Fade the Pens? How to Take Advantage of Recency Bias in the NHL Playoffs

Fade the Pens? How to Take Advantage of Recency Bias in the NHL Playoffs article feature image

The great thing about a playoff series is that barring injuries and minor adjustments, you watch the same teams go toe-to-toe for two weeks.

On Wednesday night, the Penguins absolutely steamrolled the Flyers, 7-0, at home. Sidney Crosby notched a natural hat trick, and I’m pretty sure at one point he scored a header. It was a mesmerizing performance from the two-time defending champions and an embarrassing one from their in-state rivals.


Still, it was just one game, and last I checked it’s pretty hard to win a best-of-7 series after Game 1.

According to the consensus odds page on the Action App, the Penguins opened Game 1 as -185 favorites. That line gave them an implied probability of ~65%. The Flyers came back at +160, meaning the market suggested they had a ~38% percent chance of winning.

No changes are expected for either team in Game 2, and yet the line is Penguins -215/Flyers +185. It’s not surprising to see such a drastic change, but that doesn’t mean the shift is justified. You’re getting 25 cents of added value on the same team that was +160 a day ago. The only difference is what happened in Game 1.

The Penguins are the more likely team to win on Friday night, but that doesn’t mean they are the right bet. Once again, recency bias has created a valuable opportunity.

Around the Cup

Here are the lines for the other two series. (Note: The Game 2 line for Vegas-Los Angeles was initially taken down after the Kings’ Drew Doughty was suspended for Game 2.)

Game 1: Winnipeg (W) -200 vs. Minnesota +170
Game 2: Winnipeg (W) -200 vs. Minnesota +170

Game 1: Vegas (W) -150 vs. Los Angeles +130
Game 2: Vegas (W) -163 vs. Los Angeles +143

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