Home ice advantage is a big factor in the NHL playoffs. If bettors aren’t careful, though, they can give it too much credit, or incorrectly determine what the impact will be. Here are six mistakes bettors make when looking at home ice advantage in the NHL playoffs. Avoiding these mistakes is going to be very helpful for your bottom line:
Assuming every game in the series has the same advantage – People make the mistake of assuming that home ice advantage is constant. It couldn’t be further from the truth. In the playoffs the biggest reason for the home ice advantage is because of the impact of the crowd. The crowd can be very different from game to game in a series depending on a wide variety of factors – whether they are excited to be in the playoffs or whether they expect to be there, their chances of winning the series, how the series has gone so far, how their best players are performing, how competitive and controversial the series has been, and so on. If you just go with a standard, average home ice advantage in your handicapping you can be seriously overestimating or underestimating what it really is. Either way, you’re potentially throwing value away.
Assuming the home crowd is going to be fired up – We touched on this last time, but it is important enough to discuss by itself. People assume that the home crowd will be very excited about every playoff game – it’s the playoffs, after all. That’s not always the case. In fact, it’s not as uncommon as it should be to see empty seats in a building for a playoff game. You can also see crowds that are large but not particularly vocal – no more vocal than a typical regular season game in the building. Why would a crowd not be fired up? If, for example, they expected to go all the way to the finals then the crowd isn’t going to care too much about a first round game in many cases. If a team just barely limped into the playoffs but is all but certain to be crushed by their opponent then support may not be too strong – especially if the team struggles with attendance during the season.
Assuming that playing on the road is a negative – A lot of teams don’t play very well on the road. There are some, though, that seem to thrive on the road. Maybe they like to be hated, or maybe their home court isn’t a great place to play, or perhaps they are just even tempered and don’t get bothered by wherever they play. Whatever the reason there are some teams that just aren’t impacted by the home ice advantage nearly as much as they should be. It’s important to get a good sense of how teams handle the pressure of playing on the road before you assume that it will be a real negative.
Ignoring travel factor during regular season – One of the biggest contributors to the home ice advantage during the regular season is the fact that home teams often face easier short term schedules than road teams. The home team gets to sleep in their own beds, they frequently get to spend several games in a row at home, and they rarely play on consecutive nights at home. Road teams often play on consecutive nights, they regularly have to fly after the game ends so they don’t get to bed until the middle of the night, they have to rely on restaurants for food, and their routine is badly disrupted. In the playoffs, though, this aspect of the home ice advantage is minimized. Both teams are facing the same travel schedule, and that schedule typically isn’t particularly rushed. The negative impacts of the travel is as minimized as it can be. If a team has had trouble in particular overcoming the impact of travel when they are on the road then they are likely to be better road performers in the playoffs than in the regular season.
Giving the home ice advantage too much credit – Home ice advantage matters in the playoffs. It is far from the most important thing, though. Goaltending, coaching, matchups, depth, and health are just a few of the factors that will have a bigger impact on the outcome of a series than where the games are played. This is one of those things that is very easy to overvalue, and that many bettors regular do.
Ignoring public opinion on home ice advantage – There are some situations in which the public is going to get very excited about the home ice advantage. If the crowd has a long history of crazy behavior, if the city has particularly and enthusiastically embraced this playoff run, and so on. Even when the home ice advantage is very strong it’s quite possible that the public will overvalue the impact of the advantage. That could easily create value on the visiting squad – even though they have to face the tough playing situation.