One round down. Now the Bruins and Celtics are focused on second round challenges in their chase for a championship. Let’s see how betting markets are pricing expectations.
In the NHL, the Bruins weren’t just favored to advance past the Columbus Blue Jackets before the series began Thursday night. They entered the second round as slight favorites to win the Stanley Cup in a condensed field of hopefuls.
Sportsbooks across the spectrum opened Boston in the -155 to -165 range against Columbus. The return on the Blue Jackets ranged from +135 to +145. The Bruins were roughly 60% to advance give or take a few percentage points.
For the cup, Boston opened at 9/2 (+450 on the money line) at many offshore locations. That’s a win equivalent of 18%, though sports books build universes larger than 100% on futures boards to create their house edge. Best to think of it as about 15%, with seven other teams dividing up the remaining 85%.
The next two championship favorites were both from the Western Conference, St. Louis and San Jose were commonly 11/2 (-550) or 6/1 depending on the store. NHL postseasons are often wide open. This year is more wild than usual with so many pre-series underdogs scoring upsets.
In the NBA, the Celtics are big longshots to throw a parade. The Westgate in Las Vegas opened Milwaukee -250 to knockout Boston in the second round, with the Celtics returning +200. Sharps (professional bettors) hit the Bucks hard, driving the series prices up to -300/+240. When Sunday’s first game went up on the betting board, the Bucks were installed as pricey 8-point home favorites. That suggests point spreads near pick-em for the games played in Boston.
Should Boston somehow shock Milwaukee, the Celtics would be smaller series underdogs to Toronto and Philadelphia (either would have home court advantage over the Celtics), then an even bigger underdog to likely Western champion Golden State. Global books are centered on 16/1 for Boston to win the title. True odds are higher given the gauntlet ahead. Las Vegas bettors using a “rollover parlay” on a round-by-round basis might get back as much as 35/1. (A “rollover parlay” is betting your initial stake on a team to win its first series, then re-investing your full return if they keep advancing.)
Golden State is a fairly prohibitive favorite to repeat as league champs, priced at 5/8 (-160) at the Westgate. Milwaukee is second-favorite at 5/1 (+500).