NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 10/13/2008
We're four glorious days into the newest NHL season. No better time than now to assess what we have learned so far, and what that might mean to the short-term betting future:
The Maple Leafs are not on their way to a great season this year. It's very likely that it won't even be a good one. For those who like playing longshots, though, Toronto got the season off to a great start. The Leafs went into Detroit as +272 underdogs on the day that the Stanley Cup champs were raising their banner, and they came out as winners. This was the third straight time that the Wings had lost as favorites of -250 or more. Despite that little statistical oddity, though, there is little to really worry about or compensate for here, since both teams came out of the game performing as expected. Detroit won their next game over Ottawa, while Toronto went home to get clobbered by Montreal.
Goaltending Woes in Cowtown
The Flames came into the season with solid expectations. It's far too early to panic, but they certainly aren't living up to them so far. The main problem so far is one that really wasn't supposed to be an issue - goaltending. Mikka Kiprusoff has a Vezina and piles of talent, but he's allowed 11 goals in two games against a Vancouver team that isn't supposed to look nearly as good as the Flames have made them look. Kiprusoff wasn't as sharp last year as he was the year before, and his start this year makes that look like this could be a disturbing downward trend. Not good news for a team with cap issues and a backup goalie with no meaningful experience.
There's another disturbing aspect to Calgary's play so far. I live in Calgary, so I watch the Flames a lot. On Saturday night, Jarome Iginla got in a fight. Though he delivered a stunning knockout punch, it was not a good thing to see. Iginla is the team's captain and obviously the best player. He's not a great leader, though. When things go badly he tends to try to take matters into his own hands rather than inspiring others. As a result, he has a bad habit of getting into fights to fire his team up. Noble, but almost always ineffective. All Iginla's fights really do is confirm that the team is in a funk and knows it. Calgary is not a team I'll be backing until they get their act together.
San Jose is the best team in the league right now other than the Rangers. They're 3-0, and they have only allowed two goals so far. It would seem like they would be an automatic bet at this point. It's a bit deceptive, though. Their first win came against Anaheim, a team that has yet to find its stride. The next two came against the Kings, a deeply flawed team at the beginning of a long and bumpy road to rebuilding. I don't doubt that the Sharks are a very good team, but I'll wait to support that opinion with my bankroll until they prove that against legitimate opponents.
Blackhawks Meet Reality
Hopes are very high for the Hawks this year, despite the fact that they have only been in the playoffs once in a decade. Early on, though, the team is realizing that it isn't as easy as it may seem to play with the big boys. Twice they have played solid teams - Washington and the Rangers - and twice they have lost 4-2. So far, they don't have a player above zero on the plus/minus, and neither of their goalies have been crisp. No need to panic, obviously, but this is a sound reminder that expectations need to be held in check, or at least kept to reasonable levels, for bettors.
East is Not Least
Most people would agree that the West is the stronger conference. It has won the last two Stanley Cups convincingly, and seems to have more depth, and more teams that can rest on their achievements and not their potential. So far, though, the East is asserting themselves nicely. It's a small sample size - just six games - but the East is 4-2 so far.
Four players are tied at the top of the league with three goals. One of those, though, is particularly intriguing. Florida's left winger David Booth is a third year player who flies way under the radar. After just three goals in 48 games as a rookie, Booth took a giant step forward last year with 22 goals in 73 games. This year he has three goals in two games. Florida has a massive offensive void to fill with the loss of Olli Jokinen, and Booth may be one to step up to fill that void. He's certainly on my watch list.