Finding Betting Value in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid
2020 NHL All-Star Game Odds
- Where: St. Louis, MO
- When: 8 p.m. ET on NBC
- Odds: Atlantic -125 vs. Metro, Pacific -118 vs. Central
As my colleague, Michael Leboff, once said, “betting on the NHL All-Star game is like betting on MLB spring training games. It may not be advisable, but it’s understandable.”
While we never judge anyone for betting on an exhibition or pretty much anything else, if you’re going to bet on something, you might as well put some math behind it.
But don’t fret, I’m not going to make you do the math, especially on a Saturday. By compiling some advanced hockey metrics, I was able to create projections for these 2020 All-Star Game rosters.
First, a quick note about the format:
In 2016, the NHL changed the All-Star Game to a 3-on-3 tournament, with teams representing each of the four divisions competing in a two-period, 20-minute game, before the winners play in the finals.
Those 12 mini-games have seen an average of 10.3 goals per game since 2016.
Here’s how the divisions stack up for 2020:
Atlantic vs. Metropolitan
My projections show the Atlantic as the best team in this three-game mini-tournament.
Additionally, they will face the weakest team in the Metropolitan, which has won two of the four All-Star competitions played under this format, and comes in as the defending champions.
But the Metro will be without many of its best players this year including Alex Ovechkin (elected not to play), Sidney Crosby (who has played just 22 games this season), and five other injured selections. That leaves their roster with five forwards and four defensemen — compared to seven forwards and two defensemen on each of the other three teams.
As a result, they could have a much more difficult time holding possession in a three-on-three format, and the Atlantic roster has plenty of goal-scorers to make them pay, including NHL goals leader David Pastrnak, and Buffalo superstar Jack Eichel.
The goaltending edge comes down to whether the Metro plays Washington’s Braden Holtby or Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry. Holtby has dropped off this year, going from an above-average goalie in both save percentage above expected, and goals saved above average, to near the bottom of the table in both metrics. Jarry surprisingly ranks amongst the best in the NHL in both categories.
The Atlantic is a decent favorite in the betting markets, and despite this being an exhibition, I think they should be even pricier.
The Metro has to overcome too many injuries to star talent, and an unorthodox roster construct in 3-on-3 hockey — which seems like a recipe for disaster.
I’m expecting the Atlantic to win, but with the Metro carrying four defensemen, they could also look to slow this game down. Under 12, or especially 12.5 if it rises, might be worth a look closer to game time.
The Pick: Atlantic (-115)
Central vs. Pacific
I have the Pacific favored here, which is likely driven by the unstoppable force that is Conor McDavid, especially in 3-on-3 hockey.
It’s also worth noting that the Pacific won during the two years (2016, 2018) that the Metropolitan didn’t — with McDavid leading the way two seasons ago.
But they’re also the only team in the field where both goalies rank below average in expected save percentage, and outside of Anze Kopitar, they are the worst defensive roster in this field.
Meanwhile, the Central has the most experienced roster in St. Louis, with just two first-time All-Stars compared to six on each of the other three teams.
And they will be buoyed by the home crowd, with four Blues to cheer for.
From top to bottom, the Central might have the most star-studded and balanced roster; but I’m uncertain about their ability to go toe-to-toe with McDavid and the Pacific in an up and down slugfest.
If the Pacific gets to plus-money, I might make a small play, but I don’t see enough of an edge as of yet to pick a side. I would also lean to the over.
The Pick: Pass
Here are the projected lines for all four possible finals matchups:
However, since your local book might not be able to act quickly enough to post a line between games 2 and 3, a better alternative might be to take a future or outright bet.
Futures and Best Bet
Mostly as a result of what looks to be a much easier path to the final, the Atlantic Division is the only one that offers betting value in the futures market at current odds.
They’re worth a small wager down to a cutoff of +250, but I’ll have a more substantial bet on their Game 1 matchup.