Sports bettors need to remember that almost every year in the NHL playoffs there is a team that seems to forget how to lose on the road. Frequently those teams aren’t the ones that would be immediately obvious to casual bettors. That means that astute bettors can find nice value if they can spot teams that could be hot on the road before the playoffs start. For NHL handicappers here are five characteristics that strong road teams in the playoffs frequently share:
Regular season road success – This seems obvious but is an easy one for sports bettors to overlook. A NHL team that has been particularly strong on the road in the regular season is one that has the chance to be particularly strong on the road in the playoffs. You can find teams that are much better on the road than they look on the surface with a little research. During the regular season teams have to face some tough situations on the road – long road trips, back to back games in different cities, and so on. In the playoffs they don’t have to face situations like that. Road trips are no more than two games long, and it’s very rare for those games to be on consecutive nights. You could look at the regular season in similar circumstances to see how the team performed in those cases. If a NHL team is much better in those cases than on short rest or long trips then they may be a better road team in the playoffs than the public thinks. That could lead to attractive value for the savvy sports bettor.
Veteran leadership – The NHL playoffs are all about overcoming adversity. Teams that can’t do that effectively just aren’t going to win. On the road teams will face full arenas of hostile fans, and it can be easy for emotions to get out of control. A team with strong leadership – typically veterans that have been through the playoffs before and know what to expect – is much more likely to be effective on the road than one that is facing these challenges for the first time. It’s important to note that the best leaders are frequently not the best players on the team, so it is important to look beyond the stars to evaluate leadership capabilities.
Consistently excellent goaltending – A hockey team that doesn’t have a strong goaltender who is playing particularly well isn’t likely to win the playoffs. Heading into the playoffs you want to look to see if a team has an obvious number one goalie, if that goalie is healthy, how consistent he is, and how well he has responded to pressure or adversity in the past. Strong goalie play is particularly important on the road as the team has the home ice advantage to overcome.
Nothing to lose – If you look at teams that have won on the road in the playoffs in the past there is one factor that repeats itself more often than not – that the team has nothing to lose. It’s more common for a lower seeded team not expected to shine to play particularly well on the road than it is for a highly seeded team to do so. More specifically, it’s more likely for a lower seeded team to reward bettors handsomely thanks to strong road play. Hockey teams that aren’t expected to be strong in the playoffs can play loose and relaxed because anything they accomplish is a bonus. That can make them dangerous provided they have the right mindset and leadership.
Strong penalty killing – There aren’t as many penalties called in the playoffs as there are in the regular hockey season. The home crowd is typically more vocal in the playoffs than at home, though, and that can have a big impact on the referees in the games. Smart sports bettors need to remember that it’s quite common for the road team to face more penalty situations as a result, so it is crucial that team that is going to shine on the road is able to minimize the damage against them when they are short-handed.