NHL Hockey Betting: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL Hockey Betting:  Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning&h=235&w=320&zc=1

The Eastern Conference Finals move to Florida for Games Three and Four and the best of seven series is now a best of five series. Nothing was settled in Games One and Two as the Lightning won Game One 3-1 and the Penguins won Game Two 2-1 in overtime. Sidney Crosby has been very quiet offensively during this postseason but he scored the game winner in overtime. Depending on your perspective, it’s a hopeful sign but no guarantee that his offensive slump is over (the perspective of the intelligent hockey media) or he’s back in business and the Penguins are a ‘lock’ to win the series (the mainstream sports media and Penguins fans).

From a handicapping standpoint, we’re back to where we started prior to Game One. The Pittsburgh Penguins are simply overvalued in this series, likely a reflection of public perception and/or the popularity of Sidney Crosby. Don’t get me wrong–Pittsburgh is a very good team and capable of winning Game Three and this series. But so is Tampa Bay. What’s interesting is that the price structure of this matchup didn’t really change following the injury to Ben Bishop. Even though injuries in general are ‘overrated’ by the public and in betting lines it’s telling that the loss of Bishop had zero impact on the price for Game Two or the series. That suggests pricing based on emotion and public popularity, not any substantive component of the matchup.

At worst, this series matchup and each individual game matchup is a coin flip. We’d be on Tampa Bay for that reason alone–getting ‘plus money’ on one side of a 50/50 proposition is a very effective way to put a lot of money in your pocket over the long term. But with all due respect to Pittsburgh the pricing of this series suggests a mismatch. At -200 and above the implied probability is at or over 67%. That means the series price suggests that if this matchup was played 100 times Pittsburgh would win 70. And they’d need to hit right around that win rate just to break even. Only the most myopic Penguins fan would suggest that Tampa Bay–the defending Eastern Conference champion who has won four of five meetings with Pittsburgh this year–has less than a 30% chance to win this series. Yet that’s what the pricing suggests–and now it’s suggesting that a team with a record of 25-13-3 on home ice during the regular season and 30-17 combined regular season and playoffs doesn’t deserve to be a favorite in their own building. That’s absurd.


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