schedule for VSiN City isn’t quite in sync with how futures prices change from day-to-day in the very fast-moving NHL Playoffs. Lines involving each night’s teams are pulled when the games are in action. Updated prices go up after we’ve been delivered to your email box. We want to at least keep you abreast of the flow of the market. Here’s a quick look at the South Point’s NHL futures prices entering the new week (before Monday night’s games)…

NHL Championship Odds thru Sunday
Pittsburgh 3 to 1
Washington 4 to 1
Anaheim, Nashville 8 to1
Chicago, Montreal and Boston 10 to 1
St. Louis 12 to 1
San Jose 15 to 1
NY Rangers 20 to 1
Toronto and Minnesota 30 to 1
Edmonton and Ottawa 40 to 1
Columbus 50 to 1
Calgary 100 to1

You can see that Washington had already fallen to 4 to 1 from early co-favorites with Chicago after splitting their first two games with Toronto. They’ll likely fall further before they take the ice again. Chicago fell all the way to 10-1 after losing two home games to Nashville (who jumped all the way up to 8 to 1). Those odds will obviously change dramatically soon. Boston will have a higher return after tonight’s adjustment is made (while Ottawa will scoot up that list). Pittsburgh has, at least temporarily, moved into the favorite’s role after taking a 3-0 series lead on Columbus (who fell off the map!). 

When the brackets get less crowded, we’ll be sure to incorporate Stanley Cup futures into our day-to-day coverage. 

Updated NBA Championship Odds
Monday’s results will do little to influence NBA futures prices because Cleveland and San Antonio won in expected fashion (key stats in a moment). 

NBA Championship Odds
Golden State -220
Cleveland off (was 7/2 after game one)
San Antonio off (was 5/1 after game one)
Houston 15 to 1
Boston 30 to 1
Washington 35 to 1
LA Clippers and Toronto 50 to 1
Milwaukee and Utah 75 to 1
Chicago and Oklahoma City 150 to 1
Indiana off (was 250 to 1, will now fall further)
Atlanta 300 to 1
Memphis off (was 300 to 1, will now fall further unless Tony Allen comes back)
Portland 600 to 1

Golden State is still favored over the field at better than 1 to 2 odds. Cleveland’s defense is a clear weak spot…but the market can’t isolate the team in the East best positioned to take advantage. Boston is “second favorite” at 30 to 1 despite losing their opener at home. 

Cleveland, San Antonio looked like they were airing re-runs
Not exact replicas. But, there were plenty of similarities between Monday night’s pair of NBA Playoff games and Saturday’s first chapters. 

  • Cleveland won straight up but didn’t cover
  • San Antonio won straight up and covered
  • Cleveland was unstoppable on offense in both games
  • San Antonio was very stingy on defense in both games
  • Cleveland blew a comfortable lead in a scoring showcase that flew Over
  • San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard followed up going 10 of 11 on two-pointers and 9 of 9 on free throws with 9 of 12 on two-pointers and 19 of 19 on free throws

Yes, that’s 19 of 23 on two-point shots and 28 straight free throws for a “defensive” superstar who will get out-voted in the MVP race by Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Let’s run the numbers…

Cleveland (-8.5) 117, Indiana 111

  • Two-Point Pct: Indiana 56%, Cleveland 64%
  • Three-Pointers: Indiana 8/20, Cleveland 13/31
  • Kevin Love: 27 points on only 7 shots from the field!

A few differences of note from Saturday. The pace was much faster (97 possessions instead of 89), both teams shot better on two-pointers, and we had that hilarious sequence where Indiana was trying to guard Kevin Love by having Lance Stephenson nip at his heels. Love would shoot 6 of 7 from the floor, and 12 of 12 on free throws while posting one of the most efficient scoring lines ever. (Love scored 27 points on 7 shots, compared to Kawhi’s 37 points on 14 shots.)

Still, Indiana roared back from 19 points down to cover. And, if they hadn’t spent those extra few possessions not doing anything about the Love/Stephenson matchup…the Pacers might have been positioned to steal again. They got as close as four in the final minutes.

In terms of the Eastern brackets, Cleveland’s defense remains abysmal. Will it matter if nobody can slow down their weapons? Yes, Cleveland can have some lapses from the free throw line (14 of 27 in game one). Yes, they can be turnover prone (18 giveaways tonight). They’ve still scored 226 points in 185 possessions, for an efficiency mark well over 120. 

Congrats to new VSiN host Pauly Howard for his best bet on the Over here. Scoring by quarters of 61-60-53-54 left little suspense for that one. To this point, the marketplace has really misread the impact of Cleveland’s current style on first-quarter, first-half and full-game totals. 

San Antonio (-10.5) 96, Memphis 82

  • Two-point Pct: Memphis 44%, San Antonio 50%
  • Free throws: Memphis 13 of 15, San Antonio 31 of 32

Mostly another “boring” Spurs clinic where they taught basketball so mercilessly that you felt sorry for their opponent. It wasn’t as bad as the 111-82 obliteration in Game 1. But, you never got the sense that Memphis was a threat to win. Slowest game of the playoffs so far with just 85 possessions per team. Biggest issue for the Spurs was the turnover department, which they lost 14-8 largely due to complacency. That’s a lot of giveaways for such a slow game. No room for overconfidence from the second round on. 

Saturday’s shockers set up trio of tantalizing Tuesday tussles 
There were three big upsets on the opening day of NBA playoff action this past Saturday. All three of those series resume Tuesday with home favorites very clearly in “must-win” situations. 

Tuesday (Road teams all lead 1-0 in series)

  • Milwaukee at Toronto (-7, 193); 7 p.m. ET on NBA Network
  • Chicago at Boston (-7, 205.5); 8 p.m. ET on TNT
  • Utah at LA Clippers (-9, 196), 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT

You can see that the Clippers’ line jumped WAY up from -6 in the opener because the injury to Utah’s Rudy Gobert is combined with that bounce back spot for the hosts. The other two games are about where they were as the market tries to balance “must-win” for Toronto and Boston with a sentiment of “man, those Game One prices looked way too high in retrospect.” 

It’s not like Milwaukee and Chicago shot way over their heads to score those upsets, or benefited from bad luck miracles from the hosts. Milwaukee’s athleticism isn’t going anywhere. Nor is Chicago’s big skill set edge in rebounding. 

Do you play the “must-win” angle? Or, ponder the possibility that oddsmakers and sharps may have underestimated the level of parity involved in these pairings? Be sure you monitor line moves throughout the day on VSiN programming. Sports fans have realized they need to “Follow the Money” in what is clearly “A Number’s Game” with help from the men Brent Musburger calls “My Guys in the Desert!”

The last of the “Game 2’s” will be played Wednesday. Early lines…

Wednesday (Home teams all lead 1-0 in series)

  • Atlanta at Washington (-5, 211); 7 p.m. ET on NBA Network
  • Oklahoma City at Houston (-7.5, 224); 8 p.m. ET on TNT
  • Portland at Golden State (-15, 220.5); 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Less drama here coming in because all the hosts held serve. Atlanta has the best shot at making things interesting, but will have to cut down on turnovers (19 Sunday in the series opener). 

Thanks for your Tuesday visit to VSiN City. Before we let you go, here’s a link to the Hardball Times article Gill Alexander was discussing Monday about the potential use of a humidor to store baseballs in Arizona. Smart bettors try to anticipate developments and beat the market to the punch. Be sure you’re paying attention to this possible future run-reducer for Arizona Diamondbacks home games. If you were away from VSIN Monday, that article and Gill’s in-depth explanation of the science in play are very much worth your time. 

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