The Stanley Cup playoffs offer hockey sports bettors many great opportunities. Starting in April and ending in June, each of the four rounds is a best-of-seven series featuring the NHL’s best teams. The action is intense, games are often nip and tuck, and scoring usually tends to be on the low side. Throughout the series, you’ll find that one-goal games are not unusual.
We have a separate article about the Stanley Cup Finals, but here are some valuable tips for wagering on the first three rounds of the playoffs.
The first round of the playoffs offers opportunities to bet on eight different series. If each series goes the full seven games, there’s the potential to wager on a total of 56 games. Although some series will go the limit, in this round most are done in four or five games. That’s because the first games in the Stanley Cup series involve some major mismatches, as the top teams in each conference tangle with wild card winners. The other two series in each conference tend to have teams that are more evenly matched.
Overall, the money line tends to be a very good bet unless a superior team that’s at -1.5 on the puck line looks to dominate the opposing goalie. If that’s the case and you determine that the better team will by more than one goal, then the puck line is an excellent wager. Look for major deals in round one as far as mismatches are concerned. You can really exploit these.
With round two of the Cup series, the games can really start to tighten up. Expect numerous overtime contests and series that go six or seven games. These tend to be low scoring, very competitive games that are tough to bet. Often a totals bet is in order, and usually on the low side. You’ll tend to see a 3-1 or 2-1 game or a 3-0 game, but it’s rare to have a 4-3 final score in this round.
Look at key matchups in these games. Individual players can make a major difference, and especially those who are skilled at taking advantage of turnovers, loose play, and goal tending mistakes.
This is the last round before the Stanley Cup Finals. Again, each series will likely go six or seven games. With two series to handicap, you’ll have plenty of time to do some in-depth work. Consider if a team is dealing with injuries, if one is rested, having won in five games, and the other a little beat after going seven with some overtime thrown in for good measure, of if one club is simply performing beyond any and all expectations.
Goaltending Wins the Day
Everyone says it, because it is true. There are goaltenders in hockey, money guys, who step it up for the playoffs. Great goaltending wins games every day. Likewise, a goalie that can’t shake off a bad loss, can’t seem to find his grove, or is being peppered by too many quality shots is probably pretty vulnerable.
Resiliency is an essential attribute in any goaltender. Those who can shake off a bad goal, a fluke goal, or a garbage goal will often persevere. Goaltending is about perfection, and when a goalie reveals himself to be imperfect, his ability to rise up and meet the next challenge can define him and decide a game or the series.
Penalties Can Lose a Game
A team that takes bad penalties is inviting trouble throughout the game. Each time one team gives the other a power play opportunity, they are simply telling the other team to take advantage of them. A penalty in the waning moments of the third period of a Stanley Cup game can make all of the difference between victory and defeat. Take a look at penalty minutes, penalty kill percentage, and, on the other side of the puck, power play percentage. These are useful stats when combined with matchups and any individual player information.
Smart Money Wagering
The Stanley Cup playoffs offer NHL sports bettors plenty of wagering opportunities. However, always be judicial in making bets. Don’t get caught up in the media hype and bet on a game because it’s considered the most important one or due to the fact that everyone else is betting on it. Only wager on games where you honestly believe that you have an edge.
Also, don’t blindly follow the betting public. Handicap each game in a series, and carefully assess players, coaches, and other elements. It may be home ice, it could be player depth, or it might be defensive scheming. Whatever the case may be, look for the edge and make smart money bets.