Eastern Conference Picks
NHL Western Conference
Round Robin Tournament
As entertaining and exciting as those initial Western Conference elimination series are, the reality remains that there are still four powerhouse teams at the top of the conference that those potential title hopefuls will still have to get through.
And while the round robin for seeding isn't the perfect solution across the board - 1st place teams St. Louis and Boston could end up losing seeding to the respective #4 seeds who were 12 and 11 points behind respectively in the standings – it has made the most of a bad situation.
Round Robin Schedule
There will be a total of six games played at Rogers Place in Edmonton over a week from Sunday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 9. None of the four teams will play any games on zero days rest.
- Sunday, Aug. 2: St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche
- Monday, Aug. 3: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
- Wednesday, Aug. 5: Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars
- Thursday, Aug. 6: Vegas Golden Knights vs. St. Louis Blues
- Saturday, Aug. 8: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche
Sunday, Aug. 9: Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues
NHL West Round Robin
Giving these teams a few games with something, not everything on the line right out of the gate is a nice advantage of sitting in the Top 4, as is knowing you are already “in” the playoffs. It would feel a little gross to see #4 Dallas, and #4 Philadelphia, flip spots with the Blues and Bruins respectively in this format, but seeding generally matters the least in the NHL playoffs and this way things are somewhat arbitrarily settled on the ice in some manner.
Built-in advantages for those better teams with the tie-breaker rule does help those top teams in their quest to maintain position, but how any or all of these four teams look in a return to play is still anyone's guess.
However, it is always fun to try and figure out where the seeds may fall based on what happened between the teams during regular season meetings, and at the very least come up with at least a potential betting approach for some of the individual round robin games.
Let's see what we can find in the West!
St. Louis Blues: 42-19-7-3
Price to win #1 Seed: +175
- 6.8 total goals scored on average in 12 games played against other three teams
- 8-4 SU in those 12 games overall; 2-2 SU record in OT/SO games
- Best foe to face: Went 5-0 SU vs Dallas; outscored Stars 18-9 in season series
- Worst foe to face: Went 1-2 SU vs Vegas; both losses in OT
The St. Louis Blues put together another strong season as they look for a second consecutive Stanley Cup title. (AP)
St. Louis was the only team of these four to post a winning record in all of their contests against the other three squads, and generally did so in dominating fashion. All eight games that didn't need extra time to be decided for the Blues against these three teams were all decided by at least two goals, and St. Louis went 6-2 SU in those contests.
It's also interesting to note that the 6.8 average goals scored per Blues game against one of these three teams would bring a situation like the winner in all 12 of those games needed to score at least three goals as well. So maybe a few 'overs' may be the way to look when the Blues are involved in these round robin games. After all, St. Louis games against Colorado averaged 7 goals exactly, while Blues/Golden Knights games put up 8.6 goals on average.
Hard not to like the Blues chances here of staying atop the conference given they were the only team to post a winning record in head-to-head contests, and half of those losses were in the coin flip known as regular season overtime. Posting a winning 2-1 SU record seems like the likeliest of outcomes for the Blues if decent enough hockey is played. Arguments can be made as to why staying off a St. Louis futures bet for inning this round robin are out there, but it doesn't get a whole lot better than what the Blues resume has on it for support.
Colorado Avalanche: 42-20-7-1
Price to win #1 Seed: +225
- 6.4 total goals scored on average in 10 games played against other three teams
- 4-6 SU in those 10 games overall
- Best foe to face: Went 2-0 SU vs Vegas; outscored Knights 13-4 in season series
- Worst foe to face: Went 0-4 SU vs Dallas; two losses in OT
Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche tied the Blues for the most wins in the Western Conference with 42 this season. (AP)
Colorado is a strong enough team that talking yourself into backing them at this price to win the round robin. All it may take for the Avalanche to come away with at least a 2-1 SU record is for them to crack the nut against Dallas and go from there. Obviously beating a St. Louis team that they split the season series with (2-2 SU) would go a long way towards that goal as well, and that may be determined by something as simple as which side is deemed the home team. The home side went a perfect 4-0 SU in St. Louis/Colorado games.
Physically, Colorado is among the youngest teams in the NHL by average age of projected starters, and that's something that's at least got to be acknowledged all things considered. And remember, a few Avalanche players were already announced to have dealt with the virus months ago, and even without knowing names, should they be bigger names and they've recovered 100%, the fear of being on this Avalanche team potentially not at full strength is less then it could be for the other three teams involved.
However, it can be tough to really get the sense that a team like Colorado cares too much about having that top seed in this scenario. A younger team would feed off that situation were they on their home ice and could feed off the crowd, but in a neutral environment like this, they probably aren't too concerned about it. Their level of hockey stacks up with anyone in this league when they are at their best, and after being on the right side of a #8 over #1 upset in last year's playoffs, the Avalanche know every team can be dangerous at this time of the year.
Colorado earning the #1 seeding is definitely in the cards, but it's not an outcome I'm all that interested in right now. I view Colorado as a much better futures team to back in either the series market that comes up, or the outright conference or Stanley Cup markets overall.
Vegas Golden Knights: 39-24-6-2
Price to win #1 Seed: +300
- 7.7 total goals scored on average in 7 games played against other three teams
- 3-4 SU in those 7 games overall
- Best foe to face: Went 2-1 SU vs St. Louis; both OT wins where Vegas scored 5+
- Worst foe to face: Went 0-2 SU vs Colorado
- Only team from Pacific Division in Top 4
The Golden Knights seek their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in the last three seasons. (AP)
Right away that 7.7 average goals per game for Vegas screams 'overs' for their contests in this round robin and you won't get much of an argument from me if that's a route you take. That being said, it may be something that is slightly exploitable given the smaller sample size of games Vegas has overall being the only Pacific division team. G Marc-Andre Fleury is no stranger to getting scorching hot between the pipes this time of the season, and totals have to start out on the higher side.
The Golden Knights as a team can be the ultimate “run hot, run cold team,” and if you did want to back one of the chasers to take advantage of this format, Vegas is a pretty good choice. The Golden Knights have the team speed to keep their opponents on their back foot for long periods of time, and if they put the puck in the net multiple times during those runs, games are typically over.
Then again, no crowd means no atmosphere, and for a team like Vegas that's thrived on that since Day 1, they could end up starting out on one of those 'cold' streaks and go 0-3 SU. Had two OT games not gone their way against St. Louis, they would have been swept in the season series by the Blues and the Avalanche for an 0-5 SU record. That's how razor thin the edge can be at times. But everyone goes to Vegas with a little gamble in their hearts already, and should the Knights run hot out of the gate, cashing at +300 early on is never a bad thing.
Dallas Stars: 37-24-5-3
Price to win #1 Seed: +550
- 5.09 total goals scored on average in 11 games played against other three teams
- 5-6 SU in those 11 games overall
- Best foe to face: Went 4-0 SU vs Colorado
- Worst foe to face: Went 0-5 SU vs St. Louis
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn look to lead the Stars to the top overall seed in the Western Conference. (AP)
Doesn't get much streakier than the head-to-head records for the Dallas Stars against their two division rivals in this round robin. If those trends against Colorado and St. Louis were to continue, chances are Dallas isn't going to grab that #1 seed even with a 2-1 SU record. Not sure the Stars have the offensive firepower to rely upon after such a long layoff to come out of the gate and lead the way to a 3-0 SU mark, so their betting value likely comes along further down the road.
It is that number of 5 goals/game that stands out like a sore thumb though given what the other three teams have put up together. And similar to potentially taking advantage of Vegas 'unders' in this round robin, Dallas 'overs' are in that category as well with the totals already likely to be a little lower. Only one of the Stars 11 games against these teams saw 7 goals scored, and that was only because they had to tied at 3-3.
The defense Dallas plays could help them go a long way once the seven-game playoff rounds start, but they may treat these round robin games more like a training camp to get their offense going and opening things up. Sparks happen early and maybe a run at the #1 seed happens for the Stars, but if it does, it does, no need to sweat missing on a +550 underdog hitting in an unheard of season restart scenario.
Overall, there appears to be more ways to look at the individual game totals and work them to your advantage in this round robin format, and waiting to see just how interested these teams may be in actually treating this like a #1 seed battle and not extended training camp is always an option as well.
If everything theoretically remains equal to the standing of these teams for the six months the season was played, St. Louis likely does enough to win this thing in the end. Early losses for Colorado and/or Dallas might have them punting on #1 seed aspirations by midway through their second contest. The other option is banking on Vegas running out right out of the gate, and as entertaining as an option that is, it's a tough thing to confidently pull the trigger on when the most recent form you've got to work with is from three months ago.
For now, more of the better betting options for these four teams likely lie in their series prices next round and beyond, as we could easily see all four of these teams pair off in seven-game sets in the Western Conference semis. It will be then where using what we see from these teams in the round robin will be much more valuable, as opinions will be more confidently backed.
But if you are looking for an early piece of the action, grabbing a piece of Vegas and a chunk of St. Louis at the current prices should end up producing the winner here.
St. Louis +175 (1 unit)
Vegas +300 (0.5 unit)
1) St. Louis
NHL East Playoff Seeds