Expert NHL Handicapping and Betting Advice: Home and Road Splits
There is no better indicator in the NHL - at not one you can see in a glance - of a team in the NHL that has some issues that they need to resolve if they want to have any real success than a gap in performance on the road compared to at home. Winning on home ice is easier than on the road for reasons both real - like having the last line change - and psychological. But when a team is dramatically better at home than on the road - a gap wider than you would usually expect - then we need to figure out why. Sometimes there are good reasons - the sample size is still small this year. And sometimes the reasons aren't so obvious and are more concerning as a result. Here's a look at eight teams with the gaps that cause the most concern:
Buffalo (8-3-3 home. 5-8-2 road): We keep waiting for the Sabres to turn the corner and go from rebuilding squad to contender. They are in a playoff spot right now, but it is hard to buy into them as top contender just yet. Or even as a playoff team - there is a lot of hockey left to play, and there are three teams within two points behind them that are all tough. This is a team that has lost seven of their last eight on the road, so the problems run deep right now.
Toronto (7-4-4, 6-9): This is one of two teams on the list right now that are hard to judge because of midseason coaching changes. The shift from Mike Babcock to Sheldon Keefe is a stark one - a change in styles, and in generations, for the coaches. The team is 3-2 on the road since the change and 1-1 at home. If they could keep up a .600 winning pace on the road, they wouldn't have any worries at all. The team is notably different since the change - lighter of mood. We will have to see if it lasts.
Ottawa (7-5, 5-11-1): The surprise here isn't that the Senators have an underwhelming road record. It's that they are solidly above .500 at home. That is far, far beyond expectations given this roster that barely looks NHL level on paper. Frankly, even the 5-11-1 road mark feels like it is ahead of expectations. It's even more striking if you shorten the time frame - they have won five of the last six at home but had dropped four in a row away from home before beating Edmonton last time.
Pittsburgh (11-3-2, 4-6-2): The Penguins have had to deal with injuries to Sidney Crosby and too many others, but they just keep rolling along. In some ways the Penguins are the Patriots of the NHL - always able to find another robotic player to step in and replace the fallen. The team has lost five in a row on the road, which is a long way from ideal. In that same time, though, they have won five of six at home. The gap here right now is real and significant.
Minnesota (7-1-2, 7-10-2): The first thing that stands out when you look at this team here is the disparity in their schedule - they have played 10 games at home and 19 on the road. Given that much road time already, you would almost expect them to struggle as they have. This team is red hot right now, though, which certainly changes the perception of where they are at compared to the home-road gap. They have had points in their last 11 games - eight of them wins. And they are 4-0-2 in their last six road games. At least in the short term their road woes are in the past.
Calgary (8-3-2, 6-9-2): Like Toronto, the Flames can't be evaluated in any meaningful way because of a recent coaching change. And this one is even more extreme - it wasn't like it was planned. Bill Peters was first suspended and then fired because of an exposed past of racism and player abuse. Assistant Geoff Ward took over, and the team has won all three played under him - one on the road. This team stumbled badly out of the gate, but it's not too late to get back on track and make this gap a thing of the past.
L.A. (9-6-1, 2-10-1): The Kings were always going to be bad this year. That was a given when you look at the roster they have assembled. They are old and slow in a league that is young and fast, and they have too many holes to fill. They have a perfectly respectable record at home - a better one than they have any right to be at this point. But their road performance is just abysmal - the worst in the league at this point. It's even worse when you consider that this team was 2-2 on the road out of the gate. After that, things have really been profoundly ugly.
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