Stuckey: How I Usually Bet NHL Game 7s, Plus My Take on Avalanche vs. Sharks
Neville E. Guard, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Philipp Grubauer
- Stuckey dives deep into Game 7 data to find discrepancies in officiating and scoring.
- It usually leads him to bet unders, but is that how he's leaning again with Blues-Stars and Sharks-Avalanche Game 7s over the next two days?
FREAhhh…seventh heaven strikes again. We have another NHL Game 7 on Tuesday night when the Blues host the Stars for one of the two spots in the Western Conference Finals. The other spot will be decided in another Game 7 on Wednesday night in San Jose between the Sharks and Avalanche.
With two Game 7s coming up, I wanted to share my thought process behind a particular over/under bet I tend to gravitate toward whenever we get these treats. I will also share where I’m at for both Western Conference semifinal Game 7s over the next two nights.
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NHL Game 7: Over or Under?
Whenever I see a Game 7 in the NHL playoffs, my first look from a betting perspective is the under. Why? Well, teams tend to play tighter and take fewer risks with so much on the line in a sudden death scenario. I’m obviously speaking in broad terms, as this is not always the case.
But more importantly, the refs tend to swallow their whistles — not wanting to make an incorrect call (sorry, Vegas) or impact the outcome of such an important game too much. As a result, we see fewer Game 7 power plays — and the chance of a goal obviously increases when one team has a man advantage.
And that’s not just anecdotal. Let’s take a look at some actual data.
I pulled penalty data from Hockey Reference for every NHL playoff game over the past 30 seasons (excluding last night’s games). I then split that data set of over 2500 postseason games into two subsets: Games 1-6 and Game 7 in order to isolate the penalty differential. The results are staggering.
Since the 1988-89 season, there have been almost twice as many penalty minutes on average in Games 1-6 as in Game 7s. Plus, the NHL apologized to the Knights for blowing a game-changing call in the most recent Game 7. The last thing the league wants is another blown call to decide a Game 7 so you may even see a more cautious whistle than usual.
NHL Game 7 Betting Results
I only have data back to 1996 for over/unders. During that span, the under has gone 36-26-13 in 75 Game 7s when the total is 5 or more goals. That’s better than a 58% clip. And it includes the two horrific under losses we saw last round in San Jose and Boston. (Sharks-Knights was 2-0 early in the third period and Leafs-Bruins went over with one second left on the second empty-netter.)
If you look at all 91 Game 7s since the 1995-96 season, the total goals per game average was 4.78. That includes 21 overtime goals. (That overtime frequency is on par with the regular season for what it’s worth). The under in those 91 games, which includes some over/unders lower than 5, have hit at approximately 55%.
If you’re curious, NHL home teams are 48-43 since 1996 in Game 7s. That 52.7% winning percentage is less than the historic NHL regular season home winning percentage.
Avalanche at Sharks Game 7
- Line: Sharks -130
- Total: 5.5 (under -120)
- Time: Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET
- TV: NBCSN
I would jump on the under if we see a 6 but would think harder about it at the more likely 5.5.
In regards to the side, I’m not in a rush to fade the Sharks at home in Game 7 at the Tank. That said, you have to be a bit worried about the fatigue factor for a team playing its second-straight seven-game series — with this one involving three games in the altitude of Denver.
The Sharks are one of the oldest teams in the league while the Avs are one of the youngest. Those fresher and younger legs could be the difference in what should be another close game.
Stars at Blues
- Line: Blues -135
- Total: 5
- Time: Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET
- TV: NBCSN
I don’t think I would’ve pulled the trigger if goalie Ben Bishop couldn’t go for Dallas. But the Vezina finalist is apparently good to go after leaving Game 6 late with a collarbone injury after a rocket off the stick of Colton Parayko.
With a presumably healthy Bishop in net, I think this is played like a typical Game 7. Plus, coming into this series, I expected it to be low scoring throughout. I anticipate a physical war with two reliable goalies in front of teams playing tight to the vest.
Yes, there is always empty net risk in a last ditch desperation effort (see Boston-Toronto). But I’ll take my chances here on the under 5.
I have the Stars for the series at +240 which I bet after they lost Game 1. I said Bishop would be the difference in the end, so I’m sticking to my guns. However, the line doesn’t offer much value but I won’t be hedging any off of my series bet. Go Stars.
The Pick: Blues-Stars Under 5