Month: May 2010

Quiet No More

April is traditionally a slow gambling month. Despite the NHL and NBA playoffs kicking off, there’s not usually much action to be found. Thankfully, a couple of items have popped up for this weekend:

Les Habitants

From Puck Prospectus:

December 19th is the line of demarcation for me. That’s when Montreal’s prime mover, defenseman Andrei Markov, returned from a freak injury suffered on opening night. At that point in the season––through 37 games––the Canadiens had gone a poor but rather fortunate 16-18-3 (.473 winning percentage) given the fact that they were 8-3 in extra time. Montreal detractors––which includes essentially everyone writing or talking hockey right now, from the conventional pundits to my sabermetrically savvy colleagues at Puck Prospectus––point to the uninspiring results of those early season Price-led, Markov-less Canadiens when explaining away how fortunate the Habs were to upset the Capitals and why they have no shot against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But you’re talking about two completely different teams. Whether conflating those two teams indiscriminately, or conflating them in the name of collecting a larger sample size, you’re bound to get fooled by these Habs, and surprised by the results.

After Markov’s return, the Canadiens finished the final 45 games of the regular season with a fine 23-15-9 (.589 winning percentage) run – as hot as any Eastern Conference team over that stretch of games, other than––of course––Washington. Even more impressively, with Markov in the lineup and Halak in goal, Montreal transformed from a team scoring 2.47 GF/game (30th in NHL) and allowing 2.88 GA/game (18th in NHL) with -0.41 GD/game (25th in NHL) to a team scoring 2.91 GF/game (8th in NHL) and allowing 2.48 GA/game (4th in NHL) with a 0.42 GD/game (5th in NHL). Sure, the team that beat the Capitals may have been the “16th overall seed”––lucky to get in the playoffs over the Rangers with a mere 88 points––but don’t get fooled: it was the 5th best team in the league upsetting the best team in the league with the help of an outstanding performance in goal.

But December 19th is not just for the Canadiens; it provides an illuminating starting point for looking at the Penguins as well. Through 36 games, Pittsburgh was a scalding 25-10-1 (.708 winning percentage), fourth in the NHL at +25 GVT, a hair’s breadth behind Washington’s league-leading +30 GVT. Yet over the next 46 games, the Pens went a tepid 22-18-6 (.543 winning percentage), their lackluster performance camouflaged by the wins and points accumulated in October and November. Keeping in mind that a .561 winning percentage is average––given the additional points given for overtime losses––you’re talking about a below average team over the course of more than half the regular season, regardless of their pedigree as defending Stanley Cup champions, regardless of their marquee exposure, regardless of their big name superstars. Perception is about as far from reality as you can get – With both teams.

The series is currently tied at 2-2 and you can get the same price on Montreal to win the series, roughly +300, as was available four games ago. I’ve also got small action on Montreal wo win the East and the Stanley Cup at +900 and +2200 respectively.

La Liga

It’s the second to last week of the season and once again time to involve the favorite team of Miracle Covers: Athletico Madrid.
Opponents Sporting Gijon are -150 at home tomorrow.

Since mid-March, two teams have been playing their La Liga matches as though the tournament were a sporting version of Asterix’s Roman Legion: an entertaining way to know new cities, make some friends and get food for free. Atletico are one of them.

Atletico’s week passed by placidly, talking about their upcoming Europa League final, with happy statements from players and coach (Quique Sanchez even said: “We work to bring happiness to the people”, and I can’t even think of a politically correct pun here). They even managed to beat Valladolid on Wednesday, in an almost unintended way, taking advantage of Clemente’s team wasteful first half and subsequent hara-kiri after Atletico scored first.

Sporting aren’t totally free of trouble yet, but they will be after playing Atletico’s B side on Saturday.

Lastly, the Round Rock Express have a new pitcher.