- The 2020 NHL playoffs are likely to be played in empty arenas
- Vegas has had one of the best home-ice records since it joined the league in 2017-18
- The Golden Knights’ postseason odds have taken a hit as a result
Yesterday, I wrote about the likely impact of coronavirus on the odds for NHL games (among other sports) when play resumes post-pandemic. One of the main takeaways was that the early NHL odds would have discounted moneylines for the teams that, statistically, have the strongest home-ice advantage. Empty arenas will be seen as having a neutralizing effect for franchises that otherwise draw massive, raucous crowds.
Looking at the latest NHL futures, that is already playing out with the Vegas Golden Knights. From March 18th to May 20th, VGK’s 2020 Stanley Cup futures fell from +650 to +750, even though zero games were played in that time.
Their odds to win the Western Conference show a similar decline.
2020 Western Conference Title Odds
|Team||Odds on May 20||Odds on Mar. 19|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+378||+325|
|St Louis Blues||+390||+450|
|San Jose Sharks||+25000||OFF|
|Los Angeles Kings||+25000||OFF|
Odds as of May 20, 2020.
Vegas Among NHL’s Best on Home Ice
Over the last 2.5 years – i.e. from the time the Golden Knights joined the league in 2017-18 until the league paused on Mar. 12th, 2020 – Vegas has been among the best teams in the NHL on home ice. As the table below shows, VGK ranks fifth out of 31 teams in terms of points collected at home (161). Only the Bruins (175), Lightning (172), Jets (163), and Penguins (162) have earned more.
Most Points on Home-Ice: Oct. 2017-18 to Mar. 2020
|Team||Points at Home|
More importantly, VGK ranks fourth in the league in terms of the differential between home and road points. Vegas has earned 161 points at home and only 127 on the road (a 34-point difference) since joining the league.
By that metric, they only sit behind the Senators (+47 at home), Penguins (+38), and Jets (+35).
Widest Home/Road Splits: 2017-18 to 2019-20
|Team||Home/Road Points Gap|
|Golden Knights||34 PTS|
|Red Wings||26 PTS|
Purely as a piece of trivia, only one team in the league has earned more points on the road than at home since Oct. 2017. Surprisingly, it’s the Calgary Flames (131 at home vs 139 on the road), who routinely rank top-ten in attendance.
T-Mobile Arena Is Electric
Since puck-drop for the first game of the 2017 season, the environment at T-Mobile Arena has been among the noisiest and most boisterous in the NHL. A miracle run to the Stanley Cup finals in year one turned hockey in Vegas from a novelty into a passion.
Whatever one’s opinion of crowds affecting momentum, research supports the notion that referees are influenced by crowd noise: home teams receive more power-plays. In the NFL, home teams were found to receive more favorable calls from officials, as well, but the effect leveled out after replay reviews became prevalent.
When the NHL season resumes, the chances of arenas having fans in the stands are minimal. The latest prop on whether the NFL would have fans in Week 1 (which doesn’t start until Sep. 10th) strongly favored the no at -400 (80% implied probability). With the NHL hoping to resume by mid-July at the latest, it’s hard to see arenas being filled.
There’s another theory bandied about that VGK’s home-ice edge is buoyed by visiting teams enjoying the Vegas nightlife on the eve of gameday. There’s no credible research on the subject yet, but if bettors buy into that idea, it’s all the more reason to fade VGK at home. Even when the hotels and bars on the Strip re-open, “[t]hings will be a little different,” to quote a recent ad.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.