NHL Handicapping: Lessons Learned From First Week of Hockey Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 10/17/2014
It is very early in the NHL season. Three teams have played only two games. No team has played more than the six Boston has under their belts. It's far too early to draw any serious conclusions or to pretend that we actually know anything about how the season is going to play out, but we can make some observations based on what we have seen - the fast starts, the eye-opening duds, the surprises, and the head-scratchers.
Here are six things that have stood out for me in the first week and a bit of the season:
Edmonton Oilers: I thought this could be the year for the Oilers. They have been so disappointing for so long, but sooner or later you have to imagine that they will get things right and the tremendous potential of this roster will start to be realized. It's obviously too early to completely write them off, but they have been just horrible so far. They look listless and disorganized, and pretty much nothing has gone right for them so far. In four games they have just one point, and they have been outscored 23-11. They have allowed at least five goals per game, and both of their goalies have started and floundered twice. There are some excuses - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have already missed time - but that doesn't fully explain what has happened. It seems clear that the time for an overhaul has arrived for this team, and their fans are far from patient at this point. If this team can't turn it around in a hurry - and at least theoretically they could because I wasn't the only one to think that they could flirt with a playoff berth - then the time to start making the big changes could come soon.
New York Islanders: I was somewhat optimistic about this team heading into the season. Then they made two huge trades for defenseman late in the preseason and I became wildly optimistic. So far at least my optimism is being rewarded. They are perfect through four games. John Tavares has been brilliant - like the superstar he is. The new additions have been very good, with defenseman Johnny Boychuk leading the way with six points. There are concerns - the goals-against average of 3.00 is a touch higher than ideal, for example - but it is clear that this team believes in what they are doing and that they have some bullets in the chamber.
Minnesota Wild: In some of the oddest scheduling I can remember, the Wild have played only two games - both against the Avalanche. They played the second game on Saturday and have been off until they play Anaheim tonight. Strange. What is notable, though, is that they not only have won both games, but they have done so by a combined score of 8-0. The Avs have plenty of scoring power, so the stunning defensive success for the Wild is perhaps an early indicator that their concerning goaltender situation may not be quite as concerning after all.
Philadelphia Flyers: Stop me if you have heard this one before - the Flyers have limped out of the gate. Last year they looked so bad that coach Peter Laviolette was fired after just three games. They haven't made a coaching change yet, but they have lost all four games played so far - two in overtime. Three of those four games have been at home, so this really isn't the start they were looking to have. They bounced back strong and became a playoff team after their early struggles last year, so it isn't time to panic, but this is far from ideal.
Boston Bruins: According both to the oddsmakers and a lot of 'experts,' this is the best team in the Eastern Conference. While that very well may prove to be true, they certainly haven't looked like it so far. They have just two wins in six games, and they have been outscored 17-11. That is not supposed to happen with the defense and especially the goaltending that they have. Three of the four losses have been to Eastern Conference foes, too, so that is not ideal at all. They have played six games in nine days, so they have hardly had time to breathe, and that certainly hasn't helped. They are too good to be this bad, so I am certainly not ready to panic just yet, but this is not how things were supposed to start out.
John Gibson: Gibson is a good reminder that you can't ever be sure of what you are getting with rookies. The Anaheim goaltender had played three brilliant games in the regular season last year and four in the postseason. That was enough to intrigue observers but not enough to disqualify him from Rookie of the Year considerations this year - where he was one of the favorites in the race heading into the season. So far, though, things have just not gone well. He started in the season opener against the Penguins and got shelled. He allowed six goals and just did not look very good. He hasn't had another game since, and the team was obviously concerned by both his play and the inactivity because they have sent him down to the AHL to get two starts. It's not like his Calder dreams are dead or anything, but this is not ideal - especially since Frederik Andersen, the other goalie, has won all three of his starts to entrench himself as the starter for now.
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