Let's do a quick blind resume test for two NHL teams.
Team A, regular season: 33-16-7, 73 points, plus-32 goal differential
Team B, regular season: 32-17-7, 71 points, plus-28 goal differential
In the playoffs, each team has looked good, knocking off a higher seeded team in the first round. They're tied 2-2 in a second-round series, with each team having a three-goal win and an overtime win.
By the headline, you know Team A is the Boston Bruins and they're better than Team B, the New York Islanders. But not by much. There's not much separating the teams' blind resumes, though you'd never know it by the odds in this series.
The Bruins are -190 favorites at BetMGM in Monday night's Game 5. The Islanders are +155. That follows the pattern of the series, because the Bruins have been major favorites in each game (-190, -200, -155, -145 in the first four games).
The Bruins have more star power, they're likely to spend more time with the puck and in the offensive zone, and reasonable minds can pick them to win in regulation on Monday night as a favorite. But the Islanders have been a solid team all season, very similar to the Bruins in terms of results from the beginning of the season to right now, when the team to win two of the next three games moves onto the conference finals.
If you've been betting long enough, you've heard that you should be betting numbers and not teams. The Bruins are likely the better team. But there's no reason to believe they're clearly better than the Islanders. There's no reason to believe the Bruins should be such heavy favorites game after game in this series. The Islanders have value as a big underdog.
In the regular season, then against the favored Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and against the Bruins too, the Islanders have shown they're a quality team capable of winning games against good teams on the road. We know they can keep games close against the Bruins deep into the third period, because we've seen that most of this series. If they keep it close again into the third period of Game 5, those bets on the Islanders as significant underdogs will look pretty good.
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