Avalanche-Predators series preview: Betting by the numbers

Michael Martin / National Hockey League / Getty

It's entirely possible that the Predators weren't going to win this series anyway, but any underdog losing its star goaltender right before the playoffs is going to be in even more trouble when facing a healthy, powerhouse roster like the Avalanche.

Juuse Saros is out four-to-six weeks for the Predators, who landed on our list of teams that would suffer a major drop-off at the position if their starter missed time.

On the penultimate night of the regular season, the Preds played in Colorado, already without Saros. While they beat the full-strength Avs 5-4 in a shootout, the more relevant note is that they closed around +255 on the moneyline, a significant increase from the Predators' +170 price when they visited Colorado in late November.

Saros didn't play in that earlier game either, though, so the last time the Avs saw Saros was in January in Nashville when the Preds were +110 on the moneyline. Using ratings for that game, had it been played in Colorado - flipping the home-ice advantage - the Predators would have been around +140 - just a 5% win probability upgrade with Saros versus the +170 price with David Rittich.

With an even-strength GSAx (goals saved above expectation) of +4.44, Saros stops .08 goals per 60 minutes above an average goaltender, while Rittich gave up 0.5 more goals than expected per 60 minutes in his limited action this season.

Series odds

TEAM GAME 1 SERIES SERIES HANDICAP
Avalanche -300 -500 COL -2.5 (-110)
Predators +240 +375 NSH +2.5 (-110)

The Game 1 moneyline is a small adjustment toward the Predators, giving them some credit for last Thursday's win with Rittich. However, the post-Saros pricing implies a 15% drop in Nashville's game-by-game win probability.

Projected prices

Hopefully, you used our NHL betting guide to evaluate your bets during the regular season and what value truly means in hockey. For the playoffs, we're using even-strength-centric metrics like expected goals, high-danger chance rates, and high-danger conversion rates - both for and against - to try to predict who will play better in the postseason.

Due to some tainted results from before the All-Star break when COVID-19 ravaged lineups, we're weighing the second half more than we normally would. Lastly, to factor in home ice, we'll make use of a formula that includes each team's moneyline win percentage with the league average win probability differential.

True moneylines

The true moneyline takes the implied win probability for each team and converts it to an inverted price for each side before the sportsbook takes its vig on a bet.

The following is the expected price for each side when the games are played in Colorado (Game 1, 2, 5, and 7), and in Nashville (Game 3, 4, and 6).

AVALANCHE PREDATORS
True ML in Colorado -212 +212
True ML in Predators +118 -118
Series Price -217 +217

Price to bet

In the regular season, we'd need at least a 4% edge on an underdog and a 1% edge for the favorite. Using that same threshold, here are the prices to bet for each scenario.

GAME 1/2/5/7 GAME 3/4/6 SERIES
Avalanche -202 +139 -207
Predators +256 -113 +263

With the significant downgrade in the market to the Predators without Saros, it's not surprising that the value equation leans to Nashville, especially over the course of a full series.

Derivative market

Series result Probability / Converted Odds
Avalanche 4-0 9.7% / +930
Avalanche 4-1 21.8% / +359
Avalanche 4-2 16.3% / +512
Avalanche 4-3 20.6% / +385
Predators 4-0 3% / +3218
Predators 4-1 5.7% / +1644
Predators 4-2 13.1% / +666
Predators 4-3 9.7% / +927

Both teams played considerably better at home than on the road this season, posting even-strength expected goal shares above 50% at home, but posting sub-50 XG% on the road. That would suggest home ice is more important than usual.

Best bet

If you bet on the Predators moneyline every game, you could go 2-4 and still end up profitable. For example, with a greater than +200 payout on the Preds in Games 1, 2, and 5, you would only need Nashville to win one in Denver. The Preds will likely be home underdogs in Games 3 and 4, needing only a split to be profitable on those two games.

While it's hard to imagine the Predators knocking out the Avalanche, there's value on Nashville lasting longer than the market thinks. Forcing a sixth game would cash a bet on the +2.5 series line at -110. My numbers make that a 68.5% probability, and even if that's not accounting enough for the drop-off in net, there's still some value at that price.

Pick: Predators +2.5 games (-110)

Games 1, 2, and 5: Predators moneyline (+250 or better)

Games 3 and 4: Predators moneyline (+100 or better)

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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Avalanche-Predators series preview: Betting by the numbers
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