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Liiga playoffs, Friday the 29th

Betting thoughts about Liiga playoffs on Friday, the 29th of March

I'll have a short Easter break, betting on the Swedish trotting rollovers and traveling with my family. This Liiga play-offs blog will be the last one in the series. Before the semifinals, I'll record a podcast.

Have a relaxing easter!


Jorma Vuoksenmaa

Tappara 3-2 (Power Rating: 60 from 60, Championship odds: 3x from 3x)

Tappara was my initial favorite before the season. They won the regular season, albeit with "poor play." Grönborg modified Tappara's playing style a lot, and I agree with the "meidän peli" -experts; Tappara is now more prone to mistakes, both offensively and defensively, compared to the traditional Tappara style. This is not good for success in the playoff environment.

That being said, Grönborg is an experienced coach who has won big games. Tappara has strong player material. But for me, they do not look like solid SM favorites anymore.

Tappara was just a mid-pack team in the league's net goal expectation statistics. Was the team lucky, or were their goal attempts of exceptional quality? And is Tappara goaltender Christian Heljanko as good as his figures suggest? He has played well in during the regular season and against TPS, too. But if he hits a bad or unlucky night, Tappara might face a problem, because Tappara lacks a strong backup. This could be a disadvantage in the playoffs.

In the first match-up with TPS, Heljanko saved Tappara from being the trailing team after the weak first period—and even during the second period. In the third, Tappara improved a bit in their play, but the final score of 4-1 flattered them.

I thought Tappara might have been just "sleepy" in the first playoff game after the off-week, but in the second matchup in Turku, TPS continued to be a better team. TPS won deservedly.

I found third tie on Saturday in Tampere is very hard to assess. I expected Tappara to improve, but TPS had shown, that they are stronger, than I thought two weeks ago.

Tappara clinched the actual game by three first-period goals against an unconcentrated TPS, which was the better side after that. TPS had played six games in nine days, so one can only admire how they fought. Tappara has now taken a strong grip on the series, with the home game to come next. However, they are hard to bet even with the expected improvement because they have looked so vulnerable - even for statisticians.

In the fourth match-up, Tappara lost in an even game on extra time, but not undeservedly. It becomes increasingly evident that the top three teams in the League are not as dominant against the challengers as the player salary budgets would suggest.

In the fifth matchup, Tappara deserved to win, even if the scoreline of 5-2 flattered them. The team is improving. TPS will be desperate and only a slight underdog in Turku on Easter Saturday, but Tappara should kill TPS with one of their series bullets and progress to the semifinals. However, now is not the time to plunge into Tappara championship bets at 3x. One will get almost the same odds, when the expected Tappara - KalPa -matchup is cliched, and when the risk with the bet has reduced significantly.

TPS 2-3 (Power Rating: 53 from 54, Championship odds: 31x from 21x)

I initially considered TPS a modest, poorly managed organization, but I was wrong. TPS has had good coaching, and their acquisitions during the season have been more successful than expected, especially the two young IFK players, Teissala and Salin. The team has the physicality needed for the playoffs. TPS has excellent puck control and allows very few shots. Therefore, TPS can keep their home games against Tappara surprisingly even and low-scoring, although advancing to the next round seems unlikely.

Already in the first away tie against Tappara, TPS had more of the puck and good scoring opportunities! The scoreline of 4-1 to Tappara with two empty-net goals was misleading. In game two, TPS won deservedly and dominated the statistics.

It is still hard to believe that TPS would be a champion, and there is a risk that their goaltending would collapse later during the series. However, at least the physical and puck-controlling TPS will keep the games tight and low-scoring.

Even the third meeting between the teams was tighter than the final score suggested. According to TPS coach Miettinen, "Tepsi" was mentally tired after having played six games in nine days, and Tappara explored that by scoring three first period goal. Since then the game was tight and TPS slightly better in fact.

The fourth game in Turku tied the series. TPS had three much-needed rest days, and fought to an overtime victory. Tappara needs to improve their play to the level their roster is capable to.

TPS took a major 5 min. penalty on the fifth game in Tampere and never recovered after the bad start. They deserved to lose, but the goals and expected goals in the game are misleading. Again, TPS was not that much worse than Tappara. TPS will not be a clear underdog in their "must-win" -game in Turku on Easter Saturday, but they are obviously a big underdog to go through to the semifinals. Their Championship odds of 31x for TPS is ridiculous, but they are worth considering in the fifth match at 1.40x with 1½ goals Asian Handicap.

Ilves 1-3 (Power Rating: 61 from 62, Championship odds: 13x from 7x

Ilves was very close to Tappara in my power ratings before the season and still before the playoffs. They played well against Kalpa in the first match but slipped their "safe" 3-1 lead with silly mistakes. Ilves has good coaching and a lot of upcoming young talent. If they survive in the very tight second match-up away at Kuopio, they'll return as at least a joint favorite to the exciting championship race. However, the hard-working and solid KalPa is a team with a big T, and the result of the Saturday thriller is almost a coin flip. Losing that, Ilves will face a real risk of being eliminated, even if they might be the strongest team at the moment! That example underlines the cruelness of playoff hockey.

Even the second and the third tie went to extra time. KalPa was luckier in second, Ilves in third. On both occasions, Ilves was slightly better, especially in the third game at home.

The fourth game in Kuopio was a shocker for me: Ilves took unbelievable penalties and lost the even match indirectly with them. Now they have dug a grave for themselves and their current championship odds 13x is closer to a fair odds to survive to semifinals! To beat the disciplined KalPa in their current strong mental state tree times in a row would be a demanding task even if Ilves played up to their talent. Now there might be something seriously wrong with the team. I have never seen similar waste of hockey skill to bad team discipline, what I saw on Thursday.

KalPa 3-1 (Power Rating: 55 from 54, Championship odds: 9x from 13x via 8x)

KalPa appears to be a stylistically consistent and disciplined playoff team. Before the playoffs, I rated them quite far behind the top four, but I might have been wrong. An alternative view is that Ilves made mistakes and was unlucky to lose the first two games. On the third, Ilves was the better side. However, hard-working and fighting KalPa is with their strong home support as a probable winner as Ilves on Thursday.

Well, Kalpa won the tight Tuesday tie with the help of Ilves taking stupid penalties. They are now big favorites to win at least one game of the three remaining and then qualify to the semi-finals. It appears to me that KalPa compensates a lot of their small player-material deficit compared to the "big" teams with hard work, good discipline, and the current euphoria in the team and with their fans.

Pelicans 3-2 (Power Rating: 59 from 59, Championship odds: 4.7x from 4x)

Pelicans exceeded expectations last year and have exceeded expectations again this year by finishing third in the regular season.

When the playoffs started, I still considered the Pelicans inferior to IFK. Now after seeing three solid performances from them, I rate them as good as HIFK and not that much weaker than the Tampere teams or Kärpät. However, I find their current championship price 4.15 very skinny.

I am not second-guessing my opinion, even if Pelicans was the luckier team in the first two "anybody's games".

Pelicans is a hardworking team and is now a big favorite to progress to the semifinals. There, they would be underdogs against Ilves or Kärpät but slight favorites against KalPa or TPS.

Pelicans' goaltender, Kokko, has played very well, even in the play-offs. He gives an impression of a laid-back, relaxed lad, so the play-offs-pressures hardly hurt him. I wasn't sure about that before the series started. That is very important for Pelicans, because they cannot expect help from their backup goaltenders.

Pelicans lost the marathon game in Helsinki. That did not affect the power ratings. The game went to the third extra period, and everybody understands, that anybody could have won it. However, the home advantage in Lahti for Pelicans is much stronger than for HIFK in Helsinki. That makes even more probable, that Pelicans will be able to kill IFK with one of the match-balls it has achieved with good defensive tactics, hard work and slightly better luck than IFK.

Ice Hockey is a random, funny, and cruel game. The Pelicans lost home the fifth and potentially decisive game against HIFK when they were probably more on top than in any of the previous matchups. Niko Hovinen, in the HIFK goal, saved all the good scoring chances Pelicans had. Now the luck was on the HIFK's side, and they won with a fighting performance. However, HIFK again had difficulties building up organized attacks under the aggressive, early pressure by the Pelicans. The teams quote a similar quality, and the home advantages with coincidences will decide the series. Pelicans have a definite advantage with only one win needed of the two possibilities, but the betting market is very accurate when pricing them as a 45% underdog in Helsinki.

HIFK 2-3 (Power Rating: 59 from 58, Championship odds: 14x from 61x)

IFK were beaten in the first match-up vs. Pelicans in a strange anybody game. The significant home advantage with the crowd and the advantage of matching Tyrväinen-line vs. Lehterä-line affected the outcome. On the second tie on Friday, that was not a factor. HIFK played well and energetically, and my favorite player, Jonas Rask, showed his fighting spirit with the HIFK goal. Unfortunately, the better scoring chances did not go in, and two bad mistakes by goaltender Taponen cost HIFK the game.

On Saturday, HIFK lost again because of terrible mistakes.

HIFK is not worse than Pelicans, and in their home do-or-die game on Tuesday, they are a bet at 1.8x to survive.

HIFK was a bit unlucky in their finishing, and ordinarily reliable goalie Roope Taponen gave away two goals in the second leg. As you can see, even with that situation, the individual match markets, the championship market, and "to progress next round are entirely different worlds.

On Tuesday, HIFK won money for me and the readers of this blog (see the previous chapter). Now IFK avoided mistakes and bad scoring luck. Vesalainen showered many times his puck handling skills and finally got a deserved, decisive goal for his account. Hovinen was again on goal and played well.

If HIFK is a slightly stronger team judged solely by the player material, the Pelicans rise almost to the same level with their team discipline and tailored defensive tactics against IFK. When the opposite emotional states in the teams are taken into consideration, HIFK will face the very stressful do-or-die game in Lahti as a clear underdog.

HIFK survived that fifth and potentially decisive game with fighting, discipline, and humbleness to clear the puck when needed. They were probably more on the ropes than in any of the previous matchups. But Niko Hovinen, in the HIFK goal, saved all the good scoring chances the Pelicans had. Now even the luck was on the HIFK's side, and they won with a fighting performance. However, HIFK again had difficulties building up organized attacks under the aggressive, early pressure by the Pelicans.

A part of the huge emotional pressure on HIFK by Helsingin Sanomat and the fans might ease up a bit now. There are doubts about the fitness of Luc Martin, but providing he is in good condition on Saturday, IFK should be slightly better than the Pelicans. With the home fans (hopefully) again behind them, they are at least a 55% favorite to earn the seventh game in Lahti on Monday.

Kärpät 3-2 (Power Rating: 59 from 60, Championship odds: 5.30x from 5x)

Something probably improved psychologically inside the Karpät dressing room, when a good and experienced coach Lauri Marjamäki was sacked after a bad period mid-season. Kärpät's new coach, Ville Mäntymaa, was a question mark. Still, when he got the "genius" championship coach Mikko Mantere by his side, Kärpät returned to the championship race as a strong contender. Although the team's lineup has changed during the season, the player material is still high quality. Kärpät has two good goaltenders. Westerlund is excellent, and Karhunen is decent.

Karhunen started against Jukurit and played well as the skaters, too. Karpät actually scored all five goals in the match—the only Jukurit goal was an own goal from a "too well won" face-off! Kärpät (and their home support) might be returning to a level the classy team deserves.

The second tie was very tight, and Jukurit could have scored the opening goal. Then, everything would have been different. Even in a 1-1 situation, Jukurit had more Xg.

In the third meeting, Kärpät was slightly better, with the support from their fans, finally getting back behind their team.

In the fourth match on Mikkeli, Kärpät lost - again, it was a tight match. Jukurit is not a push-over, but slightly worse than Kärpät. The home advantage means a lot in these physical series due to strong power-play by both teams, especially Kärpät.

Kärpät is strong, but they might be a bit too dependent on their first line and the power-play opportunities. The referees allow a lot in the playoffs. That is a minus for Kärpät in their away games. I have bet Kärpät 14x to win the championship, but I won't touch them in Mikkeli game six.

Jukurit 2-3 (Power Rating: 57 from 56, Championship odds: 18x from 51x)

According to our Xg-calculations, Jukurit played well during the regular season. Unlucky enough, they faced slightly better and luckier Kärpät in the first play-offs round. Jukurit might be worth a bet at 1.8x or more (ML OT Inc.) on their do-or-die game on Tuesday in Mikkeli, even if their situation looks desperate to go through to the semifinals.

Fortunately for me and you as a reader, Jukurit won us money on Tuesday. They finally turned out to be the luckier one in these four tight matches. I feel for Jukurit and Olli Jokinen for their good work and progress, but the task of winning three games against slightly better Kärpät (and twice away at Oulu) feels like a less than 10% shot.

The fifth game repeated the theme of this year's playoffs: very thin margins between the teams and a lot of randomness deciding the games. Jukurit won away at Kärpät, playing OK but losing the Xg.

On the Saturday game in Mikkeli, Jukurit are about 55% favorite with their good home advantage. depending on the price, unders and Jukurit +1½ or ML (OT inc.) might be worth considering.

ESBC:n kanssa enemmän iloa vedonlyönnistä

ESBC:n voittamisen resepti perustuu Suomen tunnetuimman vedonlyöntisijoittajan Jorma Vuoksenmaan tutkimustuloksiin ja yli 30 voitollisen vuoden kokemukseen vedonlyönnistä. Jorma Vuoksenmaa ja ESBC:n työntekijät pelaavat samaan analyysiin perustuen samoja kohteita kuin asiakkaamme.

ESBC:n sivustolta peliharrastajat ja -sijoittajat saavat ajankohtaiset sijoitusneuvot vedonlyöntiin. ESBC ylläpitää kykyään parantaa asiakkaittensa menestystä yliopistotasoisella tutkimuksella pelisijoittamisesta ja urheilusta.


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