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Stanley Cup Playoffs Simulation 2022 | Simulating the NHL Playoffs

With the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the books, we have four exciting second-round matchups.

I am not much of a hockey bettor myself, but I am great at building simulations of playoffs. With my programming skills, I can bet on any sport, as long as I have the best numbers to work with.

I have done it for March Madness, NFL, NBA, and MLB. That is why I decided to take a stab at the NHL.

To come up with my power ratings and build my model, I looked up other power ratings and consulted a few sharp NHL bettors such as The Game Day’s own Frank Ammirante and my friend Zach Pitcher.

Below, read to find out my model’s best NHL Playoff bets and how I came up with them.

2022 Stanley Cup Odds

All 2022 Stanley Cup odds are current as of Tuesday, May 17, from BetMGM Sportsbook.

  • Colorado Avalanche (+200)
  • Florida Panthers (+375)
  • Calgary Flames (+550)
  • Carolina Hurricanes (+550)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (+650)
  • New York Rangers (+1400)
  • Edmonton Oilers (+1400)
  • St. Louis Blues (+1600)

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How The NHL Playoffs Simulation Works

Each team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is assigned a power rating. I can then simulate a team’s chances of winning based on the ratings between the two teams in a given matchup.

The NHL is a little different than my other simulations. The power rating for each team is an expected win percentage that each team should have based on their recent play if they only played .500-level teams.

How does this Stanley Cup Playoff simulator work?

  • By taking the expected win percentage of two teams, I can figure out each team’s probability of winning a game based on Bill James’s Log5 formula. Even though that formula is mainly used for baseball, it has been found to be accurate for the NHL as well.
  • To account for home-ice advantage, I give each team a 7.5% edge at home. This means that I subtract 3.75% from the away team’s power rating and add 3.75% to the home team’s power rating.
  • For example, if an away team is a 55% win percentage team and the home team is a 62% win percentage team, the away team is adjusted to a 51.25% win percentage team and the home team is a 65.75% win percentage team. Based on the Log5 formula, the home team has a 64.6% chance of winning the game.

Accounting For Goalie Tandems

A variable I must account for in modeling the NHL that I don’t for other sports is goalie usage. In the NBA, for example, teams typically use the same lineup each night, so I can use the same power rating for each game.

In the NHL, however, teams employ different strategies when it comes to manning the net.

Some teams like the New York Rangers have one good goalie and one bad backup, so they’re likely to use only one goalie during the playoffs.

Other teams like the Florida Panthers use goalie tandems where their best goalie will play for about 70% of playoff games and their backup will play the remaining 30% of games.

To account for the randomness of goalie tandems, I assign each tandem team a power rating for when they use their backup goalie. So 70% of the time my simulation will use the power rating for their best goalie, and the other 30% of the time my simulation uses the power rating for the backup goalie.

How do I make these NHL playoffs power ratings? 

Just like my projections for other sports, I’m not reinventing the wheel here. The dirty secret in sports betting is that most sports bettors copy the work of other sports bettors or non-betting sports analysts.

For my NHL simulation, Zach Pitcher generously gave me his power ratings. In addition to Pitcher’s ratings, I also used MoneyPuck and Sagarin power ratings.

Most importantly, I’ve given the betting markets the most weight in my power ratings, as the market’s odds are shaped by sharp NHL bettors.

Once I compiled my power ratings, I then have my own power ratings that I can use to simulate the playoffs.

After simulating the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 25,000 times in Microsoft Excel, I tabulated how often each team won the Stanley Cup as well as how often each team won the Eastern and Western Conference championships.

I bet on a team to win the Stanley Cup if their odds are greater than my breakeven odds.

  • Breakeven odds are how often a bet needs to win for you to break even. To be a profitable long-term bettor, you should be making bets where the payoff is better than the breakeven odds.
  • For example, let’s say my model gives a team a 9% chance of winning the Stanley Cup for a breakeven price of (+900). If a sportsbook offers (+1200) on that bet, I take it. If it’s only offered at (+500), however, it’s not a good bet to take.

Essentially, this is all to help bettors figure out when to make a bet.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 Simulation

Eastern Conference Sim

In the Eastern Conference, both my model and the betting markets agree on which teams are most and least likely to win the conference. The Florida Panthers are the odds-on favorite to win the conference, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Rangers.

TeamConference WinnerBreakeven Odds

Before the first round, the Hurricanes were the best value. Unfortunately, the odds have caught up with them and they are no longer a good bet to win the conference (even though they remain a decent Stanley Cup bet). One reason for this is that Toronto’s odds were inflated, but they were eliminated by Tampa Bay in the first round.

Of the four remaining teams in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers are the only bet that my model likes even though they are the biggest longshot to win the conference.

Western Conference Sim

In the Western Conference, there is a sharp disagreement between the betting markets and my model on the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado should be the favorite to win the West, as they win the conference in 39.9% of my simulations. The issue is that at (-125) at BetMGM, they have a breakeven price of 55.6%.

TeamConference WinnerBreakeven Odds

With the Avalanche overvalued, there is a great deal of opportunity in betting on other Western Conference teams. The St. Louis Blues are an intriguing option out of the Central Division.

In the second round, if St. Louis gives Colorado the blues, they’ll only need to beat either the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames to win the conference at (+1000).

In the Pacific Division, Calgary represents the best bet. The Flames beat the Oilers in 76.3% of my simulations, which makes them an intriguing (+275) underdog at Caesars to win the conference.

Stanley Cup Sim

Colorado, Florida, Calgary, and Carolina are the consensus top four betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup according to the betting markets. Unsurprisingly, my model has the same quartet of teams as the favorites to win, as the Stanley Cup is won by either the Avalanche, Panthers, Flames, or Hurricanes in 70% of my simulations.

TeamStanley Cup WinnerBreakeven Odds

Of the four favorites, Calgary and Carolina are my recommended bets, while I would suggest running away from Colorado and Florida. Both Calgary and Carolina won their first-round playoff series 4-3, but they are well-positioned for the rest of the playoffs.

Outside of the favorites, the Rangers at (+1700) and the Blues at (+1800) are great bets to make. Both teams were borderline good bets at the start of the playoffs, but with the start of the second round, they are now worth a bet.

Best NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Bets

Calgary Flames To Win Western Conference (+275) at Caesars Sportsbook

Calgary Flames To Win Stanley Cup (+600) at Caesars

Going into the playoffs, Calgary was my best bet. Even though the Flames lost much of their value after the first round, they remain a good bet.

Outside of Colorado, Calgary has the best chance of winning the Western Conference.

One reason why I am high on the Flames is because of their goalie usage. During the regular season, their backup goalie Dan Vladar had a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of -0.81. Calgary could have replaced Vladar with a replacement-level goalie and they would have won almost one additional game.

In the playoffs, Calgary has only used their starting goalie Jacob Markstrom, who has been a relatively decent goalie this year. In the playoffs, Markstrom has a GAA of 1.53, which is the lowest of all goalies.

At (+275) to win the Conference and (+600) to win the Stanley Cup, Calgary is my favorite bet for this year’s playoffs.

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Calgary Flames: Win Western Conference

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Calgary Flames: Win Stanley Cup

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New York Rangers To Win Eastern Conference (+625) at Caesars

New York Rangers To Win Stanley Cup (+1700) at BetRivers Sportsbook

Going into the Playoffs, the New York Rangers were (+1700) underdogs to win the Stanley Cup. After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in an epic first-round series where they overcame a 3-1 deficit, they are still at (+1700) to win the Stanley Cup.

Why the Rangers’ price hasn’t moved from (+1700) is beyond me. Their odds of winning have unquestionably gone up.

What the Rangers have going for them is that they have Igor Shesterkin, who is one of the best goalies in the NHL. Shesterkin had some difficulties against Pittsburgh, but he still has the fourth-best WAR among playoff goalies this year.

During the regular season, the Rangers other goalie, Alexandar Georgiev, was a noticeable downgrade from Shesterkin. If New York can keep Shesterkin on the ice, they could upset Carolina in their second-round matchup.

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New York Rangers: Win Eastern Conference

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New York Rangers: Win Stanley Cup

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St. Louis Blues To Win Western Conference (+1000) at PointsBet Sportsbook

St. Louis Blues To Win Stanley Cup (+1800) at Caesars

The St. Louis Blues have the unenviable task of playing the Colorado Avalance in the second-round. If they beat Colorado, then St. Louis needs to only beat either Calgary or Edmonton to cash as a (+1000) underdog to win the Western Conference.

The Avalanche have the best chance of winning the conference, as they win in 39.7% of my simulations. The issue is that at (-125), they are the worst-valued NHL playoff team. This opens the door for the Blues as a large underdog.

St. Louis upset Minnesota in the first round, and they have a plausible chance of upsetting Colorado in the second round.

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St. Louis Blues: Win Western Conference

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St. Louis Blues: Win Stanley Cup

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