- Game 7 between the Nashville Predators (-155) and Winnipeg Jets (+135) promises to be a slobberknocker.
- The series has been incredibly tight, on the surface and under the hood.
- Without much separating these two clubs, which team is the best bet for Thursday night’s contest?
For the sport, it’s a good thing this series went to Game 7. These are the two best teams in the Western Conference (maybe the league). The fact that they’re meeting in the second round is ludicrous, but at least we’re squeezing this lemon for all of its juice.
Surprisingly, the road team has won four of the six games (and three straight) in this series, by an aggregate of 16-4. (Road teams have outscored home teams 24-16 overall in the series.) Also noteworthy, the road team has scored at least four goals in five of the six games. The one they didn’t? A 2-1 road victory. The Jets will need to win their third game of this series in the Music City to advance to the Western Conference finals. — Stuckey
The Tale of the Tape
Let’s first take a look at the game-by-game market. All the closing numbers were taken from the Action App. Since this game is in Nashville, let’s focus on the three games that were played in Tennessee. The Preds closed -165 (62.3% implied probability), -191 (65.6%) and -150 (60%) in those three games, respectively.
The Preds were definitely a little overrated in Game 1. They’re a very good team, but I don’t think the betting public understood just how good the Jets are. Then, after a Nashville loss in the opener, punters bet the “there’s no way the Preds will lose two games in a row at home” narrative, and chalk eaters were bailed out in double overtime. The number for Game 5 was much more sensible at -150/+130. The closing number for Game 7 remains to be seen. For most of Wednesday, the number was the same as it was for Game 5, but money has ticked Nashville to -155 going into Thursday morning.
Although some of the games haven’t been close on the scoreboard, these two teams have been neck-and-neck when you break down their peripheral stats (all numbers 5v5, adjusted from score + venue).
Which Blue Line Will Reign Supreme?
Hockey’s postseason is the best in all of sports, and Game 7s during the Stanley Cup Playoffs go even above that. The pressure is palpable, even for neutrals. The tension for this series clincher should be even more amplified considering how tight this series has been. The key to this game, in my eyes, will be which blue line can produce.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien has been the best defenseman in this series so far, and Winnipeg will likely count on him for upward of 30 minutes in this game. Nashville’s got the better depth on the back end, so its minutes will likely be better dispersed, but if Roman Josi and P.K. Subban don’t leave their mark on this contest, the Jets will win. — Sean Newsham
In an incredibly nonbold move, I took Nashville in 7, but betting against Byfuglien in a do-or-die situation — given how well he’s played — scares the hell out of me. As Sean was saying, Big Buff has shown the ability to take over games (when motivated), and the Jets seem to go as Byfuglien does, so his performance could certainly be the difference in this game. He’s in the 99th percentile in Corsi, shots on goal, and shots+blocks over the past month. Only Patrik Laine comes close to rivaling Byfuglien’s peripheral stats on this team over that same time period. — Joe Holka
It’s impossible to predict which goaltender will perform better Thursday (or in any single game, really), but let’s just lay out how Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck have played this postseason to further drive home the point that this series is incredibly tight.
In terms of 5v5 GSAA (goals saved above average), Hellebuyck has been slightly better than Rinne in the postseason. The Michigan native has posted a 2.42 GSAA in 11 games compared to Rinne’s 1.51 in 12 contests. Hellebuyck has also played slightly better when you compare the respective netminders’ expected save percentage (5v5) to their actual save percentage. Hellebuyck owns a 93.38 save percentage at 5v5, which is 0.89 basis points ahead of his 92.49 xSV%, while Rinne’s 92.81 SV% is 0.52 points above his 92.29 xSV%.
In other words, if these two goalies play to their numbers, one mistake by either of them will likely be the difference. — Michael Leboff
Game 7 Trends and Stats
Favorable Favorites: Game 7s are hard to predict. Since 2005, home ice hasn’t mattered, with those teams going 27-25 straight-up. Momentum isn’t much of an indicator either. The team that won Game 6 is 25-27 SU. The best way to know who will come out on top of the winner-take-all showdown is to look at the betting market. Since 2005, the favorite in Game 7 is 30-22 (58%) SU. — John Ewing
Did You Know? In Games 5 through 7 in a series, teams coming off a win by four goals or more have been on such an odd streak over the last decade or so. Since 2014-15, the team coming off the win is 3-13, but between 2006 and 2013, teams in that spot are 20-5. — Evan Abrams
The Experience Factor
As John stated, home ice hasn’t mattered much in Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2005. However, most Game 7s don’t feature this wide of an experience gap. This will mark the first Game 7 in franchise history for the Winnipeg Jets. On the other hand, this Nashville core not only went to the Stanley Cup Final last season, but also played in two Game 7s the previous year. The Preds will certainly have much more experience to draw on, which I think makes the first goal that much more critical for Winnipeg. An early lead could relax the Jets’ nerves significantly — especially after not seeing the puck go through the net in Game 6. — Stuckey
What I’m Betting:
Leboff: Jets +135. Obviously Nashville is the team that is more likely to win, but the price on the Jets right now is too good to pass up. If this game doesn’t become a circus, I expect it to be very close, and at +135, the market suggests Winnipeg has about a 42.6% chance of winning. It should be closer than that, so I’m grabbing the Jets at a decent number.
Newsham: Predators -155
Stuckey: Under 5.5