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Last week, we dove into advanced stats to find value in the current Stanley Cup market, identifying four buy-low teams that have had bad puck luck and are due for positive regression. I sincerely hope you locked in your Vegas Golden Knights tickets, because they're about to go on a run.
This week, we shift gears and examine three teams being offered well below what their market values should be. These teams sport better records than their underlying numbers indicate or have seen any value in their Stanley Cup odds sapped by public perception. Such clubs need to be avoided in the futures market, at least until their odds lengthen appropriately.
Let's start by making one thing clear: The Blues are a very good hockey team and are capable of repeating as Stanley Cup champions. To suggest otherwise would be foolish. There's your disclaimer. Now let's pick apart the defending champs.
The Blues really haven't missed a beat since winning the Cup in June. They continue to rack up signature wins, beating Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Dallas within the last week despite injuries to a number of top players; it seems they're again the cream of the crop in the west. Remind me why I'm advising against backing them, again? Oh right, the underlying numbers.
Teams are scoring on just 11.62% of their high-danger scoring chances against the Blues this season, the lowest mark in the league. St. Louis has posted the league's second-highest SCSV% (percentage of scoring-chance shots against that weren't goals) and second-lowest HDCF% (rate of high-danger scoring chances for versus against). They're bottom 10 in xGF (expected goals for) and among the 10 worst in xGA (expected goals against), yet just five teams have allowed fewer five-on-five goals.
St. Louis is certainly due for regression, but it's hard to doubt this team. If anything, the Blues are a prime example of advanced stats telling only part of the story. They have a deep roster, a great goalie, and perhaps an even better coach. Still, it would be naive to throw these stats out the window. This isn't to say bettors should back off the Blues entirely, but they should exercise caution, especially at such a short price.
As was expected, Mike Babcock's departure - and Sheldon Keefe's subsequent arrival - galvanized the Maple Leafs, who won their first three games under Keefe and outscored opponents 14-4 over that stretch. But the honeymoon has ended, and for all of Babcock's shortcomings as a person, fans will soon realize this team's issues didn't simply start and end with its former coach.
The roster has some obvious weaknesses that general manager Kyle Dubas continues to neglect. Until he does, it doesn't matter who's behind the bench. The Maple Leafs lack physicality, energy, and depth - not a recipe for playoff success. Even more concerning is their inability to play in their own end. No team has allowed more high-danger goals at five-on-five this season.
Toronto has allowed the sixth-most high-danger chances (HDCA) and the fifth-most goals at five-on-five. Those figures are right in line with the team's xGA, so they can't be chalked up to bad luck. It's simply bad hockey. It doesn't matter how talented the Maple Leafs' top two forward lines are - though they're still middle of the pack in xGF - if they can't keep the puck out of their own net.
Defensive breakdowns and mental lapses have become far too commonplace to even consider backing Toronto at a very unfavorable 12-1. The Maple Leafs currently sit outside of a playoff spot and have shown nothing to warrant a price in the same region as the Blues, Washington Capitals, or Colorado Avalanche.
If you haven't jumped ship on the Jets yet, you'll probably live to regret it. Nothing about their underlying numbers flatters them. Winnipeg ranks 12th in the league in five-on-five goals and has allowed the ninth-fewest against. Those are respectable marks, but both are due for considerable regression: The Jets are fourth-last in xGF and own the highest xGA mark in the NHL. And that's only scraping the surface.
Winnipeg ranks sixth in SCSV%, fourth in HDCA, and fifth in both HDSH% (high-danger chances that resulted in goals for) and HDSV% (high-danger chances against that did not result in goals). They also have the worst HDCF% in the league. Even with the help of these unsustainable rates, the Jets currently hold just a four-point cushion for a playoff spot. That has to concern even the most optimistic of fans.
You could do a lot better than Winnipeg at 20-1; the Jets have no business being priced alongside the likes of the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, or Philadelphia Flyers.
*all stats above courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and only include 5v5
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.