Welcome back to our 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 most of these articles will be written on Wednesday and published on Thursday/Friday with a macro, big picture focus on all-around NHL betting strategy, and sometimes looking ahead to the upcoming weekend slate of 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.
This week I am taking a look at a strategy that can applicable to every season, but one that perhaps can be exploited specifically during a COVID-19 type of season like we're in now. More specifically, I'm looking at extended breaks between games and how teams historically respond and currently are responding in 2021. In the NHL, having 3+ days off can be seen as being a lengthy break. Whether this gives a team extra rust - or whether the extra rest helps them to come out firing - depends on the group of players.
As we all know, COVID-19 has created a lot of 3+ day breaks this season for many teams, not just in hockey but in all sports, and we've seen teams react differently to these lengthy breaks in the NHL.
Using info from More Hockey Stats, the data represented below is in points per game (PPG). In the NHL, to those unfamiliar, the standings focus on a points distribution rather than win percentage. For example, 2 points for a win, 0 points for a loss, and 1 point for an OT or shootout loss. Therefore, in these stats, if a team averages 2 PPG on 3+ days off, over a span of 4 games, this means they have won all their games.
If a team averages 1 PPG, it either means they've won half, or have played a number of overtime games that resulted in losses - you get the picture. With this specific set of data, I'm going to only look back to the two previous seasons, in addition to this season, as the rosters/makeup of teams are more consistent with what is currently going on. In 2019, for reference, three teams averaged > 1.5 PPG with 3+ days off.
In 2018 and 2019, three teams averaged > 1.5 PPG with 3+ days off
- Dallas Stars: 7 games played after 3+ days off (PPG = 2); Dallas was 7-0 in games with 3+ days off
- San Jose Sharks: 5 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 1.6)
- Vancouver Canucks: 7 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 1.57)
In 2018 and 2019, two NHL teams averaged < 0.3 PPG with 3+ days off
- Colorado Avalanche: 7 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 0.286); evidence of rust coming off the break?
- Edmonton Oilers: 7 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 0.143)
In 2019 and 2020, three teams averaged > 1.5PPG with 3+ days off
- Boston Bruins: 5 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 2); undefeated off 3+ days rest!
- Tampa Bay Lightning: 7 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 1.857)
- Washington Capitals: 8 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 1.75)
- Toronto Maple Leafs: 7 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 1.714)
In 2019 and 2020, only one team averaged < 0.4PPG with 3+ days off
- Ottawa Senators: 5 games after 3+ days off (PPG = 0.4)
Where we can use this data is by taking a look at the current data of the ongoing season and taking advantage of teams that excel off rest and those that appear rusty off too much rest. The data from the previous two season shows that there are certainly teams that earn more wins when they have that extended rest period. With COVID-19 playing such a major role across the National Hockey League this season, there have been many instances where certain teams go more than 3+ days without games.
In 2021, six teams are undefeated with 3+ days off
- Toronto Maple Leafs (2 games)
- Ottawa Senators (1)
- NY Islanders (2)
- St. Louis Blues (3)
- Vancouver Canucks (2)
- Carolina Hurricanes (2)
There are also six teams that have yet to win a game off of a big break, and the ones worth looking are the New York Rangers (0-4 off 3+ days rest) and the Edmonton Oilers (0-3 off 3+days rest). With this data, we can now start to look at attacking spots for certain teams that might have either a more positive or negative impact than most. The Maple Leafs and Canucks are both teams that have shown a bit of a positive track record in this sample, rising to the top of the league in past seasons and in 2021.
Although it's a small sample size, we can see that the St. Louis Blues are 3-0 with extended breaks just this season alone. With this in mind, we can also take a look at the upcoming schedule and notice that the Blues play this upcoming Monday, March 8th, and then not again until Friday, March 12th agains the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who will be playing their fourth game in six days in the middle of a six-game road trip. I believe this will be a good spot for the Blues at home here and that they will be rested against a possibly fatigued Vegas team at the tail end of a long road trip. Lastly, be aware of the ongoing COVID outbreaks, as these have come up this season without warning and have left teams with big breaks in their respective schedules. If that happens to one of these teams that we have good info on, then we can look to make a play there as well. We will continue to monitor this situation throughout the 2021 season.