On Oct. 17 in Boston, just three games into the season, Aaron Ekblad suffered a lower-body injury that put him out for almost four weeks. His 25 minutes of ice time per game went with him.
In betting terms, it was the type of injury that obviously wasn’t accounted for in the Panthers‘ rating before the campaign, so an adjustment had to be made. Florida came into the season with a projected point total of 105.5, behind only Colorado and Toronto. That number suggests that the Panthers were deemed 15% better than an average team on neutral ice. If they played the NHL’s most average squad, they’d win the game 57.5% of the time to the opponents’ 42.5%.
However, given Ekblad’s presumed importance, how does Florida’s win probability change? For example, does losing Ekblad make the club a merely average hockey team? That would mean his absence drops the Panthers’ win probability by 7.5%, a level reserved for only the league’s biggest stars.
When projecting Florida’s moneylines for the 11 games he missed, we made an educated guess and put Ekblad’s importance at 6%. We based it on the number of minutes the Panthers would need to replace and that their next highest-paid defenseman was veteran journeyman Brandon Montour.
The market disagreed.
Over the next 11 contests, Florida’s moneylines averaged -182, only coming close to being underdogs twice – pick’em games at home to Tampa Bay and Carolina. Since -182 translates to an implied win probability of 64.5%, the Panthers would need to win at a higher rate to be profitable. Despite facing a pretty soft portion of their schedule, the club went 6-5 (54.5%) on the moneyline.
Does that mean Ekblad should be worth a 10% win probability? Not necessarily. Florida was one win away from breaking even, and 11 games isn’t a large sample size. But in seven of those contests (six on the road), our betting guide suggested there was value on the Panthers’ underdog opponent, going 3-4 for approximately +3 units.
This is where value is found in betting the NHL, not on a barstool or your basement. Understanding where the edges are, a few percentage points at a time that pile up over the season, is how to bet hockey profitably.
We started the campaign using regular season point totals as a baseline for rating teams since it’s still our best measurement. Throughout the campaign, we’ll adjust club ratings using on-ice metrics to remove the cognitive bias of win-loss records, which various outliers like special teams results, poor goaltending performances, and other unreliable events – such as three-on-three overtime and the shootout – can skew.
The cheat sheet
There are no bad bets at the right price. But how do we know what a good price is?
The following includes my fair price on the games (true moneyline) and the moneyline price I’d need to bet either side. I only need a 1% edge for a favorite if we’re getting better than a fair price on the team more likely to win. For the underdog, I’ll need 4% or better to make it a bet. For games I project to be closer to a coin flip, a 2.5% edge is enough for a worthwhile wager. I also have a 5% win probability consideration for a team playing in the second game of a back-to-back with travel and a 3% consideration for a team on the second leg of a back-to-back without travel. When it comes to injured players, I do my best to estimate the impact on their team’s winning probability.
When the betting markets open up the night before, you can compare those prices with our “price to bet” column to see if you’re getting any value with either side’s moneyline. There’s also a possibility that a moneyline moves into a bettable range at some point between market open and puck drop.
|DATE||GAME||TRUE ML||PRICE TO BET|
|November 14||[email protected]||+102/-102||NYI +113/OTT +108|
|[email protected]||-203/+203||CAR -194/CHI +244|
|[email protected]||+126/-126||LAK +149/CGY -121|
|[email protected]||+143/-143||STL +170/COL -138|
|November 15||[email protected]||+131/-131||DAL +154/TB -126|
|[email protected]||-168/+168||NJD -161/MTL +200|
|[email protected]||+102/-102||TOR +104/PIT +109|
|[email protected]||-106/+106||VAN +104/BUF +117|
|[email protected]||+189/-189||WSH +226/FLA -180|
|[email protected]||+119/-119||PHI +140/CBJ -114|
|[email protected]||+111/-111||MIN +122/NSH +100|
|[email protected]||+100/+100||DET +110/ANA +110|
|[email protected]||+200/-200||SJS +241/VGK -191|
|November 16||[email protected]||+163/-163||BUF +194/OTT -156|
|[email protected]||-145/+145||STL -139/CHI +171|
|[email protected]||+120/-120||LAK +141/EDM -115|
|November 17||[email protected]||+204/-204||PHI +246/BOS -195|
|[email protected]||+127/-127||MTL +150/CBJ -122|
|[email protected]||+132/-132||COL +156/CAR -127|
|[email protected]||+148/-148||DAL +176/FLA -142|
|[email protected]||+115/-115||CGY +136/TB -111|
|[email protected]||+126/-126||NJD +148/TOR -121|
|[email protected]||+122/-122||NYI +144/NSH -118|
|[email protected]||+154/-154||ANA +183/WPG -148|
|[email protected]||+109/-109||WSH +120/STL +102|
|[email protected]||+112/-112||PIT +132/MIN -108|
|[email protected]||+283/-283||ARI +352/VGK -269|
|[email protected]||-117/+117||NYR -112/SEA +137|
|[email protected]||+101/-101||DET +111/SJS +110|
|November 18||[email protected]||-101/+101||LAK +110/VAN +111|
|November 19||[email protected]||-123/+123||NJD -118/OTT +144|
|[email protected]||+130/-130||CGY +154/FLA -125|
|[email protected]||-117/+117||COL -113/WSH +138|
|[email protected]||-110/+110||PIT +100/WPG +122|
|[email protected]||+252/-252||CHI +310/BOS -240|
|[email protected]||+210/-210||BUF +254/TOR -201|
|[email protected]||+101/-101||DET +112/CBJ +109|
|[email protected]||+110/-110||PHI +121/MTL +101|
|[email protected]||+126/-126||NYI +149/DAL -121|
|[email protected]||+102/-102||TB +113/NSH +108|
|[email protected]||+168/-168||ANA +200/STL -161|
|[email protected]||-102/+102||CAR +108/MIN +113|
|[email protected]||+108/-108||LAK +119/SEA +103|
|[email protected]||+118/-118||VGK +139/EDM -114|
|[email protected]||-144/+144||NYR -138/SJS +171|
|November 20||[email protected]||-154/+154||FLA -147/CBJ +182|
|[email protected]||-174/+174||PIT -167/CHI +208|
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.