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The first week of the NHL playoffs is in the books. Four series are tied at two games a piece. On Monday night, the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers will look to even their series up as well. Colorado is having its way with Nashville, but that's an outlier series in a first round that has proven just how much parity exists in the league.
In a league that might have seven of eight series tied at two games a piece by the end of the night, betting the playoffs on a game-by-game basis has been unpredictable. Ten of the sixteen playoff teams have already lost a game by at least four goals. However, there has been one betting trend taking these playoffs by storm and it might be a market that you've overlooked.
Overs are hitting at high rate
Through the first 28 games of the NHL playoffs, 17 games have gone over the total, 10 have gone under and one has pushed. While many associate playoff hockey with gritty and defensive play, that hasn't really been the case through the first week.
There's many reasons for this. First off, the league had its highest scoring season since 1996 this past season. That has carried over into the playoffs. Teams are also getting more power play opportunities per game. Pittsburgh, Boston, Carolina, Washington, Nashville and St. Louis have all started multiple goalies in the playoffs. It looks like Colorado might join that list on Monday due to Darcy Kuemper's scary eye injury.
While scoring overall is at an extreme high right now, the scoring has started early in games and that's the angle that has paid off handsomely for bettors throughout these playoffs, especially over the last few days.
First period bets
Through the first 28 games of these playoffs, 57 goals have been scored in the first period of games. That's an average of over two goals per first period, which is important because the first period over/under for almost every game is set at 1.5 goals.
So far in these playoffs, 21 of 28 first periods have featured at least two goals. On the first three days of the playoffs, the first period over was just 6-6 and hitting at 50%, which would be a losing wager if you consider the vig. However, since Thursday, 15 of 16 games have featured at least two goals in the first period. This includes all 12 games played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The only game to go under during this time was Calgary-Dallas Game 2 on Thursday, which featured just one first period goal.
Using that same mindset, you can also look toward betting whether there will be a goal scored in the first ten minutes of the game, often referred to as "the GIFT bet." So far in these playoffs, 19 of 28 games have featured a goal before the midway point of Period 1. This bet is on a 13-3 run over the last four days as well, so while not as dominant as betting over 1.5 goals, still very profitable.
The most profitable series to bet first period overs in have been Minnesota-St. Louis (4-0), Washington-Florida (3-0) and Colorado-Nashville (3-0). The only series with less than a .500 winning percentage for first period over bettors has been the Calgary-Dallas series (1-2). However, the Dallas and Calgary series has featured a goal within the first ten minutes of all three games. Other series that have been good to GIFT bettors have been Minnesota-St. Louis (4-0) and NY Rangers-Pittsburgh (3-0). The only series with a losing record for GIFT bettors is Boston-Carolina (1-3), though that series is 3-1 to the first period over.
Keep betting or regression?
As with any streak, the key decision to make is whether it's best to continue riding the streak or whether it's time to bet on some regression. As mentioned above, the playoffs are usually known for a more tight-checking, defensive brand of hockey. From that perspective, you would expect scoring to come down as these series come down to the wire.
However, scoring hasn't been this high across the league in almost 30 years. Also, teams rarely are relying on goalies like Louis Domingue in the postseason. You can easily make the case the uptick in scoring is here to stay.
Will this bet continue to hit at a 94% clip like it has the past four nights? No, it won't. However, bettors who have been riding this streak have seen their bankroll increase handsomely.