Will home ice mean anything in an NHL playoff series where the ROAD has won four of the first six games?
Fans of the Boston Bruins sure hope so. After watching the Bruins survive Sunday with a 4-2 victory in Toronto (at even money on the betting line), they’ll be pounding the glass throughout Tuesday night’s series finale. The Bruins have been priced around -145 on the money line in three previous home games, and will be again Tuesday.
So far at TD Garden…
Game 1: Toronto (+130) 4, Boston 1
Game 2: Boston (-145) 4, Toronto 1
Game 5: Toronto (+130) 2, Boston 1
We’re knotted at three games apiece because the Bruins returned the favor as short underdogs at Scotiabank Arena.
Sunday’s season saver was impressive. Boston outshot Toronto 41-24 despite leading most of the game (it’s common for the trailing team to win that category). Hockey analytics website Natural Stat Trick showed the Bruins winning “expected goals” 4.09 to 1.94. That means the scoreboard told the story accurately.
Oddsmakers and sharps (professional bettors) generally respect home ice in seventh games (or home court in the NBA playoffs). But such strong play from visitors in this evenly-matched series should keep the money line from moving far off prior norms.
Note that Tuesday’s winner will advance to face the well-rested Columbus Blue Jackets, fresh off a huge upset of regular season juggernaut Tampa Bay. Either Boston or Toronto will be a series betting favorite in that one despite the potential fatigue factor.
You already know that another Boston pro team has advanced to the second round of its postseason. Just before the Bruins beat Toronto Sunday, the Celtics completed a sweep of the Indiana Pacers with a 110-106 victory. Boston backers also swept the series, as the Celtics beat point spreads of -7 and -7.5 at home, +2.5 and -3.5 on the road.
Kyrie Irving and company will be series underdogs to potent Milwaukee. The Celtics will have a much tougher challenge defending the fast-paced attack of the Bucks. Indiana lacked weaponry, needing a friendly whistle to break 100 points one time (24 made free throws Sunday, after 12, 6, and 17 in the prior three games).
During the regular season, Milwaukee played at the fifth fastest NBA pace according to ESPN.com (and fastest of all playoff teams), and compiled the third best “offensive efficiency” mark (points per possession).