Should Lightning Loss Make NHL Favorite Bettors Think Twice?
Hey, we tried to warn you. In this piece and this one, on this site, we told you how risky it can be to assume the favorites will win in NHL playoff hockey. For hockey betting enthusiasts who bet on the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup, no doubt they are now aware of the dangers of taking the heavy favorites in this sport.
The question becomes: after the Lightning’s shocking first-round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, should every series moving forward be treated as a virtual toss-up?
Based on how the No. 1 team in the other conference is faring so far in these playoffs, I think the answer is: Yeah.
Flames The Latest Top Seed in Trouble
Just take a look at what’s going on in the Colorado-Calgary series out West. The Flames amassed the most points in the conference in the regular season and entered their first-round series against second wild-card Colorado a -230 favorite to win the series at 888Sport other sportsbooks.
The Avalanche took a 2-1 series lead Monday night with an absolute thrashing of the Flames, a 6-2 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. Colorado put 56 shots on Flames goalie Mike Smith, allowing 29 on Philipp Grubauer.
Suddenly, the Flames look old and slow next to an Avalanche team that appears to have gotten hot at the right time (8-1-2 down the stretch to sneak into the playoffs).
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was asked Wednesday not only about his team potentially being a giant slayer, but how to explain what happened to the Lightning.
“Parity in the league is insanely tight,” Bednar said. “I’ve said it before, it’s not where you finish, it’s how you’re playing at the end of the season and what your guys are willing to do to win. Our buy-in is strong. If you look at the Islanders series or the Columbus series, it doesn’t matter who they roll over the boards, everyone is playing the same way.”
Other Favorites in Trouble Too
The Boston Bruins had home-ice advantage quickly taken away by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their Eastern Conference series, and also are staring at a 2-1 hole entering Game 4.
The Winnipeg Jets, the higher seed in their first-round series with St. Louis, lost Games 1 and 2 at home, though they rebounded with two wins of their own in St. Louis.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were favored to knock off the New York Islanders in their first-round series and were swept by New York. San Jose was higher seed against the Vegas Golden Knights, but the Sharks are in a 3-1 hole.
The only higher-seeded teams that are, in fact, leading their series right now are the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators, but both teams have just 2-1 leads.
If this isn’t proof positive that there are no sure bets in the NHL, nothing is.
The Lightning’s collapse was truly stunning, however. They made history by becoming the first President’s Trophy winner in NHL history to be swept in a first-round series.
Tampa Bay was -400 to beat Columbus at Karamba and other books, and had a 3-0 lead after the first period of Game 1 at home. From that moment on, the Lightning were outscored 19-5 by the Blue Jackets.
Unbelievable, right? But, in the NHL, not really.
“In today’s game, with parity, it’s not unusual that an eight (seed) beats a one anymore,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters after the team’s stunning exit. “Everyone is that close. It’s just we couldn’t find our game. That was it. It was with us all year, but for six days in April, we couldn’t find it. It’s unfortunate because it puts a blemish on what was a hell of a regular season.”
There’s the understatement of the day. Some other top seeds may be saying similar things soon.
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