It’s go time.
The NHL postseason has arrived and there figures to be no shortage of fireworks that lie ahead.
While we may each have our own strategies for betting on the NHL during the regular season, the playoffs can be a whole new ballgame that requires a clean slate and clean frame of mind when approaching your postseason betting strategy.
With that in mind, here are three tips to keep in mind before laying down your NHL playoff bets.
Set Aside Season-Long Trends
The NHL regular season is an 82-game grind and the longer a season goes the harder it is for a team to shake off some stats that were accumulated early in the season.
For instance, the Carolina Hurricanes ranked 16th in the league with 243 goals scored this season. However, they actually rank second in the league with 150 goals scored since the calendar flipped to 2019. They did play 44 games in 2019 which is 1-3 more than most other teams, however, their 3.41 goals per game in the New Year would rank fifth if they were able to maintain that mark for the whole season.
In a nutshell, Carolina struggled to score in the first half of the season, but have been one of the league’s very best offenses more recently.
Heading into the postseason, it’s time to disregard season-long trends or at least take them with a very large grain of salt. Keep in mind season-long stats are accumulated while playing basement-dwelling teams for a solid chunk of the schedule. Now, the league is cut in half and teams are playing the best of the best.
Sure, a team like the Predators struggled mightily on the power play this season, finishing dead-last with a 12.9% clip on the man advantage this season. However, I’m certainly not going to rule out the chance of them catching fire in a seven-game series, especially with the firepower they can throw out on one unit.
As a final example, we can look to player performance and the simple fact that a player can turn it up a few notches when the postseason rolls around. Take Washington’s Braden Holtby as a perfect example.
|Turning it up: Braden Holtby’s 2017-18 Season|
|Regular Season – 2nd Half||3.70||.887|
Holtby endured an up-and-down regular season last year and was flat-out brutal down the stretch to the point where backup Philipp Grubauer actually started Games 1 and 2 of the first round before being lifted after struggling badly in those two losses. The rest is history as Holtby once again found his form in the playoffs and bucked his season-long trend of inconsistent play in a hurry.
Consider the trends, but don’t let them overwhelm your thinking and keep an open mind when it comes to your playoff betting strategy.
Consider the Underdog
We all know there are upsets in every single postseason this league has had in its history. Teams can make a Cinderella run to a Conference or even Stanley Cup Final, doing so as underdogs the entire time.
However, we can take in some nice profits even if a team doesn’t pull off the upset and win a series. The sweep is actually a rare commodity.
While the Winnipeg Jets indeed pulled off the series upset in last year’s Western Conference Semifinal over the Predators, they did so by winning three games in Nashville, all as substantial underdogs.
While the Predators were a very good home team last year, the value difference is huge. If the Predators were, say, -150 favorites with the Jets somewhere around +130 as underdogs in Nashville, the value is overwhelmingly in Winnipeg’s favor considering the two teams were separated by just three points in the regular season standings last season. This is especially true when we are talking about a Game 7 when the two teams are clearly evenly matched. The truth is it was anyone’s game to win and the Jets pulled off the upset and delivered a ton of value to their backers.
Every team in this postseason is a good hockey team. They wouldn’t be here otherwise. I’m not saying we should throw down on the underdog blindly, but every team will have a chance to win every game in these playoffs.
Consider the value you are getting with an underdog as these games are played too tightly to fall into the trap of betting the favorite on a consistent basis.
Home Ice Could be a Trap
Teams that are postseason bound continue to play hard in order to finish as the highest seed possible, therefore giving them the best chance at winning home ice advantage. The advantage is theoretically two-fold in the sense you get the first two games at home in the hopes of taking a 2-0 lead on the road while also ensuring a possible Game 7 will be played on home ice.
However, home ice advantage isn’t exactly the landslide advantage we are taught to believe it is, especially not in this sport.
Consider last season’s playoffs as a prime example.
- In the Stanley Cup Final, the Capitals went 2-1 on the road as underdogs. In Washington’s first-round series against the Blue Jackets, the road team went 5-1. In Washington’s Eastern Conference Final win over the Lightning, the road team went 5-2.
- The Vegas Golden Knights went 6-2 on the road over the first three rounds of the playoffs en route to the Cup Final last season. In the aforementioned series between the Predators and Jets in last year’s Western Conference Semifinal, the road team went 5-2 and one of those losses came in double overtime.
Again, a large chunk of these games are tightly contested and are decided by a single goal or two. Are we willing to give the home teams the overwhelming benefit of the doubt? In some cases, probably. However, don’t get caught up in the idea that home-ice advantage is as advantageous as it is portrayed. Most of these clubs are very good road teams, so don’t fall into a home ice trap this postseason.