When it comes to handicapping the NHL, understanding matchups is essential. There are various comparisons to make, including stats, individual players, and lines or units. The coaches and front office may also go into your matchup. Here’s a look at some elements that you should consider when handicapping an NHL game.
Goals Scored and Save Percentage
One basic matchup to carefully consider is a team’s average goals scored per game versus the save percentage for the opposing goalie. How do these stats compare? Also, look at how many shots one team averages and how many saves the goalie makes.
Compare any recent games between these two teams. What happened in those games? If they have not played one another this season, see if each team has played a club similar to the opponent they will be facing. By doing so, you may be able to get a sense of this game.
Finally, look at individual players: specifically, the shooters versus the goalie. Does either have an edge and why? You may want to compare key offensive players versus important guys on the opposition’s defense.
Defense Versus Offense
Speaking of defense and offense, compare each team by starting with a general assessment of lines and then working towards individual matchups. You’ll also need to consider style of play, as certain offensive styles can struggle against specific defenses. Is there any one offensive player on either team that looks to be dominant in this game? Might that player be the difference maker?
Another way to consider offense and defense is to look at players’ plus/minus rates. The plus/minus refers to a player’s time on the ice and how many goals a team scores versus how many they give up when that guy is skating. A player gets one point in the plus column for every goal his team scores and a minus for every goal they give up.
If during Player A’s time on the ice his team has scored twelve goals and conceded four, then the player’s plus/minus would be +8. If, on the other hand, the team has scored just four and given up eight while that player was on the ice, Player A would be -4.
First, look at each team’s plus/minus, and then look at individuals. If a player is deeply in the minus, investigate which player he may be guarding in the upcoming game. If the player he is guarding is high on the plus side, then that may be an important matchup to look into more closely. Looking at the pus/minus may give you an indication of the weaknesses in defense and offense. It is an often overlooked stat.
Where is each team ranked in the league when it comes to penalty kill? How many penalties do they average per game, and what is their kill rate? A team that gets a lot of penalties and then gives up a bunch of goals when on the kill is very vulnerable in any game. You’ll want to compare a team’s penalty kill to their opponent’s power play.
A club with a dynamic power play tends to be one that can take advantage of situations and turn things around quickly. How good is each club’s power play in relationship to the rest of the NHL? What players are the top producers when it comes to power play goals? How do they matchup with their opponent’s penalty kill unit? In a close game, this can be a major factor.
Finding the Right Line
Once you’ve worked on your matchups and handicapped the game, you’ll want to look for an appropriate money line or puck line. It’s important to shop around, as you may find that with the money line at certain sportsbooks you can get away with risking less cash on the favorite or you may get a better payout on the underdog. When considering the puck line, you may also discover higher payouts and less risk on the favorite and the underdog. You will find differences at sports books. It does pay to shop around.
Consistency is Important
As the hockey season goes on, many sports bettors start to get sloppy with their matchups. This happens for a few reasons. By the time you’re halfway through the season, you have a sense that you know everything there is to know about the teams and players. This is folly; with each game played a player can be seen in a new light. Always use the latest information that you can get.
You may find that a great player has been struggling as of late or a player that was not on your radar a few weeks ago has emerged. An important guy may be injured or out of the lineup. Up-to-date information is essential if you want to create accurate matchups.
People also start getting careless with matchups because of fatigue (it is a long season), complacency (you have been winning), and workload (they are very busy). As a professional sports bettor looking to make money, you have a job to do and you should do it to the best of your ability. NHL games are tough to handicap, but with the right work ethic and desire, you can make consistently make cash by betting on hockey.