Welcome back to my weekly "Hunting The NHL" betting strategy column that will continue to focus on overall hockey trends and where we can take advantage as sports bettors. The goal of this piece will be to give you, the reader/bettor, valuable information that will allow you to have the best edge in beating the sports books, not just for a given weekend of games, but for the long term. Please note that each of these articles will be written on Wednesday and published on Thursday with a macro, "big picture" focus on all-around NHL betting strategy, as well as looking ahead to the upcoming weekend slate of hockey games.
Author's Note: Due to COVID-19, the 2021 NHL regular season will not just be shorter (56 games instead of 82), but teams will only play opponents within their own divisions. This means that teams will play each other 8-10 times in a condensed schedule type of format, which is unprecedented. I will monitor this throughout the season and adjusting my own betting strategy accordingly as we gather more data.
Target Trend (Division Deep Dive):
This is a new topic that I will try to incorporate as best as I can throughout the season with the new schedule layout. Since teams are playing strictly within their own divison, as mentioned above, I have there fore been looking into matchups through the first eight or so games of the season. Let's take a look at the Canadian North Division, for example. This division is high-flying with lots of offense and not a whole lot of defense. Currently this division is 30-19-2 (61.2%) to the over, the highest in the entire NHL. At the top we have the Vancouver Canucks, who are also currently 7-2 to the over. The Winnipeg Jets are 5-2 to the over, as well over-friendly teams in the Montreal Canadiens (4-2) and Ottawa Senators (4-3). It seems like this combination of high octane offenses and lowly defenses may be here to stay for a while. The Canucks and Oilers are especially lacking in the defensive department while still being able to score goals efficiently on the other side of the puck. All of the teams in this division have the star power to score a lot of goals, aside from the Senators, who are in the middle of rebuilding. Rather than blindly playing these teams to go over (which can work from time to time), I would recommend looking for when these teams play their backup goalies, which is actually happening quite often this season. Keep in mind that these teams also play each other in every game, so pick your spots when the totals are soft and look for the goals to keep rolling in.
Value On The Dog:
On Saturday the New Jersey Devils will be on the road in Buffalo. Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was outstanding in three games this season before he was placed on the COVID-190 protocol list, as he has posted a 1.89 GAA and a .948 SV% with a 2-0-1 record. Former 1st overall draft pick Jack Hughes is breaking out in this short season so far with 7 points in 6 games, and on the other side, the Buffalo Sabres sit at 3-3-1 while recently struggling in back to backs against the depleted Capitals. I believe there will be good value on the Devils here, and I'll look to play them when Blackwood is back in the net. Hopefully his protocol will be done by this weekend, which would be 10+ days by the time that these teams face off.
Player Prop Value:
Similar to last week, I'm heading to the PP points for some value here. This week the player prop value lands on the Dallas Stars, who are only three games into their season due to COVID-19 but have an outstanding 9 power play goals on 16 attempts. Looking at players like Pavelski, Klingberg, Radulov and Hintz, you can get some high reward for low risk on some PP pizza bets where your odds can be north of +250 to +400. Shop around and see what you can find at different books to get the best number(s). Dallas is facing off against the lowly Detroid Red Wings on Thursday, which is also a good spot for the Dallas PP.
The New York Islanders are an interesting team to say the least when it comes to NHL over/under total trends. Having only scored 11 combined goals in their first 6 games, the total has stayed under in every single game New York has played. That being said, the Islanders have actually eclipsed the first period total (Over 1.5 goals) in five of six total games this season. The Islanders play the Washington Capitals on Thursday (Jan. 28th), a team they just lost to on Tuesday night 3-2, keeping the game total under while also going over in the first period. The Caps will be without four regulars again here in this spot, including top forwards Ovechkin and Kuznetzov for a fourth straight game as they remain on the COVID-19 list. I like the Islanders and the Caps to play another close defensive game on Thursday, and the game total line will be set most likely low - around 5.5 again with some juice around (-125) - therefore making an in-play wager on the under possibly worthwhile when a couple of early goals are scored. It seems that so far that the trend has been the Islanders locking down on defense and grinding it down as the game progresses.