NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 02/02/2009
Red Wings Not Flying High
Detroit has the most talent, depth, and experience in the league. That makes their current skid all the more baffling. The team has lost their last five games - a downturn that stretches onto both sides of the all-star break. To make matters worse, four of the games have been conference tilts, and three of those have been against opponents that Detroit should beat in their sleep - Phoenix, Columbus, and Dallas.
The impact of the stretch is more significant because San Jose has won four of five during the same stretch, including one over Detroit. That gives the Sharks an eight-point lead in the Western Conference standings. That top spot is very important for home ice during the playoffs, and eight points is a big hole to climb out of.
Despite the skid, this isn't time to panic about the Red Wings. Excuses are for losers, but they are plentiful for Detroit right now. The team doesn't have a lot of serious injuries - only defenseman Brad Stuart is an impact player with a long-term injury. They are very banged up, though - Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Hudler, Zetterberg and others have either missed time or are walking wounded. It's not a wonder they are struggling wit that much firepower out of commission.
Here's something even more compelling - this may actually be a good thing. Last year, Detroit went right into the tank at the beginning of February, losing 10 of 11. Things turned out pretty well for the team in the end. Competing at a very high level for 80 games and two months of playoffs is exhausting, so it's almost like the team takes a mental holiday to recharge for the stretch drive.
Crosby Hits The Ground Running
Sidney Crosby missed the all-star festivities with a knee injury, but he is clearly no worse for wear. In fact, it looks like he should get injured more often. Crosby had four points in his return to the lineup against the Rangers, then added two more in each of his next two games. The last two were played on consecutive nights, so the knee was tested and clearly passed.
Crosby's explosion illuminates the problems that Pittsburgh has this year - they just have no depth. The team won the Rangers game, but lost the next two. They have two of the three best offensive players in the league, and pretty much nothing else. Malkin had two points per game in the two losses as well, but the two megastars can't do it alone. There isn't an obvious answer, either - the two players are now playing together on a line, but that just weakens the other lines. This team desperately misses Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone. Things aren't going to get substantially better for this team, and they aren't going to be any more trustworthy for bettors, until they get some real secondary scoring.
Ottawa's Revolving Door
The Senators have cemented their position as a punchline with their latest move. After a dismal start that has them in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, the team has fired first-year coach Craig Hartsburg. This move was rumored for weeks, but the replacement certainly hasn't followed the script. Instead of hiring former Leafs coach Pat Quinn, fresh off World Juniors glory with Canada, they have promoted Cory Clouston from their AHL affiliate. I'm sure Clouston is a fine coach, but this has almost no chance of success. Clouston is the fourth coach for the team since the start of last year, so the team obviously isn't going to automatically be inclined to listen to a new guy. Clouston will be viewed as having absolutely no gravitas - he's a young guy who has never played or coached in the NHL. If Craig Hartsburg didn't get listened to then what chance does Clouston have? I've been very bearish on the Sens all year, and this move does nothing to change that.
Gridlock Out West
If you like intense fights for playoff spots then you are going to love the Western Conference this year. There are five teams tied with 53 points. That has them splitting sixth through 10th places. Vancouver is one point back of that group, and Anaheim is two points ahead. That's seven teams within three points battling for four playoff spots. There are going to be a whole lot of crucially important games down the stretch, especially since three of the teams play in the Northwest and three play in the Pacific and divisional rivals play so often. There is nothing better for bettors down the stretch than a game that matters to both teams. You can trust the intensity from both teams, and don't have to be nearly as much of a psychologist to correctly pick the games. The West should be prime hunting ground for profits.
Ovechkin's Success Drives Washington
Alexander Ovechkin now has five goals in his last two games. He has now had 11 multi-goal games this season. His team has earned 21 of the possible 22 points in those games. When he doesn't record any points the team is just 7-6-1. If you could find a way to predict when he will score than one goal in a game you would be wealthy.