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NHL Western Conference Finals Total Shows Little Change Despite Game 1 Scoring Onslaught

James Murphy
by in NHL on
  • The Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche are competing in the Western Conference Finals in the National Hockey League (NHL).
  • The winner of the Oilers vs. Avs series will face the Eastern Conference champion in the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • Game 2 of the series will be June 2, 2022 at Denver’s Ball Arena.

I had already prepared to write a story about the total adjustment for Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference Finals between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche. My initial thinking was that after the downright insane scoring onslaught in Colorado’s 8-6 Game 1 win that oddsmakers would have to bump the total up even further. Game 1’s total was 6.5 or 7 depending on the sportsbook and after a game that saw 14 goals and 84 shots there *had* to be an even higher total in the offing. Would anyone–particularly the ‘public’ that watched this video game style contest–even think of playing the ‘Under’?

I have to admit I was surprised when the opening total for Game 2 showed ‘7s’ all across the screen. I thought that public perception alone would obviate a move higher but instead sportsbooks universally (well, *almost* universally) hung tough at 7. The 7 goal total barely lasted through the first period of Game 1. The Avs and Oilers went to the locker room after 20 minutes with Colorado leading 3-2. Nazem Kadri scored on the power play at the :32 second mark of the second to make it 4-2 Avs, but Ryan McLeon answered for the Oilers at the 2:59 mark to make it 4-3. The ‘Over’ 7 cashed at 4:38 of the second period when Mikko Rantanen gave Colorado a two goal lead once again at 5-3.

The 7 total for Game 2 isn’t universal–the Westgate Superbook, SI Sportsbook, MaximBet, FoxBet, FanDuel , BetRivers and DraftKings are showing the total at 7.5. It could be that the total is moving as I write this and we’ll eventually see more books moving to the higher price. Even so, my first guess was that we’d see 7.5 or higher across the board with some outliers going to 8 or even 8.5. After all, through the playoffs both teams have scored goals in bunches. Colorado leads the league with 4.64 goals per game. Edmonton is second with 4.46 goals per game. Game 1 gave both teams an upward bump but not as much as you’d expect–they were averaging 4.30 and 4.33 respectively before the series started.


One thing that I immediately noticed is that the Las Vegas based sportsbooks are virtually unanimous with the ‘7’ total. The only exception is the Westgate (7.5 O -130) and they’ve got exposure to the Colorado market. Interestingly, Wynn Las Vegas is at 7 while WynnBET in Colorado is at 7.5. WynnBET is operated in partnership between Wynn Interactive and BetBull Ltd., with BetBull supplying the pricing.

Two of the biggest books in the business–DraftKings and FanDuel–are at 7.5 but two other books with big market share–Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM–are at 7. So is PointsBet. The influence of Nevada in the sports betting ecosystem of the US has dropped significantly but there are still a greater concentration of very sharp sports bettors there than anywhere else. That might have something to do with it. The NHL betting splits at VSIN don’t justify this ‘sharps = under, squares = over’ theory. They’re showing that 86% of the handle *and* 86% of the bets are on the ‘Over’ at DraftKings. Typically, when there is a ‘disagreement’ between professional and recreational bettors you’ll see the % of bets going one way and the % of handle–the amount of money bet–going the other.

Moving to the matchup itself, no coach likes to play the style of ‘video game hockey’ exhibited in Game 1. Here’s a quote from Colorado head coach Jared Bednar:

“You’re not going to win a lot of playoff games when you give up six or seven [goals]. There will be adjustments made and I would expect it to tighten up. I certainly look at the goals and scoring chances that we gave up. Whenever you’re giving up a scoring chance, there’s a mistake. It’s really that simple.”

And a quote from Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft:

“We don’t feel that we executed at the level we know we can execute at. There are things we have to clean up. We found a way to fight our way back, but we got way behind early. That doesn’t set us up for success. Our execution and attention to detail with our checking and in our fundamental defensive skills can improve.”

Both teams are very good at playing ‘run and gun’ hockey. Not every team has the personnel to get away with it, but the Oilers and Avs do. Even during the playoffs, they’ve both played plenty of wide open hockey. In 11 playoffs games, the Avs have gone Over in 8. The Oilers have gone Over in 8 of 12. Edmonton played–and won–a tight Game 7 against the Kings in the first round but that was far from their best game. Edmonton looked uncomfortable playing the tighter style. On the other hand, 2 of 3 meetings during the regular season went ‘Under’. Colorado won at home on 3/21/22 3-2, won at Edmonton on 4/9/22 2-1 and lost at Edmonton 6-3 on 4/22/22. The teams went ‘Over’ in most of their situational splits except two: Edmonton went UN 23 of 45 times playing on the road with a total of 6 or more. Colorado went UN in 19 of 34 when facing teams over .500 in the second half of the season.

In theory, playoff hockey is supposed to be low scoring and defensively oriented. This series might not work out that way. Keep in mind that Colorado will be without starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper for Game 2, though his status for the rest of the series is still ‘TBA’. Backup Pavel Francouz gets the start tonight and the two Avs goalies had virtually identical goals against average numbers during the season (Kuemper 2.54, Francouz 2.55).

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