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Stanley Cup Playoffs betting: Finding conference final value after Game 1

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Road teams have a winning record in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a 16-8 mark in Round 2. All four teams closed out their series away from home, and three advanced despite losing Game 1.

Why is this relevant? Despite a small sample size, it suggests it's not worth panicking after dropping Game 1 or losing home-ice advantage. As we head into each Game 2, let's look at what happened in the series openers to analyze whether there was an outlier result or something predictive of things to come.

Game 2: Panthers (-110) @ Rangers (-110)

Friday, 8 p.m. ET

The premise for betting on the Rangers before Game 1 was that a +130 series price and an even-money Game 1 line suggested that these two teams weren't evenly matched. Here's how the even-strength metrics shook down in the opener:

Panthers 2.46 8 1
Rangers 2.62 10 0

A one-goal game masquerading as a 3-0 Panthers win was far closer than the score suggests. The difference was even clear via the eye test. Simply put, New York didn't convert either of its two breakaways, going 0-for-10 on its best scoring chances. Meanwhile, the Panthers merely converted one of their eight high-danger chances, which is congruent with the league average of 12.5%.

The market for Game 2 hasn't veered away from the pricing in Game 1, acknowledging that these games can go either way.

For the series, the Rangers went from +130 (43.5% implied win probability) to +250 and 28.6% likely to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

In our look at the updated Conn Smythe Trophy market, we noted Sergei Bobrovsky's +2500 odds, and his need to boost his statistical profile. He made the difference in Game 1, posting a 3.08 goals saved above expected mark for a shutout.

With a clean slate for Game 2, we're more likely to pick Igor Shesterkin (0.5 GSAx in Game 1) if we had to guess who the more dominant goaltender would be. We should be pretty certain that Bobrovsky won't save 2.5 more goals above expected than the Rangers' star netminder. The expectation for a more even goaltending duel should favor New York to even the series.

Best bet: Rangers moneyline (-110)

Game 2: Oilers (+115) @ Stars (-135)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

The only surprise about the Stars dropping their seventh straight Game 1 is it meant the Oilers had to win a Game 1. Edmonton was 1-8 in series openers since 2020.

As we look at what's sustainable, we must acknowledge that Edmonton was the better team in Thursday night's double-overtime win. It had an edge in even-strength play and a penalty kill that has somehow surpassed its power play as its most impressive special teams unit.

The question is: Do we expect that to be sustainable? The Stars - and Jake Oettinger - have a history of getting better throughout a series.

The Stars will have to start taking more penalties than just a lone too-many-players call for the Oilers' power play to get more opportunities. Edmonton's consecutive penalty-kill streak will have to hit historic proportions instead of regressing to the mean.

The Stars' staunch defense pairing of Chris Tanev and Esa Lindell was on the ice for just two goals combined in their previous two series. They were minus-3 in Game 1. Are goals by Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Connor McDavid simply a result of them being a tougher matchup, or is this an outlier given the Golden Knights and Avalanche have strong scoring threats as well?

Stuart Skinner had one of his best games of the postseason, saving almost two goals above expected in Game 1. At the same time, Oettinger (0.58 GSAx) was largely average until momentarily saving the game with a highlight-reel stop against McDavid. Goaltending looked to be an advantage for the Stars, only to be the difference-maker for the Oilers in Game 1. That one-game result shouldn't be enough to change our overall opinion about the series.

The Rangers' chances to win their series dropped 15% in the betting market, while the Stars have gone from -130 (56.5%) to +160 (38.5%). Given Dallas was the favorite coming in and its track record of coming back, an 18% shift seems too drastic, as well.

Best bets:
- Game 2: Stars moneyline (-135)
- Stars win series (+160)

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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