If you are a hockey fan then there are few things you like more than a game seven in the playoffs. Everything is on the line, teams play like they have nothing to lose, and the hockey is very often incredibly memorable as a result. People who bet on hockey are also drawn to these games because they are the biggest and most dramatic events there are. Handicapping these games can be a different challenge than handicapping other playoff games. Here are six factors to consider when searching for value in game sevens:
How did they get here? – Obviously the teams are playing a seventh game because they have each won three up to this point. That can happen in a number of different ways, though. For example, the confidence levels heading into the final game would be very different if one team had lost the first three games but fought back to win the last three than if the teams had traded wins back and forth throughout the series. The teams will have a different mindset as well if the games have been close and hard fought than if they have been blowouts. You could also look at how the games have been played. For example, a very physical series could have players hurting, while a series that has had a lot of overtime games could have a big impact on the stamina of the teams.
How healthy are the teams? – Health is always a big factor in the playoffs. There is no such thing as a completely healthy playoff player. The season has been long, and the playoffs are brutally intense. It’s just a matter of how injured they are, and how much impact it is having on their game. Game sevens are typically even more intense than the rest of the series, so if a team has injury issues then they may not be able to step their game up like they need to. If one team is generally healthier than the other than this could be a big factor in the outcome of the game.
How significant is the location? – The home team will always have some sort of an advantage because the crowd will be fired up for this crucial game. There are some situations that are going to give a much bigger advantage than others, though. Among the factors that determine the advantage is how vocal the crowd is, whether the crowd has a gimmick like a white out that could be distracting, how the team has played at home, how strong the road team is, and so on.
Is there an experience advantage? – There is a lot of mythology surrounding game sevens in the playoff. Every guy in the NHL spent countless hours as a kid imagining themselves in this situation. If a team or a player hasn’t been through a game seven, then, it can loom large, and can have a large mental impact on their play. If one team has had significantly more experience playing in these situations than the other, then, they could have a bigger than normal edge in this game. Even if the team hasn’t played in a game seven before they could have an advantage if they have had deep playoff runs, if their key players have had experience with other teams, or if their coaching staff has been through this as a coach or even as a player.
Is there a goaltending edge? – There is no bigger single factor that defines playoff success in the NHL than goaltending. Simply put, the team that wins the series is almost always the one that gets better performance in the nets. That doesn’t mean that they have the better overall goaltending – just the better goaltending at that time. Most important is consistency. You can tell that a goaltender isn’t at his best if his performance in the playoffs is erratic – very strong in one game and then weak in the next. If one goalie has been consistently solid while the other hasn’t then the team with the consistent player should have the edge.
Does the public have a preference? – When a game seven is played the media and public attention will be higher than it has been at any point in the series – the drama of the moment guarantees that. The focus will be especially intense if there is the potential for a big and unexpected upset in the series. The more public focus there is on a series the more public betting action there will be. The more public betting, the more astute bettors need to be aware of the biases the public has, how they are most likely to be, and if their action will be one-sided. Heavy public action can have a very big impact on how lines are set and how they move, and can determine where the value can be found as a result.