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NHL weekly betting guide: True moneylines for every game

Mark LoMoglio / National Hockey League / Getty

Last week we got deep into the weeds - or maybe it was the everglades? - by evaluating how the betting market should have reacted to the Panthers losing top defenseman Aaron Ekblad for 11 games. This week, we'll head upstate to Tampa Bay to look at the Lightning's goaltenders.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, 28, has won everything you can win as a goaltender - Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, multiple-time All-Star, etc. He's got an outstanding 2.51 goals against average over nine seasons and a career save percentage of .919. His backup Brian Elliott actually has pretty similar career numbers at 2.54/.910, respectively, but at 37 years old, he's best left for limited use.

The Lightning were set to play the Stars last week, but oddsmakers didn't know who would start in goal for Tampa. The opening line suggested Vasilevskiy was in, but the team announced around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday that Elliott would be between the pipes.

Here's how the Lightning's moneyline odds looked:

-165 62.3% -135 57.4%

What's cool about watching those numbers change is that you can tell the market thinks the Lightning are about 5% more likely to win with Vasilevskiy than with Elliott in a one-game situation by translating the moneyline into an implied win probability (IWP).

While that may feel low, you have to remember the backup goaltender is usually a rested professional motivated for a rare start, and his teammates may feel an intrinsic need to play harder and more defensively to keep shots down. In turn, just because the No. 1 goaltender is in doesn't mean he's 100% or not battling a crisis of confidence. In either case, there's also an element of luck when it comes to the bounces of a puck.

Elliott and the Lightning beat the Stars that night in overtime despite allowing four goals. Even more surprisingly, Elliott improved to 4-1 on the moneyline this season - a much better win rate than Vasilevskiy's 7-6 record. Maybe that's a fluke - a product of a small sample size - but Elliott's saved 0.33 goals above expectation (GSAx) per game, while "Vassy" has a 0.27 GSAx per game.

We always want to get the best price possible on our bets - that's the point of this guide - but understanding that all hope is not lost when the backup gets the call is another element to betting on the NHL.

The recipe

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 win 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 betable range at some point between market open and puck drop.

Nov. 21 BOS@TB +119/-119 BOS +140/TB -114
CGY@PHI -154/+154 CGY -147/PHI +182
EDM@NJD +130/-130 EDM +153/NJD -125
CAR@WPG -125/+125 CAR -120/WPG +148
NYI@TOR +163/-163 NYI +194/TOR -156
ARI@NSH +249/-249 ARI +305/NSH -237
ANA@STL +173/-173 ANA +206/STL -165
COL@DAL +107/-107 COL +118/DAL +103
OTT@SJS +109/-109 OTT +121/SJS +101
VGK@VAN -103/+103 VGK +107/VAN +114
Nov. 22 BUF@MTL +101/-101 BUF +112/MTL +110
NYR@LAK +112/-112 NYR +131/LAK -107
Nov. 23 STL@BUF -137/+137 STL -131/BUF +162
BOS@FLA +131/-131 BOS +155/FLA -126
TOR@NJD +114/-114 TOR +134/NJD -109
CGY@PIT +111/-111 CGY +123/PIT +100
WPG@MIN +147/-147 WPG +173/MIN -141
ARI@CAR +345/-345 ARI +441/CAR -326
MTL@CBJ +122/-122 MTL +144/CBJ -117
NSH@DET -107/+107 NSH +103/DET +118
EDM@NYI -103/+103 EDM +107/NYI +114
PHI@WSH +165/-165 PHI +196/WSH -158
CHI@DAL +231/-231 CHI +282/DAL -221
VAN@COL +144/-144 VAN +170/COL -138
NYR@ANA -163/+163 NYR -156/ANA +194
OTT@VGK +183/-183 OTT +219/VGK -175
SJS@SEA +147/-147 SJS +173/SEA -141
Nov. 25 CAR@BOS +109/-109 CAR +121/BOS +101
TOR@MIN -101/+101 TOR +109/MIN +112
CGY@WSH -110/+110 CGY +101/WSH +121
MTL@CHI +102/-102 MTL +113/CHI +108
COL@NSH +103/-103 COL +114/NSH +107
PIT@PHI -145/+145 PIT -139/PHI +171
NJD@BUF -145/+145 NJD -139/BUF +172
STL@TBL +148/-148 STL +175/TBL -142
ARI@DET +191/-191 ARI +229/DET -182
NYI@CBJ -132/+132 NYI -126/CBJ +155
SEA@VGK +156/-156 SEA +186/VGK -150
WPG@DAL +140/-140 WPG +165/DAL -134
LAK@SJS -133/+133 LAK -128/SJS +157
Nov. 26 EDM@NYR +116/-116 EDM +137/NYR -112
CGY@CAR +127/-127 CGY +150/CAR -122
STL@FLA +203/-203 STL +245/FLA -194
TOR@PIT +102/-102 TOR +113/PIT +109
WSH@NJD +161/-161 WSH +191/NJD -154
PHI@NYI +168/-168 PHI +200/NYI -161
CBJ@NSH +153/-153 CBJ +182/NSH -147
DAL@COL +129/-129 DAL +152/COL -124
VAN@VGK +116/-116 VAN +136/VGK -111
Nov. 27 ARI@MIN +275/-275 ARI +341/MIN -262
WPG@CHI -136/+136 WPG -130/CHI +160
VAN@SJS +105/-105 VAN +116/SJS +105
SEA@ANA -109/+109 SEA +102/ANA +120
OTT@LAK +173/-173 OTT +206/LAK -165

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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