NHL Betting: Review of Season at Olympic Break
by Trevor Whenham - 2/11/2014
As we take a couple of weeks to enjoy great hockey action that doesn’t count towards the NHL standings, it’s a good time to look back and assess what we have seen so far in the NHL season, and what it means for bettors:
Columbus Blue Jackets: We are programmed not to take this team seriously and to assume that they are going to be as lousy as they have been for much of their history. They aren’t exactly lighting the league on fire, but they are five games above .500, and that is exceeding the expectations of most bettors — with very positive results.
Tampa Bay Lightning: When the Lightning lost the best pure goal scorer on the planet, it seemed like they were doom. Without Stamkos, though, they haven’t missed a beat. Great goaltending certainly isn’t hurting their cause.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins are a very good team playing like a very good team. They don’t pay much when they win, but they do it so consistently that that doesn’t matter.
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks are showing that age is catching up to them, and their competitiveness window seems to be closing rapidly. Hiring John Tortorella also seemed like a terrible idea before the season, and that sure hasn’t changed.
Nashville Predators: The Preds have some nice talent, but they are the hockey equivalent of vanilla ice cream — inoffensive, but total uninspiring.
Edmonton Oilers: I have long believed that this team is going to break through at some point given their embarrassment of young talent. At this point I’m not sure that that time is ever going to arrive. It certainly hasn’t this year.
Ottawa Senators (34-24 “over/under”): Last year the Senators allowed just 2.08 goals per game — the best in the league. This year their 3.14 goals allowed per game is better than just two teams. When your defensive play falls off a cliff like that you are destined to go over a lot of totals.
New York Islanders (34-25 over/under): The formula is simple here — the worst goaltending in the league, and an offense that, though not stellar, is solid and features a couple of real stars. They can score, and they can’t stop anyone from doing the same. That means they are destined to go over a lot of totals.
Boston Bruins: In 40 games the Bruins have gone over the total 20 times, and under 20 times. They can’t establish any consistency on this front despite being a very good team. Just thinking about trying to figure them out makes my head hurt.
I knew Anaheim was going to be in the mix in the West heading into the season — a definite playoff team. I don’t see any way you could have predicted what they have done, though. Their 41 wins and 87 points are both tops in the league, and they have done it despite playing in a very tough conference. Their 19 road wins is also tops in the league — a sign of just how tough this team is.
The Islanders came very close to beating the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs last year, and based on effort they should have won. It seemed like they were moving in the right direction — for the first time since Mike Bossy retired. This year, though, has been a disaster. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have done their jobs, but they are defensively inept and have lousy goaltending. The team is not in a good place mentally, and the front office remains in eternal disarray. Sad. A team with history like these guys have deserve better. Maybe the move to Brooklyn will make the difference. It sure has for the Nets.
The Ducks have the best record, but they aren’t the team that has most impressed me this year. There is a long, long way to go until we get to the Stanley Cup. At this point, though, the team I have the most respect for is St. Louis. Their goaltending is solid. Their goal differential of +61 is tops in the league. They can play on the road almost as well as at home. They are deep and talented and young enough to handle the immense strain of a deep run. They have few obvious flaws, and are only getting better as the season progresses. The organization serves as a model of how to build a team — like Chicago they have patiently built from within. I was hoping this team would take a big step forward this year, but up to this point they have far exceeded my expectations, and they could be tough to beat in the playoffs.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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