As soon as the Stanley Cup finals pairing is determined successful hockey bettors will look to analyze that pairing to see what it likely means for the series. Does one team have a clear edge? How is the series likely to be played? What factors are likely to be significant in the series? Here are eight key factors for NHL handicappers to look at when analyzing how the series could turn out – and how best to profit from betting on it:
Style of play – It’s crucial as a sports bettor to get a sense of how the two hockey teams prefer to play. Is one team more defensive than the other for example, or do both teams have a similar approach? If the teams play different styles then they aren’t both likely to be able to play their prefered style all of the time. The team that is effectively able to set the tone of play and dictate the style and speed is going to have a much bigger edge in the series. Handicappers need to consider if one of the teams has an edge in this regard. If the teams play a similar style then you need to determine whether one is more suited to it – faster, stronger, better chemistry, and so on – and what impact that could have.
Goaltending – There is no single factor more important in the Stanley Cup finals than the men in the nets. Strong goalie play can make a good team great, or a great team average. Savvy NHL playoff bettor know that they need to look at how consistent the goalies have been, how much they are likely to be tested in the series, and how the public will perceive their skill.
Coaching – Next to goalies the coaches are probably the most significant factor in a NHL finals series. The pressure is extremely high on tired teams, and emotions can easily get out of line. If the coach can’t keep the team focused and on task then there will be real problems. There is also a need for constant adjustments and changes in strategy to keep the opponent off guard. If a hockey coach isn’t capable of that then the team will suffer.
Head-to-head – You need to look at how the games turned out when the teams met in the regular NHL season, though you can easily attach too much significance to them. The games are only truly relevant if the personnel is basically the same, and if the teams haven’t made big changes in strategy or coaching. The results of the game are far less important than how the games played out. Did one team have a clear edge in speed, physicality, or strategy?
Health – Teams that reach the finals have played a whole lot of hockey. Playoff hockey is particularly relentless and brutal. That means there is no such thing as a completely healthy player at this point in the season. Sports bettors need to do as much as they can to determine which players are just dealing with bumps and bruises like one would expect, and which ones are facing bigger issues. If a hockey player is more than slightly injured then you need to figure out three things – how will his play be limited, what impact will that have on the team, and how is the public likely to respond to the situation?
Readiness – This can encompass a number of factors. Most significantly is rest. If a NHL team is coming off a seven game series last time out then they will be on short rest, and could be tired and not ready to play at their best. If they have had too long to rest, the risk is that they could be rusty and not as sharp and focused as they could be. Beyond rest you can look at factors such as how much time they have had to practice and how they have used that time. Of course, when it comes to NHL handicapping readiness is only really an important factor when the teams are in different situations.
Experience – Experience is a tough factor for NHL bettors to judge in the playoffs, and especially in the Stanley Cup final. On one hand having played in the finals can be very valuable because hockey players and teams will know how to deal with the pressure and intensity of the spectacle. On the other hand, though, experienced players can be older players, and that can have an impact on stamina at this point in the season. Also, teams that have made the finals have accumulated a fair amount of experience already in their run to this point. It is important to look for big differences in experiences between the teams, but only when you can be relatively confident that it will be a factor. Sometimes only one player with significant experience is enough on a team if that player is a key leader. In a situation like that it would be easy for the betting public to overestimate the role of experience in the series.
Public bias – As in any situation in sports betting, you need to look at how the public is likely to view the series. There are some teams that the public loves and others that they don’t regardless of what they actually do on the ice or their chances. Oddsmakers are very aware of these public biases, so they have a big impact on how lines are set and how they move. If you aren’t paying close attention to potentially one-sided public attention then you could be missing out on opportunities for nice value, or making bets that aren’t nearly as attractive as they might seem. Be conscientious in your NHL handicapping once Stanley Cup pairings are set.