NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 11/24/2008
There's a whole lot going on in the NHL that should be of interest to bettors, so let's not waste time:
Hot, But Soon To Be Not
There is no team in the NHL playing better right now than Vancouver. They have points in nine straight games, and 11 of the last 12. That puts them comfortably on top of the Northwest Division, and third in the conference. That's well ahead of expectations for a team that many saw as the weakest in the tight division. The last four of those games have been on the road as well, so they have been particularly kind to loyal bettors.
The key to the success can be put in one place - Roberto Luongo. The goalie has clearly been the tops in the league, and he gives his team confidence to play far beyond themselves. That's not good news for the team right now. Luongo collapsed five minutes into Saturday's game against Pittsburgh with a groin injury, and the team is awaiting an MRI to know how long he will be out. Needless to say, though, a groin injury is not a positive thing for a goalie. There will be two things to watch here for bettors - if Luongo is out then the Canucks could be in a world of hurt, but the public is also likely to overreact, so their may be good value in the right spots.
A Long List Of Injuries
Injuries are always a big story in the NHL, but the number of names that have gone down this week seems longer and more impactful than normal. Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin tore an ACL and is likely out for the year. Ottawa, already slumping badly, lost both Chris Neil and Mike Fisher for several weeks. Dallas has been as disappointing as Ottawa, and they will be without captain Brenden Morrow for the year. Edmonton lost Fernando Pisani, a much-needed offensive spark, for the long term in Edmonton after a nasty collision with the boards. Tampa Bay is without starting goalie Mike Smith thanks to an undisclosed injury. That's a lot of teams that are not at their best.
Unrest in Calgary
The Flames are the most frustratingly unpredictable team in the league. When they are good they are as good as anyone. When they are bad, though, they are indescribably awful. That's not that unique. The problem, though, is that you can never know which team you are going to see until the game starts. The entire personality of the team can even change from period to period. Those random fluctuations in effort reflect on the coaching, and that's bad news for Mike Keenan. There is unrest in Calgary, and the rumors from within the club that patience with Keenan is in short supply are gaining steam. If the status quo continues in Cowtown, look for Keenan to be spending his Christmas holiday looking for a new job.
Home Isn't Where The Team Is
The Edmonton Oilers are sitting just a few points out of the playoffs. It's not a surprise that they have struggled, though - 14 of their first 19 games were on the road. Unbalanced schedules are a fact of life for NHL teams, but this is ridiculous. There is an upside, though - more road games now means more home games later. Like the stretch of 12 of 15 games at home starting Dec. 11. All the team has to do is maintain their current level of effort during that stretch and they'll provide all sorts of value for bettors as they finally enjoy the adoration of the home crowd.
Players who are significantly better than they get credit for in the media can be good friends to bettor. They can help their teams win big games, but they don't get enough attention to alert the general public to them. That keeps the odds in line for bettors. Here are four players who fit that bill:
Devin Setoguchi, San Jose - Setoguchi is only 21 and in his second year, but he is quietly becoming a star. He has 24 points in 21 games, and has more points, goals, and assists than he did last year as a rookie. He has had multiple points in four of his last five games. His improved play and feisty intensity is a big part of the reason why the Sharks are the top team in the league.
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo - Unlike Setoguchi, Vanek is already an established star. He just doesn't get nearly enough attention for what he has accomplished. He has 79 goals in his last two years, and with 15 goals in 20 games this year he's well on his way to his best year yet.
Marc Savard, Boston - As a Flames fan I know Savard too well - like a disturbing number of players, Savard wasn't much when he was with the Flames, but he found his stride when he left town. And he has really found his stride this year - he's second in the league in scoring this year. His play, along with others like Tim Thomas who could be on this list as well, are why Boston is the second best team, and the biggest surprise, in the league.
Erik Ersberg, Los Angeles - The Kings aren't quite in the playoffs, but they are much, much better than expected, and the surprising Ersberg is a big part of the reason. Goaltending was one of many questions for this rebuilding team, but Ersberg has stepped up in just his second season. He has five wins in nine starts, and is far more reliable than his team is without him.