Handicapping the odds: 2011 Stanley Cup

Hello sports fans! Once again, it’s time for the greatest post-season for the greatest trophy in a sports most folks south of the 49th parallel barely know nor care about. That’s too bad. However, I’m here to help you borderline gambling addicts who did not follow the regular season. Don’t worry, instead of boring you with analysis of the regular season, or penalty killing, I will help you evaluate the one thing you care about: the odds. I will evaluate which team’s odds are value bets, and which ones are sucker bets.

The beauty of playoff hockey is that any team can advance far with just a few breaks here and there. Upsets are so common that they can hardly be called upsets anymore. Thanks to a hard salary cap, the days of the dynasties that reigned in the ’70 & ’80’s are not likely to return anytime soon. (Suck it Islanders!)  So there are no real long shots. In fact, the 8th seed in the West is the defending Stanley Cup champs. That’s great because you don’t have to feel bad not picking a favorite. remember: the NHL re-seeds after every round. So if a #8 seed upsets the #1 seed in Round 1, they’ll likely face the #2 seed in Round 2, not necessarily the 4/5 matchup winner.

I checked the odds on three sites, and in one newspaper. There are some fluctuations, if you do decide to wager, make sure you are getting the best odds out here. I’ll list the highest and lowest that I saw….

  • Vegas’ FavoritesVancouver (#1 seed) (low = 3-1 / high = 7/2); Washington (#1 seed) (low = 5-1 / high = 6/1). These are your two #1 seeds; no surprise the oddsmakers love  ’em. Neither team has ever won a Cup, so will this be their year? If so, I still wouldn’t bet on it with these odds. The risk/reward is not there. Save your money here.
  • Pundits’ Darlings: Boston (#3 seed) (low = 7-1 / high = 9/1); Philadelphia (#2 seed) (low = 6-1 / high = 9-1). Being picked by the “experts” is the kiss of death. That’s why we have the notion of the “SI cover jinx” or the “Madden curse.” Folks, never trust a pundit on TV: he or she has no idea what they are talking about. Any true pundit on any given subject will spend so much of their time in research & analysis that he or she will have absolutely no time to be on TV. If a pundit gets one right, it’s because he or she had an assistant tell them what to say. Nine-to-one is a decent play, but hurry. The more buzz,the more apt those odds will go down.
  • The Powerhouse: Detroit (#3 seed) (low = 6-1 / high = 9-1) I like them. But not at this price.
  • The Underacheiver: San Jose (#2 seed) (low = 6-1 / high = 8-1) Betting on the Sharks is like playing a carney game – you are tantalized and then utterly disappointed. Wait and see if they finally reach their potential.
  • The YMMV teams: Chicago (#8 seed) (low = 12-1 / high = 22-1); Anaheim (#4 seed) (low = 15-1 / high = 30-1); Tampa Bay (#5 seed) (low  13-1 / high = 25-1) How can the team playing the odds-on favorite, Vancouver, be a middle-of-the-pack pick @ 12-1?! How can a team with home-ice advantage in the 1st round be one of the teams with the longest odds @ 30-1?! (Facing a #5 seed Nashville listed @ 25-1 on that same site, nonetheless.) The Blackhawks are definitely a value bet at anything above 15-1, so I expect their number to drop towards the other sites really soon. The same is true with the Lightning. I expect their line to drop near the neighborhood of 15-1, so they are a great value pick. The Ducks’ odds aren’t a value pick – it’s a red flag. There’s a reason why there’s little love for them. I’d stay away from them.
  • Other Value Picks: Pittsburgh (#4 seed) (low  = 10-1 / high = 12-1); Montreal (#6 seed) (low 22-1 / high = 30-1); Buffalo (#7 seed) (low = 18-1 / high = 25-1) I’m surprised the Penguins aren’t given the same numbers as the Red Wings. Even without Sid the Kid, there is enough talent to warrant attention. The Habs are Sabers are in the sleeper category – worth taking a flyer on either one. (you can commence groaning for that pun)
  • Seriously, just give me the money if you insist on throwing it away: New York Rangers (#8 seed) (low = 30-1 / high = 35-1); Los Angeles (#7 seed) (low = 25-1 / high = 30-1) ; Phoenix (#6 seed) (low = 22-1 / high = 30-1); Nashville (#5 seed) (low = 22-1 / high = 30-1)

Remember, it’s illegal to gamble in most places, so don’t bet where it’s not allowed. Also, if you have a gambling problem, seek help right away. I know too many people who were bitten by “the bug.” It’s a serious issue. If you can’t afford to play, then DON’T! Save your money.


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