by Joseph Mattern - 02/13/2006
Bodog is currently offering 2006 Winter Olympics odds for men's ice hockey and there are plenty of options to wager on. Check out their Olympics betting section and you'll find odds on men's ice hockey, odds to win the gold and tournament match-up props on who will get further in the tourney, as well as odds on the top men's goal scorer.
Canada is the favorite to win the gold at 11/10, with the Czech Republic weighing in at 5/2 and the USA listed at 3/1. Don't forget about Germany at 100/1, Italy as a home dog at 300/1, and Kazakhstan bringing up the caboose at an astounding 400/1. Now, if you've got some money you want to throw away, put some down on Kazakhstan and start praying. You never know, that just might work, although I'm not sure God is a hockey fan. There are certain situations where you may want to lay down a few bucks on a big underdog, but this is not one of them. This team has played some close games to some decent competition, but they will have a real rough time here on the World's biggest stage, especially with an anemic offense.
I think that there is some value to be had in looking for a winner a notch or two below the favorite as there is no value for Canada at 11/10. I'm talking about the USA, the Czech Republic and Sweden, the latter opening at 4/1. Don't count Russia out either, at 11/2, with scorers like Kovalchuk and Ovechkin on the squad. I think a good strategy to use is to look at teams that are well-rounded with a good goaltender, stout defensemen, good penalty killers and a player or two with breakaway scoring ability. Obviously, goaltending is very important in hockey, and maybe even more so in the Olympics, where holding a lead and taking time off the clock can mean the difference between medaling and going home empty-handed.
Where can you find the world's best hockey players? In the NHL, of course. It follows then, that the countries with the most and best NHL players would have an advantage. For example, the Czech Republic boasts the NHL's leading scorer, Jaromir Jagr and a great goalie in Dominik Hasek. The USA and Canada are chock-full of top NHL stars as well, which makes these two teams two of the favorites. Russia is another team that is strong but they have questions at goaltender with Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose Sharks), who has struggled this year. They also have an inexperienced defense.
Another important aspect to consider when handicapping the Olympic tournament is the strength of the draws, relative to the odds you're getting for a certain team. The tournament begins with two groups of six countries. There is a round-robin where each team plays every team in their group once, and then after the round-robin, the teams are ranked according to results and the top four teams from each group advance to an eight-team elimination. So, for instance the USA is in group B, and the toughest teams in that group are Russia and Sweden, no slouches, to be sure; but that group also includes Kazakhstan and Latvia, relative cupcakes.
Over in Group A, on the other hand, you've got Canada, the Czech Republic and an underrated Finnish squad with which to contend. It's possible that some of the top teams could beat each other up sufficiently in the round-robin to allow a sleeper team to get through to the next round. It will be good practice to do a little research on the strengths and weaknesses of each team when you're making your wagering decisions. Another thing to look at is the difference in rules between the NHL and Olympic Hockey. Something that you take for granted could turn out to be a critical factor in the medal rounds.
These tournament match-up bets are not about who will win head-to-head, but rather which team will finish in a higher position at the end of the tourney, so be clear about that and use it in your overall strategy.
Bodog's 2006 Winter Olympics odds offer plenty of players with varying odds to choose from for top goal scorer. In this case, you want to pick a guy on a team that you think will go deep into the tournament, thereby offering more goal scoring opportunities. You have to be careful though, because on a team packed with all-stars, there will probably be more competition among teammates to score goals, whereas on a contending team with only one or two top goal scoring threats, those guys will probably get the lion's share of the team's goals. Jagr is the favorite at 4/1, followed closely by Kovalchuk at 9/2. Two or more players tied comes in at 5/1, and the field, which has been narrowed considerably by a long list of players, pays off at 6/1.
Therefore, you've got a lot to think about as the Olympics are kicking off. Because of the high risk involved in taking bets and posting Winter Olympics odds, these wagers are limited to $300 per, with no parlays, so keep that in mind as well. Many books shy away from taking big bets on the Olympics because the professional bettors are always looking for a weak line and the Olympics are an event that the bookies are not very familiar and comfortable with.