Betting Strategies: How to Bet on a Championship Series MVP and Win

With a bit of smart handicapping, you can get much better odds picking MVP than picking which team will win a Finals series. I learned this myself in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. contributor David Miles shares the logic behind his recent success betting his homestate Colorado Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup AND Avalanche Defenseman Cale Makar to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.


The Colorado Avalanche entered the Final as -200 favorites, which was way too short for me to bet, particularly because I snatched up my home state Avs in February at +400 odds to win the Cup.

That being off my plate afforded me the time to peruse the odds for MVP instead. Obviously, the first step in your handicapping should be to select the team that you think will win the championship because the MVP virtually always comes from that team. Only five players have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of a losing team in the Stanley Cup Final, the most recent one being Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

I had followed the Avalanche all season long and was particularly impressed with their sweep of the Edmonton Oilers to win the Western Conference. I wasn’t about to jump off their bandwagon in the Stanley Cup Final even though they faced the two-time defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

Another important consideration is to understand how the playoff MVP award varies from sport to sport. The NHL is a bit different in that it awards the Conn Smythe Trophy to the most valuable player to his team in the playoffs, not just the Stanley Cup Final. This meant that I already had plenty of data to analyze before the Finals began. 

Defenseman Cale Makar led the Avalanche in postseason points heading into the Stanley Cup Final, so he certainly seemed like a logical starting point for my MVP handicapping. Although he was the Conn Smythe favorite, his +175 odds were much more appealing than betting on the Avalanche to win the cup at that juncture.

Then I handicapped the remaining Avalanche stars. Center Nathan MacKinnon led the Avalanche in postseason goals and I made plenty of money betting his player prop against the Nashville Predators, but his scoring had cooled since that first round matchup.

Right winger Mikko Rantanen led the Avalanche in both points and goals during the regular season, and I certainly knew that he could get hot during the Final. But at the end of the day, Makar had a healthy lead in playoff points over his teammates going into the Final, which made him the most likely Conn Smythe winner, in my mind.

Makar also seemed to have that intangible “It” factor, a buzz about him in the media. Keep in mind that media members decide the winners of the playoff MVP award in each sport, so there is a certain “beauty pageant” quality to the award.

If the pundits are paying attention to an athlete going into the championship, that means that you should be, too. For example, one of the chief narratives prior to the NBA Finals focused on how Steph Curry had never won a Finals MVP trophy. That storyline, coupled with Curry’s dominating performance against the Boston Celtics, made his MVP award a foregone conclusion once the Golden State Warriors won the Finals.

Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, the talking heads of the sports world gushed about how Makar was just 23 years old and how remarkable it was that Makar was racking up all of those points as a defenseman. Then Makar started popping up on television interviews everywhere.

By the time that ESPN commentator Barry Melrose switched his original Conn Smythe pick from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman to Makar during the Final, Makar’s MVP felt like a done deal.

After the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup Final, I had two winners: my futures bet on the Avalanche and my Conn Smythe wager on Makar. By handicapping the team that you think will bring home the hardware, understanding how each league awards its MVP trophy, and paying attention to the players receiving the most love from the media, you can turn the MVP into a Most Valuable Play.

Free bets also can be a great way to shoot for a higher payout without risking your own bankroll. Check out the best ones in your state ➡️ here ⬅️.

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