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How to calculate home-ice advantage in the NHL

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Last week, we broke down how you can use a sportsbook's regular-season win-total markets as a starting point for creating your own team ratings. If you're not quite ready for the pop quiz, don't worry. We're still a ways away from formulating our own ratings, but at least we know how sportsbooks value those teams. If you disagree, good news: You can bet on it!

Before you bet on regular-season games, though, we need to factor in the missing piece of how moneylines are made - home-ice advantage.

Applying standard home-ice advantage to moneylines

Since last year was such a mess, with teams allowing different numbers of spectators, I'm not using the 2021 season to calculate home-ice advantage. Instead, I'm using the two seasons pre-pandemic, during which home teams were 1,260-1,094. That means that, on average, home teams are 3.5% more likely to win, and teams on the road are 3.5% less likely to win.

The Chicago Blackhawks' and Calgary Flames' point totals are currently lined within a point of each other in the middle of the league. They're nearly equally average, so they're a good matchup to use as an example.

The Flames' win probability is 50.5%, so the fair price for Blackhawks versus Flames on neutral ice is: CGY -102/CHI +102

Multiply the 3.5% advantage for home ice with the Flames' 50.5% win probability and we get 54%. So the fair price with the Blackhawks in Calgary would be CHI +139/CGY -139.

When the scene shifts to Chicago, and we add 3.5% to the Hawks' 49.5% neutral win probability to get to 53%, a fair price becomes: CGY +132/CHI -132.

As we discussed last week, sportsbooks then add their hold to the line, creating a straddle that would look like something like this:

Matchup Road Home
Blackhawks @ Flames CHI +130 CGY -150
Flames @ Blackhawks CGY +120 CHI -140

It means different things for different teams

But wait, there's more! Not every team has the same home-ice advantage.

Here are five notable teams when it comes to their home-ice advantage and their records on the moneyline:

Team Home (2018-20) Road (2018-20)  Win% Diff.
Colorado Avalanche 38-35 41-37 +0.1%
Toronto Maple Leafs 41-34 41-36 +1.5%
Boston Bruins 51-25 42-34 +11.8%
Chicago Blackhawks 35-40 33-44 +3.8%
Ottawa Senators 36-42 18-57 +22.2%

The Avs are rated highest in the league, but what makes them such heavy favorites when they play at home has little to do with them playing better in Denver. They play really well everywhere, so there shouldn't be much change to their valuation based on where the game is.

The Maple Leafs won't appear much on the list of my best bets this year, and they never have - they're routinely overvalued in the market. However, they are very similar to Colorado in their home/road symmetry. So why would we give them any extra value when they're playing in Toronto in their typical Saturday night slot?

On the flip side, people think the Bruins are a lock to win any time they play at home ... and they're kind of right. Boston is a different team at home, proving you can't just blindly assign the same home-ice value for every team. While it'd be excessive to assume the Bruins will continue to have an 11.8% advantage at TD Garden, they should get a much bigger bump than the standard 3.5% swing.

We used the Blackhawks in the first instalment of this series because they represent the average NHL team according to the point total markets. They also have an almost exactly league-average home-ice advantage in the two seasons pre-pandemic.

Finally, while we used the Coyotes as an example of a bad team in our last class, I'll use the markets' fourth-worst team here. The Senators are a pet project for me this season, as their finish to the 2021 season provides some hope. For the purposes of this article, however, the fact they're 22.2% more likely to win at home than on the road as a below-average team offers an important reminder: A team can be bad and still have a big home-ice advantage relative to its neutral-ice state.

Next Monday, we put it all together, taking what we know about making moneylines and home-ice advantage and applying it to our own ratings to find some value this season.

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.

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