Hockey handicappers know that win streaks are very common in the NHL. A team that gets on a roll can string together six or eight wins in a row without a problem. When a team gets hot it doesn’t take long for the public to take notice – especially if it is a high profile team that gets a lot of media coverage regularly. When the public gets excited about something they bet on it enthusiastically, and that can have a big impact on the available sports odds for betting on that team. That in turn means that for smart NHL handicappers there can be nice value found betting against the team when the winning streak ends. The trick, of course, is being able to spot when the winning streak is in jeopardy. Here are five clear signs that sports bettors should look for that will tell them that a winning streak could be in trouble:
Change to goalie approach – One thing that most NHL teams on a winning streak have in common is great play by a hot goaltender. There is no single position in sports more important to the fate of the team than a goaltender. When a team is winning they are typically going to keep riding what is working – especially if they are winning while allowing few goals per game. If a hot goalie suddenly finds himself on the bench for a game, though, then that’s a good sign that things could be about to change. Unless the team has played a lot of back-to-back games in a row there is no reason to take a winner out. Teams get superstitious around goalies, and quite often they will let up in their intensity of play when the backup is in the nets. The qualifier here, of course, is that the team needs to have a clear number one goalie in the first place. There are some teams that essentially platoon their starters – likely because one guy hasn’t emerged as a workhorse. If one of those teams makes a change it’s not at all a concern because they are just doing what has worked for them all along. What bettors are looking for is a goalie that typically plays 60 or more games a year who is lifted in a situation you wouldn’t normally expect him to be.
Challenging travel – Travel in the NHL can be tough, and it can have a big impact on how teams are able to play. If a team is heading into a brutal stretch of travel then it can really work against a winning streak. An example of travel that could be seen as challenging enough to be disruptive is an east coast team on a long west coast trip, or a trip that is on a compacted schedule so teams are forced to fly after games and miss out on good sleep for an extended time.
Change in caliber of opponents – In some cases a winning streak happens more because a team is playing weaker opponents than because they are playing in a particularly dominant fashion. Weak opponents, or even good opponents playing poorly, can make a team look better than they really are. If the caliber of the opponents suddenly improves and the team is facing teams that are as good or better than they are then the streak could be challenged. This seems straightforward and obvious – and it is – but the betting public will pay far less attention to the schedule – who they have played and who is up next – than they should, so there can be strong betting opportunities created here for astute NHL handicappers.
Change in style of opponents – As important as the caliber of the opponents is the style they play. Every team has some styles of opponents that they are particularly well suited to play against, and others that they just can’t match up against. Some hockey teams can play well against defensive minded teams, but can’t handle playing against fast teams or offensively aggressive ones. Some teams thrive in rough games, while contact causes others to shrink. A change in opponent style is something that the public will often miss entirely, so this can provide a big opportunity knowleddgeable NHL handicappers.
Statistical strengths start to weaken – When a NHL team is winning a lot of games sports bettors can look at their statistical performance and find some areas that are driving their success. Perhaps they have been particularly strong on the power play, or their penalty killing has been relentlessly effective. Maybe they have been scoring a pile of goals, or the defensive play has been spectacular. Once you have isolated the main statistical causes of the success you can look for signs of decline in those ares. Has the penalty kill been worse in the last couple of games than it was at the start of the streak? Has the offensive become less explosive as time has passed? Quite often the end of a winning streak will be hinted at before it happens by a statistical decline.