NHL Handicapping: Studs and Duds
by Trevor Whenham - 2/11/2013
It’s hard to believe, but we are already a quarter of the way through this mess of an NHL season. It has been a very difficult season to handicap so far because of the lack of a preseason, the fact that some players were playing while others weren’t, and the condensed schedule. Because it was so tough to figure out what to expect heading into the season, it is particularly important to keep track of how teams are performing for bettors so far. Here are the best and the worst teams in the league so far in terms of delivering wins for bettors:
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1. Chicago Blackhawks - The Blackhawks haven’t lost in regulation. They sit at 10-2, and the only losses have come in the shootout. They are playing about as well as a team can right now. They are obviously going to lose, but they have more than enough talent to be a serious contender and have deservedly been made the Stanley Cup favorite at this point.
2. Boston Bruins - Their offense is tough to rally behind at this point, but the goaltending has been brilliant, the team is playing with chemistry, and the Bruins (8-1-1) are definitely going to be a contender in the East.
3. Anaheim Ducks - What’s interesting about the Ducks this year is that they are succeeding (8-2-1) despite not getting much production from top stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. That means that they have a chance to keep performing above expectations if those two can find their game.
4. New Jersey Devils - The Devils are one of the big surprises of the year so far. They lost their best player in the offseason, and their goaltenders are about a million years old, yet they sit at 8-1-3, and have allowed five goals in their last five games — all wins. It could be tough for them to sustain their strong start, but it is sure working for them — and for bettors — right now.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins - Their 8-5 record is reasonably solid, though perhaps not quite as strong as you might expect from the team that came in as the favorites to win it all along with the far-more-disappointing Rangers. Their 2-3 home record is more than a bit of a concern, but they are 6-2 on the road, and that creates a lot of confidence in this team going forward.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets - It would be far more surprising if the Jackets weren’t last than that they are. They were terrible last year, and they lost their only star in Rick Nash to free agency. They are completely incapable of scoring. Hopeless team meeting expectations.
29. Washington Capitals - There is something very wrong with the mental makeup of this team, and with superstar Alexander Ovechkin. They have talent, but their offense is horrible right now, and their goaltending is just as bad. They are 3-8-1 and are lucky to be there. They are a reasonably public team, so their struggles are proving costly to bettors.
28. Los Angeles Kings - The defending champs are struggling to find their game and sit at just 3-5-2 so far. Seven of their first 10 have been on the road, so things should get a little simpler going forward. It’s important to remember, though, that this team was an eighth seed last year, and they just got hot at the right time. That makes it too easy to give them too much credit this year.
27. Calgary Flames - This is just a lousy team right now. They have played the fewest games in the league, but their 3-4-2 record is indicative of their talent — or even flattering. Their biggest issue has been goaltending — with a combined team save percentage of .873 they aren’t going to beat anyone, and star keeper Miika Kiprusoff is injured.
26. New York Islanders - The Isles are moving very slowly in the right direction, but they have a long way to go so the results still aren’t great. They are 4-6-1, and have been weak recently thanks to horrific power play issues — 0-for-22 in their last four.
Nashville Predators (2-10) - It’s no mystery why the Preds are doing so well for under bettors this year. They have scored the fewest goals per game, and only the Senators and Sharks have allowed fewer goals per game. When you can’t score and no one can score against you, you aren’t going to go under a lot of totals.
Edmonton Oilers (2-9-1) - There was a lot of optimism around the young players on this squad. The future is bright, but so far the team has struggled to find the net as much as they would like. They sit 23rd in the league with 2.25 goals per game. They also sit ninth in goals allowed. That’s a formula for going under the total — at least until the youngsters come to terms with how good they are.
St. Louis Blues (8-2-1) - The top team in the league on the over to this point has been the Blues. In fact, they have been the best by a wide margin. They are tied for third in the league in goals per game at 3.36 per game. They are seventh-worst in the league in goals against at 3.18. That means that the average number of goals scored in their games is more than 6.5. Totals in the NHL are typically 5 or 5.5, so it’s no surprise they go over a lot.
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