Flames-Oilers series preview: Betting by the numbers

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Two franchises that like each other less than any pair of teams in the NHL finally meet again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Battle of Alberta rivalry adds a twist to the handicap for a series that many say we should "throw the records out" for.

That's not what we do here, of course, so with both the Flames and Oilers coming off a seven-game series that followed vastly different paths, we'll let the numbers guide our way.

Here are the regular-season metrics for Calgary and Edmonton at full strength.

TEAM XG SHARE HDC/60 HDC CONV.
Flames 55.65% 11.95 12.7%
Oilers 53.26% 12.42 11.6%

Despite an attention-grabbing stretch in the middle of the season, the Flames only have a slight advantage at even strength. So Calgary is correctly rated higher than Edmonton, and with home-ice advantage for this series, they should be favored.

Series odds

TEAM GAME 1 SERIES SERIES HANDICAP
Flames -160 -195 -1.5 (-105)
Oilers +135 +160 +1.5 (-135)

The Oilers are being given the same chance to win their series with the Flames as the Rangers are to beat the Hurricanes. That seems excessive for the sole reason the Oilers have the league's biggest ace up their sleeve - Connor McDavid.

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, as well as high-danger conversion rates - both for and against - to try to predict who will play better in the postseason.

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 their vig on a bet.

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

FLAMES OILERS
True ML at Calgary -137 +137
True ML at Edmonton +129 -129
Series Price -117 +117

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
Flames -132 +162 -113
Oilers +152 -124 +138

The Flames get the small edge, but since both teams are extremely familiar on the road against one another, there's minimal home-ice advantage to be added into the equation. The pricing for Game 1 is fair on each side.

Derivative series market

The following is the probability for each of the eight possible series results, along with a fair price for an exact result bet.

Series result Probability/Converted odds
Flames 4-0 6.4% / +1462
Flames 4-1 14.9% / +570
Flames 4-2 14.4% / +596
Flames 4-3 18.3% / +447
Oilers 4-0 5.6% / +1679
Oilers 4-1 10.2% / +882
Oilers 4-2 16.9% / +492
Oilers 4-3 13.3% / +651

With almost all of the prices closely mirroring the market, the only thing with any value is the Oilers to win 4-1, with a modest edge of barely more than 1%.

Best bets

It's easy to look at Edmonton as "Connor McDavid or bust" since he was the driving force behind the vast majority of the Oilers' goals in their series win over the Kings. However, there are worse things to hang your hat on as a bettor than the best player in the league - who makes an improved supporting cast even better.

There's little concern on a night-to-night basis that the Oilers can create offense - even if it's just by the hands of No. 97 - after Edmonton created no worse than 1.88 expected goals five-on-five in the seven games with L.A.

Calgary was less consistent against the Stars, and when they were as good as advertised, Jake Oettinger put on a show rarely seen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Flames are rightly favored, but with just a moderate advantage at even strength and a negligible matchup in special teams, their full focus will have to be in stopping McDavid. Whatever plan they've concocted recently hasn't worked, as the Oilers captain has 25 points in 14 games against the Flames over the last two seasons.

While value is with Edmonton, the key to actually winning the series lies with Leon Draisaitl's health and more consistent play from goaltender Mike Smith. The Oilers' goaltending comes and goes on a game-to-game basis, but when the dust settled after Round 1, only Oettinger had a better GSAx (goals saved above expected) than Smith. More of the same in the crease, and the Oilers can cash as bigger underdogs than they should be.

Pick: Oilers to win series (+195)

Oilers +1.5 games (-135)

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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Flames-Oilers series preview: Betting by the numbers
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