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NHL betting guide: Can we predict the playoffs' hot goalie?

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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As we prepare for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we've reviewed how recent conference finalists have fared during the regular season in expected goals share (xG%) and via our new metric SNIPES. The idea? Can we take what teams were good at and apply it to this season in hopes of identifying any dark horse candidates for a playoff run?

SNIPES showed a significant predictive element for postseason scoring, but xG% did not. Of course, there's another end of the ice. So we need to see if there's any correlation between how well recent teams have kept the puck out of their own net during the regular season and whether that's been predictive for the playoffs.

I looked at high-danger chances allowed by teams, but the average ordinal finish in that category was 12.25, with just one in the top five. Instead, we'll use goals saved above expected per 60 minutes (GSAx/60) metrics to evaluate how goaltenders have aided a long playoff run.

Here's how the primary goaltenders for the last 12 teams to make the conference finals fared in the regular season after Feb. 1 and then in the playoffs.

Is there a correlation to playoff success?

Ten of the 12 conference finalists had above-average (0.25 GSAx/60 or better) goaltending during the regular season. Future Hall of Famer Carey Price turned his game around for an epic playoff run in 2021, while the 2023 Stars got past the Wild and Kraken despite Jake Oettinger's struggles.

On Monday, we noticed three substandard teams in our scoring talent metric, SNIPES. Price and Sergei Bobrovsky each made up for those deficiencies, as did Marc-Andre Fleury during his bounce-back 2020-'21 season.

In 2022, Darcy Kuemper gave away an average of a half-goal per game, but amazingly, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup anyway.

Last year alone, the goaltending duos in Vegas and Carolina, as well as Bobrovsky, showed improved numbers down the regular-season stretch. Meanwhile, Oettinger, despite great first-half numbers, showed cracks later on. Each offered glimpses of what was to come.

Who can put it all together?

We've established that good xG% doesn't necessarily translate to playoff success, so the following is the list of teams that take advantage of their scoring chances (>14.5% SNIPES) while also rostering a goaltender who has saved his team a significant number of goals against (>0.25 GSAx/60) since the All-Star break.

Since they're coming out of the same quarter of the bracket, only one of the Bruins and Maple Leafs can make the conference final. We don't yet have certainty about how things will fall because of shaky ground in the Pacific and wild-card positions, but the Kings, Predators, and Canucks may end up grouped. That would leave the Jets in a quarter with a trio of sketchy goaltending situations in Dallas, Colorado, and Vegas.

Only the Rangers have a path to the conference finals without a team that excels at converting scoring chances while boasting high-level goaltending. That route includes Carolina, who - based on their market rating - would be favored over New York in a second-round matchup.

The cheat sheet

Each week, we balance market information from regular-season point totals and in-season advanced metrics - with an even-strength focus - to determine the win probability for each team and the moneyline needed to bet on either side.

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 a possibility that a moneyline moves into a bet-friendly range at some point between the market opening and puck drop.

Apr. 12 CAR@STL 69.3/30.7 CAR -215/STL +274
NSH@CHI 63.9/36.1 NSH -169/CHI +211
ARI@EDM* 21.8/78.2 ARI +462/EDM -339
CGY@ANA 62.4/37.6 CGY -159/ANA +197
MIN@VGK 46.6/53.4 MIN +135/VGK -110
Apr. 13 NYI@NYR 40.0/60.0 NYI +178/NYR -144
SEA@DAL 33.2/66.8 SEA +243/DAL -193
WPG@COL 41.7/58.3 WPG +165/COL -134
BUF@FLA 38.6/61.4 BUF +189/FLA -153
NJD@PHI 56.2/43.8 NJD -123/PHI +151
TB@WSH 54.2/45.8 TB -113/WSH +139
DET@TOR 27.7/72.3 DET +322/TOR -248
MTL@OTT 31.3/68.7 MTL +267/OTT -210
BOS@PIT 47.7/52.3 BOS +121/PIT +101
CBJ@NSH 34.2/65.8 CBJ +231/NSH -184
VAN@EDM* 34.0/66.0 VAN +234/EDM -186
MIN@SJS 64.8/35.2 MIN -176/SJS +220
ANA@LAK 14.8/85.2 ANA +828/LAK -534
Apr. 14 SEA@STL 48.7/51.3 SEA +116/STL +105
COL@VGK 45.1/54.9 COL +143/VGK -117
CAR@CHI 79.4/20.6 CAR -363/CHI +502
ARI@CGY 34.1/65.9 ARI +233/CGY -185

*Prices for Edmonton assume Connor McDavid (day-to-day) plays

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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