NHL Play-In Round Betting: Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets
The return of the NHL is right around the corner, and that gives us a chance to pounce on some betting action at FanDuel Sportsbook.
The format for rest of the season is going to look a lot different than what we're used to as the NHL's restart begins with Play-In Round Series. We're going to take a look at each series, starting with the Winnipeg Jets versus the Calgary Flames, and see if we can pinpoint some betting value.
Let's get going.
Flames vs. Jets
It's appropriate that the Jets and Flames will have to get through each other to advance to the NHL Conference Quarterfinals. Both teams were primed for a playoff push when the season was paused back in March. Chances are it would have come down to the last few games of the season to see which one of these teams would be advancing to the usual first round of the NHL playoffs.
From an advanced metric perspective, neither team holds a clear advantage. Both teams struggled to build off impressive 2018-19 campaigns and rank in the bottom half of most advanced stat categories. Winnipeg ranks 21st in relative shot opportunities, 24th in scoring chances-for percentage and 17th in Corsi percentage -- which is consolidated into the 30th ranked expected goals-for percentage.
Calgary has been somewhat more productive at 19th in relative shot opportunities, 17th in scoring chances-for percentage, 15th in Corsi percentage and 16th in expected goals-for percentage. Although an improvement over their counterparts, it still doesn't inspire a ton of confidence.
The Jets' success this season was largely predicated on Connor Hellebuyck. In wins, Hellebuyck posted a 1.55 goals against average and 95.4% save percentage. In losses, he posted ECHL-worthy numbers of 4.18 goals against with an 86.7% save percentage. It looks like the Jets will only go as far as Hellebuyck takes them.
Thankfully, Hellebuyck has been dynamite against the Flames in his career. In eight starts, Hellebuyck has gone 5-2-0 while limiting Calgary skaters to a 6.8% shooting percentage (93.2% save percentage) and allowing an average of 1.97 goals against. That doesn't bode well for a Flames team with the 20th-ranked shooting percentage at 9.2% on the season.
Another key to the Jets' success will be their ability to maintain defensive structure. Winnipeg currently has the fifth-ranked save percentage, at 91.3%, which drops off substantially when considering only high-danger opportunities, a split in which it falls to a 17th-ranked 80.9%. That, in part, is due to their 30th-ranked high-danger chances against. You can't expect Hellebuyck to stop them all when you give up that many chances against.
However, Calgary hasn't shown that they can capitalize on high-danger opportunities. Calgary currently ranks 18th in high-danger goals for on a 15th-ranked high-danger shooting percentage. Similarly, they've created only the 16th-most high-danger chances for. All of which is average, at best.
How to Bet It
In weighing the metrics, it doesn't appear that the Flames have the tools to expose the Jets' weaknesses.
There are two numberFire ranking systems that are worth considering. First, Winnipeg is ranked 10th in our NHL Team Power Rankings, whereas the Flames are ranked 16th. Second, numberFire has run 10,000 simulations on Play-In Round series. The end result is the Jets have a 53.04% chance to advance past the Flames.
From either perspective, the Jets hold the advantage. With Winnipeg currently listed as +104 underdogs at FanDuel Sportsbook, that price carries with it an implied probability of 49.02%. So taking the Jets +104 series price is positive expected value.