There are few situations tougher for a team to face in the NHL than being forced to playing for their lives after losing three games in a playoff series. Their margin for error is zero, and they know that with one more mistake and one more loss their season can be over. Some teams can handle that pressure better than others. That means that there can be some great betting opportunities presented in these potential elimination games – but only if you do a good job of effectively handicapping the situation. Here are seven factors to consider when handicapping an NHL team on the brink of elimination in a playoff series:
What were they expected to do? – The mindset of a team is going to be affected by what they realistically were expected to do. If they were never given much of a chance of competing then they could be resigned by their fate, and could play flat. If they were heavily favored heading into the series then they could feel tense and uncomfortable, or they could be motivated to play their best – it all depends on the mental strength of the team. If the team was seen to be competitive heading into the series then it’s hard to generalize about what you might expect – it depends more on what the team has been through, and how mentally and physically strong they are.
How have they lost? – All losses have the same effective when it comes to the series, but all losses certainly aren’t equally in terms of what it tells us about the team. For example, if a team had lost all three games in overtime then it would be necessary to respect that team a whole lot more than if they had been blown out in each of the three games. You want to look at factors like how competitive they have been throughout, if there has been one particular part or aspect of the game that they have struggled in, and if they have played as well as their opponent or if they have been outplayed.
How stable is their goaltending? – Playoff success is very often the result of strong goaltending. It a team doesn’t have goaltending that they rely on then it’s hard to trust them in this game when the goaltenders will face more pressure than at any point in the series so far. It’s important to look at recent form of the goalies, and not their reputation or even their season long performance. Time and time again we have seen a very good goaltender seemingly forget how to play in a playoff series.
How stable is their coaching? – When the life of a team is on the line the coach has a big task on their hands. They have to help the team focus, keep the distractions and doubts out, address the issues that have led to the three losses, and instill the urgency without the desperation that can derail progress. If a coach isn’t secure in his job, or if he doesn’t have the respect of his players fully and completely, then he isn’t likely to have his team at their best. If he isn’t typically strong at adjusting and adapting to what has happened then he’s also going to be at a disadvantage – especially if his opposing coach is a real talent.
Do they react well to adversity? – There are few things a team can face that are more stressful and challenging than playing with their backs against the wall in an elimination game. You can’t truly tell how a team will respond to that until they face it, but you can get some clues from what has happened in the past. Did the team bounce back well from big losses during the regular season, or did they have a tendency to fall into a funk and lose some more games? Did they play well through big injuries, or did they use them as an excuse to play poorly?
What is their public demeanor? – You can tell a lot about how a team is feeling by how they respond to the media. Are they open and talkative, or have they withdrawn? Do they have the same basic attitude as they usually do, or have they changed – become more tense, for example? Do they seem relaxed and focused, or are they tense and upset? Are they letting things bother them and making excuses or blaming situations like the refereeing or the behavior of opponents?
How is the public reacting? – As is always the case in sports betting you need to take into consideration the reaction of the public to the situation. If the public is going to be more negative about the team on the brink of elimination than you think they should be then you may be able to find some very nice value. If they aren’t as negative as you think they should be, though, then you may find nice value betting against them. Because the public can have particularly strong opinions in these situations the opportunity for value can be particularly strong.