Every year sports bettors who focus on the NHL see a couple of teams that are widely expected to be really bad that start out the season on a hot streak. Not only does it seem like they can’t lose, but they are playing with far more skill and polish then they should be able to based on their roster. Sometimes the teams turn out to be much better than expected over the course of the whole season. More often, though, the hockey team comes crashing back to earth sooner or later. So, why is this relevant to bettors? Well, the public loves underdog stories, and they love winning streaks. When those two combine and an underdog goes on a winning streak it can whip the betting public into a frenzy, and can cause them to lose any objectivity they might have. If NHL bettors can be smart enough to analyze the situation critically then they can find themselves with a big edge over the public when it comes to evaluating these teams, and that can turn into a big profit at the betting window. Here are five questions to ask to get a sense of how soon the good times might end for an underwhelming team off to a hot start:
What were expectations? – Before you can really assess how unexpected a hot start is you really have to get a sense of what the expectations really were. Sometimes the reason that the start is a surprise to you is because your expectations were more pessimistic than most people’s were. You can get a good sense of what expectations were for a NHL team in a number of ways. What were the futures odds for the team to win the Cup, the conference, or the division? What kind of picture did the season previews on a wide range of media outlets paint of the hockey team? Were they thought to have a fine rookie goalie, did they get a topnotch goal scorer or did they lose a key defenseman to free agency?
Were those expectations realistic? – An opinion isn’t necessarily a good one just because it is widely held. Sometimes you’ll find you just don’t agree with the popular opinion of a team. While most people seem to think that a team is not very good you might find that you are more optimistic about the team than most. Maybe you think that young players will take a step forward, or that role players will excel in a new setting. Or that a coaching change is perfect for the team. If you are more optimistic about a hockey team than the public is coming into the season then the hot start won’t be quite as much of a surprise to you as most people, and you might be more able to effectively analyze what is going to happen down the stretch. For NHL handicappers this can be a golden opportunity.
How are they winning? – Not all wins are created equal. Sometimes a hockey team will win because they are consistently outplaying their opponents. Other times, though, the wins will be for less overall impressive reasons – a red hot goalie, strong performance in the shootout or overtime, frequent lucky bounces, and so on. If one of the latter reasons are frequently leading to the wins then it can be harder for that team to continue to deliver wins as the season continues. Teams won’t continue to be lucky and get the bounces, and goalies will become mortal again. The more balanced and team-wide the winning efforts are, then, the more you can trust a team when going forward and betting on them.
Are their best players playing in a sustainable way? – In the modern era of the NHL it is very rare for a guy to score 50 goals in a season, and all but unheard of for a guy to score at a higher pace than that. If the best players on the team are leading the team to wins by scoring at a rapid pace, then, you can be all but certain that they aren’t going to be able to sustain it for long. Sooner or later their confidence will take a hit as teams start to focus on them more effectively and their production will fall off. The more sustainable the performance of the best players, though, the more likely the team could maintain a strong level of play.
What offseason changes were made? – The sports betting public focuses on high profile player movement, but they often pay little attention to less visible but still important moves. If a team has struggled on the power play, for example, then a defenseman with a big point shot could be a huge addition – even if he doesn’t have big stats and a strong reputation. By looking at the changes that were made and how they impact the pre-existing strengths and weaknesses of the team you can get a strong sense of how much of a surprise this performance really is. You should also look at the subtractions. Smart NHL handicappers know that sometimes the public will react strongly if a big name player leaves the team, but that might not be warranted if the reputation of the player has exceeded the recent performance, or if his attitude was not positive for the team.