There is one big reason why betting on the NHL preseason is a good thing – almost no one else is doing it. Because it isn’t popular the betting lines are very soft, and you can find very nice value if you know where to look for it. Most people are too focused on betting on NFL football or the baseball pennant races to worry about September hockey. If as a hockey handicapper you want to buck the trend and give preseason NHL action a betting try then here are six factors to keep in mind:
What’s the lineup? – This is absolutely crucial for all NHL handicappers to understand. A lot of casual bettors will just look at the names on the jerseys and pick the better one to bet on. That’s never a great idea, but during the preseason it can be disastrous. You never really know who is going to be playing until you do some research. Teams don’t always put their best roster forward. Sometimes – especially early in camp – they’ll ice a roster that has some veterans and some young players. Many times those young guys aren’t ones who are going to make the team now, but the coaching staff is just trying to get them some game experience and get a sense of what they are capable of. That means that you often won’t see NHL veterans play a full game – if the play at all. You’ll also often not see veteran goalies play very much. If you do some research to find out who is going to play in a game you can often uncover surprising mismatches if one team is playing a more veteran squad than the other.
What is the team trying to accomplish? – In the regular hockey season it is typically a good assumption that a team is going to try to win their game. In the preseason, though, you can make no such assumption. Preseason wins and losses in the NHL are irrelevant. Instead, teams focus on making sure they are ready to win when the games count. That means that instead of winning they could be focused on getting inexperienced players some ice time, trying out different pairings and line combinations, or working on new schemes. The sports bettor needs to be an amateur psychologist when analyzing a preseason pairing to determine if one team is more likely to be playing at full effort and with winning intensity than the other.
What’s the schedule? – The preseason schedules in the NHL can be bizarre for some teams, so you really need to be aware of what the hockey team is being asked to do and what that means to the team. Teams could play three games in three days, and that would have a big impact on who they play in each squad. They could have a quick road trip that they only take some players on. They could play a split squad game that could see their roster split between two cities. For the NHL handicapper, understanding the schedule here is far more important than any other time.
Where is the game? – Not all preseason games are played in traditional NHL buildings. The hockey league will use the preseason to explore potential markets, and teams will play in secondary markets that support their team. Before you bet on any game you need to be sure of where it is being played, and the impact that is likely to have on the crowd and the players.
Does the public care? – The answer for almost all preseason NHL games is no. There are very few games that anyone but the most hardcore hockey fans will really get excited about. Sometimes, though, the public will take more notice. Perhaps there is a high profile rookie making his debut, or a superstar returning from a major injury. Perhaps a team is playing their first game after expansion or relocation. Maybe it is the first game for a team after they have made a huge trade that has gained or lost them a superstar player. On the rare cases when the public does care about a game, the astute NHL handicapper needs to look at what side they are likely to support, how intensely they will support it, and what that means for the line and the value.
How does the team approach the preseason? – Some NHL teams play preseason games to win. Others play just to make a few bucks and get them over with. The tone a team approaches the games with can have an obvious and significant impact on how well they fare. As a hockey handicapper, looking back at how teams and coaches have done in the past is a very good way to spend your time preparing to bet on the NHL preseason.