Tips and Advice for Betting the NHL All-Star Game
by Trevor Whenham - 1/28/2011
Sports bettors don’t like uncertainty, and they really don’t like betting on things that they haven’t seen before -- there is no history to rely on to tell them what could happen. It’s clear, then, that the NHL didn’t plan their new format for the All-Star game with bettors in mind.
Not only has this not been done in the NHL before, but it hasn’t been done in any major sport. There’s a good reason for that -- it’s a ridiculous idea. If you’ve missed it, the league has chosen two captains -- Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal -- and four assistant captains. Tonight those guys will perform a fantasy draft -- selecting 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders from the remaining pool of all-stars. Those teams will meet on Sunday afternoon in the All-Star Game. They won’t have had much meaningful practice together -- after the teams are selected the players will compete in the skills competition Saturday night.
There are very good arguments to be made for not betting on this game at all. There is just too much uncertainty, and betting on all-star games is never great at the best of times. Some people just can’t handle not making a bet when there is a game to bet on, though. For those people here are some tips and advice for betting the NHL All-Star Game.
Look for chemistry - We can only guess how the draft is going to play out because it hasn’t happened before. Once it does happen, though, we can quickly assess which team has more natural combinations that are likely to be comfortable and productive together. Are there teammates or linemates on the same team? How about guys who used to play together successfully? Are there guys who have played together in the Olympics or other events? If one of the captains drafts better than the other and creates more natural offensive pairings than the other then there is a good chance that that team will be more effective and ultimately successful.
Ignore what doesn’t matter - The NHL All-Star Game is about one thing and one thing only -- offense. Teams play very little defense, and what they do play isn’t particularly sophisticated because players aren’t playing with guys they are familiar with playing with. There is no fighting, very little hitting, and not much physicality at all. There are also few penalties called, so special teams are not a factor at all.
Handicapping this game comes down to just one thing – which team is going to be able to score the most goals. There are sometimes some surprise offensive stars in the game, but for the most part the guys who really shine are the ones you would expect -- wildly talented guys that really flourish when given the chance to show off in a wide open environment.
Grading the offensive potential of the two teams is the surest way to NHL handicapping success in this game -- if one team has a clear edge then they are going to be very well positioned to win.
Think goaltending last - In most games the goaltenders are one of the first things I look at. In this game I probably wouldn’t even think about them at all.
Goaltenders just don’t have a chance in this game -- they are playing against the best offensive players in the league, and they are getting almost no help. They also aren’t going to be able to get into their rhythm because each guy is only likely to play a single period. Finally, you can’t be too worried about the goaltenders because there isn’t going to be massive mismatches in net -- all of these guys are good players who are in good form or they wouldn’t be here.
Think about motivation - For some players playing in the All-Star Game is a big deal. Maybe they are a young player playing for the first time and thrilled to be hanging out with their idols. Other guys would much rather be on the golf course or at the beach with their family than playing in the game -- they are only here because they couldn’t come up with a way to get out of it.
It can be very hard to judge motivation in a lot of cases, but for some guys their desire and excitement will be obvious. Guys who want to be there are going to work harder, and could have a bigger impact on the outcome.
Don’t worry about recent form - In most games I am very interested in how teams and players have been performing recently. In this game, though, it’s irrelevant. The conditions that players face in this game are very different than in any other game -- different linemates, little opposing defensive pressure, different coach, and so on -- so there is no guarantee that any slump or hot streak will carry over into this game.
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