Hockey Betting: NHL Studs and Duds
by Trevor Whenham - 1/19/2011
We are just over half way through the NHL season. There is still a lot of hockey left to play, so this is a very good time to take stock of what has happened so far, and what that tells us about what could happen the rest of the way. Here are the four teams that have been kindest to bettors so far this season, and the four that have been totally disrespectful of bettor’s money. Incidentally, just 11 of the 30 teams in the league have been profitable if you had bet on them for every game against the NHL odds, so it’s far more common that a team disappoints than that they shine.
Boston Bruins - The Bruins have the perfect recipe for success going on this year. They are a solid home team, but more significantly they are very strong one the road. They also have allowed fewer goals against than any team there is, and they combine that with an offense that is competent. It’s not hard for a team to pay bettors off when they don’t let their opponents score, and when they don’t care where they play.
Nashville Predators - The Preds are the only team on this first list that doesn’t seem to belong -- the other four are legitimate contenders for the Cup, while Nashville doesn’t seem to be. What the Predators have going for them, though, is that they raise their play to the level of their competition. Playing well against teams that are better than you is a sure way to provide big payoffs.
Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers walk the same basic path as the Bruins. They are a good team that is defensively sound -- though not as good as the Bruins -- and are incredibly strong on the road. In fact, the Flyers have won more road games than any team. The odds are obviously higher for road games than they would be for a home game against the same opponent, so a team that can win on the road regularly is going to be very kind to bettors.
Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks are the best team in the Western Conference, and after a slow start they are playing like it. No team has fewer losses at home, and they are a very respectable road team as well. Vancouver is also helped by the fact that they play in a very weak division -- getting to play a lot of games against Minnesota, Calgary, and Edmonton every year would make almost any decent team a good one to bet on.
New Jersey Devils - It should surprise absolutely no one that the Devils are at the bottom of this list. For starters, they have the worst record in the league -- even the Oilers and the Islanders look strong in comparison. More significantly, though, this is a team that is far worse than they were expected to be. Zach Parise is a star, Martin Brodeur is a legend, and Ilya Kovalchuk was a very expensive free agent addition that New Jersey outbid a lot of teams for. This does not have the makings of a team this bad. Whenever a team is far worse than expected, betting losses are sure to follow.
Toronto Maple Leafs - The Leafs are a bad team. A really bad one. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone -- they have been bad for as long as I can remember. What makes this team so unsuccessful for bettors, though, is that for some incomprehensible reason it’s also a team that is very popular with fans. Canadian fans love hockey, and more Canadian fans love these guys than any other. That makes them one of the NHL’s more public teams. Combine blind public support with a lousy team and you have a money pit.
St. Louis Blues - the Blues are the Houston Texans of the NHL. Every year it seems like they are poised to break through and really make some noise. Every year, though, something gets in their way -- usually their own incompetence. This year the Blues are frustratingly average, and have an uphill path to the playoffs. They are a truly lousy road team and that certainly doesn’t help bettors.
Columbus Blue Jackets - If the Blue Jackets were an ice cream flavor they would be plain old vanilla. There’s just nothing to get excited about. There is nothing dramatically wrong with this team, but nothing particularly right about them, either. They are underwhelming at home, underwhelming on the road, and totally forgettable everywhere they play. They are weak defensively and lousy on offense -- a team destined to lose bettors’ money. The only saving grace is that there is really no reason to be tempted to bet on them.
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