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Red Wings-Lightning Odds Don't Add Up

OK, this is weird.

The Tampa Bay Lightning opened as -196 favorites to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in their best of seven game Round 1 playoff series but the Bolts are +105 home underdogs in Game 1 Wednesday night.

To be favored to win a series but not favored in Game 1 isn’t unheard of. The Chicago Blackhawks opened as -133 faves to win their series against the St. Louis Blues but are -105 underdogs to win Game 1. The Blackhawks are on the road for Game 1 though and they are only small faves to win the series, so this makes some sense.

But the Red Wings-Bolts odds are definitely unusual when you consider that the team that wins Game 1 of a 7-game NHL playoff series wins the series 68.6 percent of the time (436-200) according to whowins.com, a site that tracks historical series trends for the NHL, NBA and MLB.

If you’re into implied probabilities, the Red Wings have a roughly 56 percent chance to win Game 1 but a roughly 44 percent chance to win the series according to the odds and a 31 percent chance according to historical data. 

So if Detroit were to win Game 1 and lose the series, it would be bucking a significant historical trend. Yet the odds are suggesting that’s probably what’s going to happen.

The obvious reason for the discrepancy here is the recent injury to Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson. Johnson produced a disappointing season with just 38 points in 64 games. Puck bettors remember him best, though, for ripping up the playoffs last year for 23 points and he led the Lightning to the finals with four game winning goals.

Johnson is listed as day-to-day with an ‘upper body injury’, so we could see a turnaround in the game-to-game odds if he comes back. And who knows if he’ll come back at all or if he’ll magically return to last year’s playoff form while banged up if he does.

To me, these lines don’t make a lot of sense when you put them together. At the very least we can assume the Bolts’ price to win the series is way too high. If the perception is that they won’t win Game 1 at home, I’m not sure how you can like them to win the series at -196. On the other hand, if you do think they’ll win the series you should probably love their odds of +105 to win Game 1 at home.

This Game 1 trend is a good number to keep in mind throughout the playoffs as futures series odds adjust. Opinions tend to change too much from game to game for most bettors and that's where value comes into play if you can keep in mind that Game 1 historically comes out on top at a rate of almost 70 percent.

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