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Working Backwards from Gold Medal Odds: Head-to-Head Hockey Odds

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I'm going to do things a little differently today.  Usually we figure out how good we think various teams are, and then simulate a season or a tournament to determine their odds of winning.  But we can also work backwards - if we know each team's odds of winning the tournament, we can use the simulation to figure out how good each team is, and use that to determine their odds of winning various head-to-head matchups.

First, the odds of winning overall: Betbrain.com has aggregated a significant number of betting sites' odds for who's going to win the gold medal in hockey.  After removing the bookie's profit from the odds, we get the following predictions for the gold:

[As of 9 PM ET, 2/22/09]

Gold Win%
Canada 29
Russia 21.8
USA 17.6
Sweden 14.2
Czech 7.02
Finland 6.44
Slovakia 3.22
Switzerland 0.61
Germany 0.13
Belarus 0.14
Latvia 0.13
Norway 0.073

 

Assuming those odds are roughly correct, we can work backwards to figure out how often we'll see each matchup in the final:

Tough Easy Pct Final
CAN USA 18.2
RUS USA 14.9
SWE USA 11.6
CAN FIN 8.8
CAN CZE 8.5
RUS FIN 7.1
RUS CZE 7.1
SWE FIN 5.4
SWE CZE 5.4
SVK USA 3.2
SVK FIN 1.6
SVK CZE 1.5
CAN SUI 1.5
RUS SUI 1.2
SWE SUI 0.9

 

And also how often each team makes the Gold Medal game:

 

Team Pct Final
USA 48.2
CAN 37.8
RUS 30.9
SWE 23.9
FIN 23.0
CZE 22.6
SVK 6.7
SUI 3.9
BLR 1.4
LAT 1.0
GER 0.4
NOR 0.2

 

And of course we can find the head-to-head odds for some marquee quarter-final and semi-final games:

 

Round Favorite Win % Underdog
QF CAN 54 RUS
QF SWE 63 SVK
QF CZE 56 FIN
QF USA 83 SUI
SF CAN 63 SWE
SF RUS 59 SWE
SF CAN 75 SVK
SF RUS 71 SVK
SF USA 56 CZE
SF USA 62 FIN

 

And for the finals:

 

Favorite Win % Underdog
CAN 66 USA
RUS 62 USA
SWE 53 USA
USA 61 SVK
CAN 76 FIN
CAN 71 CZE
RUS 72 FIN
RUS 67 CZE
SWE 65 FIN
SWE 59 CZE
SVK 51 FIN
CZE 55 SVK

 

Let's just say that the people who have money riding on this game ain't givin' the US no respect - the combined odds imply a money line of +200 for the US if they come up against Canada in the finals.  Just to put that in perspective, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been a +200 or more underdog just twice this season, against Washington and Pittsburgh.  Toronto was on the road in both games and was playing back-to-back games and they had Vesa Toskala playing.

Think about that: take last year's Stanley Cup winner and put them up against the worst team in the league, coming off a game the night before, with the worst goaltender in the NHL starting in goal for them.  And that's how much of a slaughter the bettors think a Canada-USA final will be. 

I think somebody's trying to either limit the number of Canada bets so that they won't lose money if Canada wins...Or they're trying to sucker Canadians into placing bad bets.  But that's just me, maybe Canada really is that much better than the US.