Stanley Cup Finals betting: Looking at in-series value after Game 1
The scoreboard for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final reads 5-2 for the Golden Knights. But, metaphorically, it might have been as close as this:
If there was ever as close to a full 1.00 expected goal on a play without the puck going into the net, this was it. In terms of hockey analytics, the Panthers get credit for almost a full expected goal, while Adin Hill gets credit for nearly a full goal saved above expected. However, a single high-danger chance in Florida's ledger doesn't feel like enough.
We'll never know how the script would have played out if Florida had taken a 2-1 lead instead of scrambling to tie the game heading into the third period. Still, there appeared to be little separating the two Stanley Cup finalists.
Series: Panthers (+180) vs. Golden Knights (-220)
In the end, the expected goals at even strength were almost identical at 2.35-2.28, per naturalstattrick.com. But Vegas had more high-danger chances - 13-9 - with Mark Stone scoring the lone conversion.
So, what was notable Saturday from what was expected going into the series?
The Golden Knights' 1-for-13 even-strength high-danger chance conversion rate was shockingly low by their standards and below league average, which was supposed to hurt their chances. Instead, Vegas managed something of an outlier result against Sergei Bobrovsky.
Stathletes tracked Bobrovsky as having allowed just two goals from above the face-off circle in the postseason's first three rounds. Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud combined to double that total in Game 1, scoring seeing-eye shots from the point during five-on-five play.
With a shorthanded goal against and an empty-net marker coming on the power play, the Golden Knights didn't dominate special teams as much as it seems at first glance. Getting seven man-advantage chances and killing the Panthers' three power plays helped, though.
Given where each team ranked coming into the series, we can wonder if Game 1 was a best-case scenario for the Golden Knights when not at even strength. That's especially true if the next few contests are officiated more consistently to the standard of these playoffs. Refs awarded both teams power plays on actions that have frequently gone uncalled while they overlooked other more dangerous plays.
With Theodore's and Whitecloud's long-distance shots getting past him through traffic, Bobrovsky's GSAx was merely 0.32 on the night. But, by my eyes, he looked nearly as sharp as he did at any point in May, turning away the first 12 high-danger chances at five-on-five.
For whatever it's actually worth, the home-ice advantage didn't change after Game 1, but the Panthers have gone from +110 to win the series to approaching +200. That's an implied win probability shift of about 15%. However, the Panthers continued to show that they have no issue with playing on the road. And even though four goals went past him, Bobrovsky still looks more than capable of frustrating the opposition.
Our expectation before the series started was for it to be a long one between two evenly-matched teams who care little about where the game is played. Nothing's happened to change that view. As the series price approaches +200, there's an opportunity to start - or add to - a position on Florida to win. All it might take is one puck to evade the paddle of a goal stick to change the trajectory of a game or the championship entirely.
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 Twitter @mrussauthentic.