Last Updated: 2018-02-09
The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway and there will be a lot of betting opportunities during the games. The hockey games have been absolutely captivating over the last several Winter Games, but this year’s hockey action takes on a much different look. For the first time since 1994, NHL players will not be participating. The league has opted not to kowtow to the International Olympic Committee and has decided not to suspend day-to-day operations in the regular season for the requisite two weeks.
So, we’ve got a bunch of players that casual fans have never heard of and even some guys that diehard fans have never heard of. That makes for a really challenging handicap on the international rinks in PyeongChang, South Korea. We have to try and handicap ex-NHLers or players that have never had a sniff at the big time. On the other hand, because there is so much uncertainty and so much unknown, we may be able to find some really good values.
Hockey will begin on February 14 and will run through February 25.
Here are the Groups:
Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, South Korea
Russia, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia
Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany
The teams that finish as the top-four seeds will have a bye to the quarterfinals. The others will play in the Qualification playoffs and it will be win or go home at that point.
Here are the odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook for the 2018 Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament:
Czech Republic +1000
South Korea +100000
Russia easily has the most impressive collection of talent with a couple of elite players in Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. It is worth pointing out that Canada, Sweden, and Finland have ex-NHL goaltenders. In a tournament format such as this, a hot goaltender can mean the world and we’ve seen some notable upsets because goaltenders have simply played out of their minds.
Lots of teams do have NHL experience. Per Terrance Doyle at 538, the Canadians lead the way with 5,444 games worth of experience. The US is second with 3,083. Russia is third with 2,565. Sweden is next with 1,612. Germany, surprisingly, rounds out the top five with 1,429.
The US team actually has a few recent World Junior Hockey Championships players in Jordan Greenway, Troy Terry, Ryan Donato, and Will Borgen. Several teams have players from those Under-20 teams because players with an NHL contract were not eligible to play.
This tournament is always tricky because these players don’t play together. That is one advantage for the Russians. A lot of their players have played together in previous international events or on their respective KHL teams. The other rosters are a collection of misfits that have been playing all over the world.
Here are my betting suggestions:
Sweden (+450) – The Swedes should be able to win Group C without a ton of resistance. They have two ex-NHL goaltenders and the country has a reputation for playing smart, sound hockey. There is a lot of NHL flare on this team and a lot of players that have been in the KHL this season, which is the second-best league in the world. Goaltending and the draw are the two primary reasons to take a shot at Sweden.
Canada (+450) – Canada has a pretty easy draw in Group Play as well. The Czechs have a decent roster and a bit of a younger team, so the wider rink should help, but their goaltending is suspect and Canada has a lot of ex-NHL flavor. I’ll be worried about Canada’s team speed once we get into the Quarterfinals, but the Canadians shouldn’t have to play in the Qualification Playoffs and should be able to ride three goaltenders with NHL experience.
Switzerland (+3500) – The Swiss team would be my shot in the dark for this tournament. They have goaltender Jonas Hiller, who has put on some spectacular displays in the past, including one against Canada in the 2010 Olympics in a 3-2 Switzerland shootout victory. Hiller is obviously eight years older, but backup Tobias Stephen made a cameo appearance in the NHL. Most of these players play in the Swiss Elite League called the National League and a lot of them will be on lines with teammates, so they won’t have to gel. Switzerland gets Canada right away in the first game and then plays South Korea, which should be a comfortable win. If the Swiss can steal one from the Canadians, this bet gets very live.
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