When an NHL team that came into the season with high hopes struggles out of the gate the sports betting public can quickly turn negative. The media will write about why the team isn’t winning like they should, and the public will often assume that the team is doomed. It makes sense, then, that smart bettors who can spot disappointing teams that are capable of turning things around in the second half of the season are going to be able to make some nice money before the public catches on that their perception of the team is no longer accurate. Here are six factors for NHL handicappers to consider that could indicate when a team is ready to get back on track:
Returning to health – One of the biggest reasons for a disappointing start for a hockey team is if they are dealing with a lot of injuries. That’s only logical. It’s just as logical, then, that a team that starts to see their injury situation improve could see their play improve as well. If the players that return to action are high profile players then the public is going to pay attention and it might be hard to find attractive value. Often times, though, the public will underestimate the impact of a hockey player who lacks a big name but plays an important role – either on the ice or in the dressing room. The return of a lesser known player could also allow for more flexibility with line pairings as well. Paying close attention to the injury reports is especially important when handicapping struggling NHL teams.
New system gaining traction – Often times in the NHL a new coach brings an entirely different philosophy to a team. Like any sport, that kind of transition can be painful for a coach if he doesn’t have the personnel in place for his system, or if the players aren’t initially bought in. By the time half the season has passed, though, chances are good that the team is becoming more comfortable with what is being asked of them. That means that they are likely to start playing better hockey as a result. It can be hard to get a strong sense of just when this happens. The key, though, is to understand what changes the new coach would be looking to make, and then to look at statistics that can measure how well the team is doing those. If the team has statistically improved in those areas as the season has progressed then they could be poised to really start to take a leap forward.
Significant power play improvement – There is no single better indicator of how a team is playing than how they are doing on the power play. If a team is really lousy when they have an extra player then they probably have offensive issues, and they likely have troubles with discipline, focus, and team work. If a hockey team is particularly strong on the power play and can put the puck in the net but still haven’t won a lot of games, though, then you can be reasonably confident that their results are going to improve in the second half of the season. The best case scenario is a team that is showing real, dramatic improvement on the power play as the season progresses. There can be a number of reasons why that is happening – players getting healthy, coaching getting through to players, players finding chemistry, and so on. Whatever the reason, though, as a NHL handicapper you can feel confident that the improvement there is very likely to spill over to the rest of their play, and that the results are likely to get better as a result.
Goaltending situation change – There is no single position in all of sports that is more important to their team than the goaltender in hockey. A hot goalie can make an average team look great, while a struggling goalie can crush an otherwise strong team. If a team with strong expectations has been disappointing in the first half of the season then it is likely that their goaltending has been a problem for one reason or another. If that has indeed been the case then you need to look at the situation to determine if things are likely to change going forward. Has an injured goalie returned? Has a goalie in a slump started to find his form? Has a team that had been platooning goalies for much of the season finally settled on a starter? Is the starter showing improvement in key stats like goals against and save percentage?
Roster changes – Sometimes a struggling team just needs a shakeup. The betting public will be all over the move if it is a major one – a high profile trade, for example. Quite often, though, it’s not those big moves that make the biggest impact. A role player can spark a change on a team by providing something that had been missing. It’s important to pay attention to the changes that a team makes – no matter how insignificant they may be on the surface, or how little attention they get in the media.
Chemistry developing for key players – Hockey is not a game that one player can dominate by himself. A forward needs linemates who can get hm the puck and create scoring opportunities. A defenseman needs a partner he can trust and rely on. If a player doesn’t have chemistry with the players he is playing with then he is really going to struggle to play up to his potential. Chemistry isn’t always instant, though. Sometimes players get more comfortable with each other over time, and become more effective together. Other times, the lines are juggled so that a player is with new players that he could have more chemistry with. If a key player has been overachieving it is important to look at the impact his linemates have had on his play, and whether that is likely to be different going forward. That could affect your NHL handicapping.