The Complete NHL Playoffs Betting Guide

Adam Boothe

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 7:31 AM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019 7:31 AM UTC

The world's most prized hockey trophy, The Stanley Cup, will once again be fought over beginning next. The NHL playoffs are a can't miss event on the sports betting calendar!

<p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;blockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" data-lang=\"en\"&gt;&lt;p lang=\"en\" dir=\"ltr\"&gt;For the second straight season, the &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/NHLBruins?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;@NHLBruins&lt;/a&gt; and &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;@MapleLeafs&lt;/a&gt; have a date in the &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt; Playoffs.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;It all starts on April 10th.&lt;/p&gt;— NHL (@NHL) &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/NHL/status/1113269436490878976?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;April 3, 2019&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;\n&lt;script async src=\"https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js\" charset=\"utf-8\"&gt;&lt;/script&gt;\n"}[/]</p><p>Welcome to the NHL Playoffs Betting Guide! The aim of this article is to be a comprehensive home from which to understand the basics of hockey betting with some additional focus on profitable strategies you might wish to employ. It is not a 'tipster' article, but rather a 'here is how you can set yourself up for success betting NHL playoffs'...article, though a book would probably be optimal! I hope both seasoned NHL fans and newbies to the sport will find it educational and practical!</p><h2>Playoff Format</h2><p>The current structure features sixteen teams playing best-of-seven series until one team is left standing. The bracket is split into the two respective conferences; Eastern and Western, which will see the winner from each face-off in the Stanley Cup Finals. Each series begins with the higher seed being given home-ice advantage. They will play the first two games in their own arena before playing the next two on the road. Games 5 &amp; 7 will take place in the same location as games 1 &amp; 2. So, as you can see the most critical games in a series, the first two and two of the final three, will be granted to the higher seed.</p><p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;blockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" data-lang=\"en\"&gt;&lt;p lang=\"en\" dir=\"ltr\"&gt;I’m kind of a big deal... &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt;&lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt;&lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt; &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt; &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt;&lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt;&lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt; &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt; &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt;&lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#StanleyCup&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;— The Stanley Cup (@StanleyCup) &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/StanleyCup/status/1111627780909867008?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;March 29, 2019&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;\n&lt;script async src=\"https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js\" charset=\"utf-8\"&gt;&lt;/script&gt;\n"}[/]</p><p>In short, making it to the Finals and lifting the Cup is a marathon. I am not going to draw comparisons between the hockey playoff format and other sports; each has its own challenges. However, the physical endurance needed to win 16 games, plus a handful of losses along the way, is not replicated in other sports.</p><p>The Conn Smythe award for playoff MVP is awarded based on the entire post-season, not just the final game or series like other professional sports. That said it has always gone to a player in the finals, deservedly.</p><h2>Playoffs v Regular Season Betting</h2><p>It seems like common sense to say you should not approach the playoffs the same way as the regular season - but why and how? The most obvious answer would be because each series is a best-of-seven grind. Unlike some other mainstream sports, the polarity between the best and the worst in the playoffs is not very great. Only 17% of series end in four games, and 28% of those sweeps were by the team that started on the road [often the underdog].</p><p>Home ice 'should' also be a big advantage in the playoffs. Home teams historically win 57% of their games. However unsurprisingly the home teams' win percentage in game one, approximately 64%, takes a hit if it gets to game seven, 58%. The game that holds the strongest statistical advantage for the home team is Game 5 with a slightly higher 65%. That said, it is not comparable to the NBA where approximately 65% take care of business on home court. Additionally, the numbers over the past decade have been somewhat trending downwards for NHL home teams. 2012 was a record year for road victories at a surprising 54%! 2018 also was not a good post-season for home teams with slightly less than a winning percentage. In summary, while I would still grant it being an advantage in the post-season, bettors should shy away from the 'well they're playing at home' mentality. One interesting piece of research was done into if referees play the biggest role in a home field bias. However, as many New Orleans Saints backers can attest to this year, it doesn't always correlate!</p><h2><strong>Quick Facts</strong></h2><ul> <li><em>Teams that take game one go on to win 70% of series, both games one and two, 87%</em></li> <li><em>Teams up 3-2 close out 80% of series</em></li> <li><em>Teams up 3-0 sweep Game 4 61% of the time and close in Game 5 28%</em></li> <li><em>Home teams that go 1-1 only hold 55% to take the series; 40% probability it goes to six games and 37% we see all seven</em></li></ul><p> </p><p>Only nine times in NHL history has a team comeback from being down 0-3, to force a Game 7 and they've only won four of those. However, it has happened four times in the past nine seasons, and both the 2010 Flyers and 2014 Kings completed the reverse sweep with both going to the Cup finals.</p><p>Since the Conference format began in 1994 a 7<sup>th</sup> or 8<sup>th</sup> seed (today's wildcards) has beaten a 2<sup>nd</sup> or 1<sup>st</sup> approximately 35% of the time. Astonishingly a seven seed has won above 40% of series!</p><p>'Depth' becomes a frequent talking point at this time of the season; who has it, who needs it etc. It is not as simple as saying Tampa Bay has the most balanced scoring roster or the best on paper (though that is not something to ignore). The NHL playoffs are notorious for the unsung heroes of the league to make a name for themselves; third and fourth line players blocking shots when they're needed and scoring dirty goals in double overtime. When researching team composition, I highly recommend looking at the lesser known players on a roster; who is going to be on the primary penalty kill if Giordano is in the box, what are their numbers and experience like? My only point here is know the backups and know the backup's backup.</p><h2>Do's and Don'ts</h2><p>Why was I sharing historical statistics? Well it's certainly not to prepare you for the next bout of NHL trivia! The aim of introducing these numbers is to help you frame where you ought to put your money as a series progresses. Of course, this week I will start looking towards handicapping individual series, but every single one will play out categorically and repeat patterns we have seen in the past. Will there be some outliers? Probably. However, betting on the Carolina Hurricanes to reverse sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning probably isn't a wise way to spend money. The payout might look enticing but will certainly not cover the likelihood of them pulling it off, and the books are aware of the probability. Additionally, betting one side of a total continuously will bite into your profits rather quickly unless a string of unders come in (more likely in rounds 3/4 than 1/2).</p><p><em><strong>Do Not's:</strong></em></p><ul> <li><em>attempt to play every game in a series (at least for sides)</em></li> <li><em>allow series bets to cloud your judgment as a series unfolds</em></li> <li><em>only bet favourites (or underdogs of course)</em></li> <li><em>fan bet</em> <ul> <li><em>very tempting this time of year as we either root for our team or pick those playing against our nemesis, but dangerous and best to avoid if you can't separate your attachment or contempt for particular teams</em></li> </ul> </li> <li><em>chase</em> <ul> <li><em>this is relevant at all times of year but in a seven-game series it's easy to stubbornly lose your bankroll following a favourite</em></li> </ul> </li> <li><em>blindly bet the must-win</em> <ul> <li><em>there will be many of these during the playoffs, try to use the statistics to frame what team prices give 'must-wins' value. If a team goes down 0-2 then Game 3 is frequently thought to be a spot like this due to the implications of being 0-3. However, don't then follow this up with a bet in Game 4 because they can’t go back to San Jose down 1-3'</em></li> </ul> </li></ul><p><strong><em>Do's:</em></strong></p><ul> <li><em>compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges</em> <ul> <li><em>if you're looking for statistics, trends, or general info make sure you are using the same pool of data for team comparisons. There's nothing worse than someone spouting 'Bruins have the best powerplay in their division' while ignoring that the Leafs have a powerplay 0.1% less efficient</em></li> </ul> </li> <li><em>pick spots on more than intuition</em> <ul> <li><em>we've all made the 'I have a feeling about tonight' wager...and we've all won some of those. By using this approach, we start to play a game called 'hindsight betting'; every game that won was because you 'trusted your gut' and those that didn't were just a 'bad read'. That's not to say having a sharp eye for a winner is not needed, just that it should only be a piece of your approach</em></li> </ul> </li> <li><em>watch games</em> <ul> <li><em>I don't believe in this piece generally during the regular season, if necessary, you can get the compacted game from a number of places, but because playoffs are a different beast it's important. Best of sevens are this rare and fantastic opportunity for variation not to be an evil monster but an equilibrium of justice. Over the course of an entire series the best should rise to the top and a playoff series will never be decided by a shootout. The best recent example of how this could help your knowledge was the Blue Jackets v Capitals opening round last year; look at the highlights of the first two games in contrast to the stats!</em></li> </ul> </li></ul><h2> </h2><h2>Strategies</h2><p>There is not a sole winning strategy I will push on anyone. It all comes down to your time and betting style. My two personal favourites are series bets and two/three game spots to run a progression (also known as chase betting). “But hey, you said don't chase!” Correct. Chasing, in contrast to progression systems, has a certain negative connotation associated with it. Whether that is due to emotional betting after a bad night or just feeling like your luck must change so increasing unit size before your bankroll can support it. Progression betting is about finding a statistical correlation between a series of events to secure a set profit...don't worry, it's not too late to scroll up and check those historical series numbers! Over the course of 15 playoff series there are ample opportunities to employ these types of systems. I have half a dozen solid ones that I would be happy to discuss if you are interested [@lockeqwerty], but maybe some of the numbers I spouted earlier in the article already has you thinking about some angles! Once you find the one or two that you like you'll look forward to NHL playoffs annually!</p><p>As mentioned, the other main strategy I employ is series bets. Many books offer several options similar to your typical markets; moneyline, spread, and totals. I find that these two forms of betting compliment each other quite well without doubling down on one team or cancelling out profit. As I said earlier in the article, however, don't get too attached to one team, especially if the pre-series read was wrong or is not playing out the way you thought.</p><p>To close, I know that betting the playoffs in any sport can be intimidating. Sometimes this comes with the hype of wanting to play every game in the later stages of the tournament because there's only one or two games to choose from. In my experience this is usually what leads to bleeding units! So instead of only betting on the Tampa Bay Lightning to lift the Cup, sweep their series, and cover every puckline join me in running some alternative approaches!</p>
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