It’s not an exact science, of course. When it comes to NHL betting, nothing is. But when it comes to betting on the home underdog in hockey? There are some things to most definitely look for that can help you out.
Did the Visitor Play the Night Before?
If the favored road team played the night before, wherever it was, chances are better the home dog can pull one out. That may seem elementary, as tired teams often make for sloppy teams.
But here’s another factor: no morning skate. Hockey players are nothing if not creatures of habit. The routine for time immemorial for players on game day has always been: Early rise, lots of hot coffee at the rink, a good, brisk morning skate and then back to the house/hotel for a good nap.
That’s how hockey players function, and when there’s a change in the routine, some of them don’t adjust as well. A 2009 study by a mathematics expert for a blog called Gospel of Hockey sampled a large number of games and found that teams playing the second of back-to-back games on the road won games only at a 38.8 percent clip.
One thing that can’t be counted upon as much by bettors regarding visiting teams, however: The party factor. Players today don’t go out and carouse like they used to on the road. Too many cell phone cameras can get them in trouble if they are seen at the wrong place, doing the wrong things.
Plus, players are so afraid of getting at all out of shape, in a younger, faster league, that they mostly stay in their hotel rooms and drink protein shakes -- not beer at a bar.
Players also don’t get to go out much after games in the city they’re visiting, as charter airplanes mean teams depart right after most games, as opposed to the next morning in the commercial flight days
Road Games Mean More Backup Goalies
You’re trying to find the underdog home team in line to come through in a single-game bet. You aren’t sure, though; Isn’t that road team really, really good -- the favorite for a very good reason? If that road team is going with their No. 1 goalie, yes.
But, to put it in reverse: road teams often go with their backup goalies - especially in back-to-back games.
Bettors need to pay very close attention to the goalie rotation for a road team. While some coaches don’t reveal their starting goalie until right before game time, most will give out that information after the morning skate.
Ah, but there’s the rub: As we just noted, the road team will often skip the morning skate -- especially if they played the night before -- so you don’t always know. Follow the beat writers of a hockey team on Twitter, because they almost always ask about the goalie for the next game.
One note of caution: An underdog home team, once it sees it’s playing the backup, might relax too much and think it’ll be an easier night.
Conversely, the road team often will try harder, with a more pack-it-in defensive game plan, when the backup is in net. Study the goalies carefully, in how they’re trending.
Other Factors to Consider
Some observations from nearly a quarter century covering the NHL, when it comes to home underdogs: If a team has just fired its coach, bet on them under the new guy.
New coaches usually have a good winning percentage at the start, in the honeymoon period. After that, things will even out again until the talent gets better.
If there is a promotion night -- giveaways to entice fans -- take that into bigger consideration. That means more people in the building, and players always play harder when the building is fuller.
Obviously, pay close attention to the injury list. Many times, teams will say to the media, “Our (XYZ) good player has a groin pull”, but in reality, they’re just giving the guy a rest.
Regardless, visiting teams often rest top guys on nights when they think a) We can afford to lose the game or b) He’s a bit under the weather maybe.