Smart sports bettors know that losing the first two games of a playoff series in the NHL is never good for a team. It doesn’t mean that the series is over – lots of hockey teams have come back from such a deficit. It just means that the team is in a serious hole and their margin for error is small. Faced with such an obstacle some teams will rise to the challenge while others will crumble under the pressure. Bettors who can have a strong sense of how teams are likely to respond when down 0-2 have a good chance at finding real value. Here are five factors for NHL handicappers to consider when trying to determine whether an NHL team is likely to bounce back or collapse:
Where did they lose? – Losing two games in a row on the road to open the series isn’t ideal for any hockey team, but it’s not the end of the world – the majority of the remaining playoff games are at home, so you only need to take care of business at home and win one on the road to win the series. If you have lost two in a row at home to start a series, though, you are likely in a great deal of trouble. Suddenly you are facing two must win games on the road in front of a crowd that will be particularly fired up because their underdog team has the edge. If a hockey team has lost two games in a row at home it is also a sign of larger potential problems that you need to likely be concerned about – good teams in top form don’t do that.
Did they lose both games in the same way? – If I want to see the bright side for a NHL team that has lost two playoff games then I would much rather see them lose both games in very different ways. For example, I’d rather see them lose a tight defensive battle once and then come short in a high scoring affair the second time than seeing them lose both games because their goaltending or offense were insufficient. If they lost in different ways then you can give a good deal of credit for what has happened to luck or the lack of it. If they have lost in the same way both times, though, then it is much more likely to be a problem that the opponent is clearly capable of exploiting.
How has the goaltending been? – You can’t win in the NHL playoffs without strong goaltending. A goalie can turn a good team into a great one, or a great team into an underwhelming one. If a team is struggling to start the series, then, the first place to look is in the net. Is the goalie playing well, or is he largely to blame for the issues? If the goalie is playing well then that could be a concern because the team is struggling even with that in their favor. If the goaltending is a big issue then the challenge for the NHL handicapper is in determining how likely the goalie is to turn his game around and get back on track. If he’s not a strong goalie then it could be tough to trust him in netr and therefore the whole team. If he has been resilient in the face of adversity in the past, though, then perhaps he can get things rolling again.
Are the top players carrying their load? – NHL teams that win typically see their best players performing like their best players. Teams that fall into 0-2 holes are typically seeing their best players struggle. If a team has lost two games while their best players have been productive and effective then they could have real issues. If their best players are struggling, though, then sports bettors need to determine how likely it is that they can get back on track. How have they performed in the past in the NHL playoffs? Do they tend to fall into long slumps, or are they more consistent? How is their health? How are they responding publicly – like in media interviews? How strong is their body language on the ice and the bench?
How is the public responding? – The way the public responds to a slow start will have a big impact on where the value is in the series going forward. Sometimes the betting public will be very negative towards a team, assuming that the series is already all but over. Other times they will still have a strong affection for the team and will still back it despite the struggles. The more a NHL handicapper can understand how the public is feeling, the better sense they can have on what impact the public is having on how the lines are set, how they move and where the value is for the sports bettor in-the-know..