Last Updated: 2017-10-15
We’re just about a week and a half into the 2017-18 NHL season. We’ve had a lot of surprise teams and a lot of slow starters thus far. Hopefully you’re easing into the season by getting a feel for these new-look squads, especially with some of the rule changes and the typical early-season enforcements of officiating mandates. We’re also seeing a lot of caution when it comes to injuries.
One of the best ways to handicap the NHL is to use situational spots to your advantage. That is something that we have had a lot of success with over the last few seasons and we hope that it will continue to boost our bankrolls this season. Every Sunday, we take a look at the week ahead to find those favorable situations to get some value.
Here are the NHL situational betting spots for the week ending October 22:
Monday October 16
Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings – There is only one game on Monday. It looks like the league is hoping to ease teams into the start of a week because nearly all of the league played on Saturday, there were three games on Sunday, and then only one game on Monday. The Red Wings are 1-0 in the brand new Little Caesars Arena and now they draw a division rival on home ice. It has been a good start for both teams, but this is just the second road game for Tampa Bay and the Bolts were not on the road at all last week. Simply from a travel situation, I’d have to look at the Red Wings, who have had three days off since Friday’s game in Las Vegas.
Tuesday October 17
Buffalo Sabres at Vegas Golden Knights – This will be the first game for Vegas in which an Eastern Conference opponent has a day off in Sin City prior to playing. These are situations that I really want to watch closely as the year goes along. Both Detroit and Boston played in Arizona the night before playing in Vegas. With these teams that only go out to Vegas once, I’m curious to see how they handle the spot. I’m also curious to see how home ice is priced as the year goes along. We may not have a good play here, but we can follow along and see how these spots may be accounted for in the market.
Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers – It always means a little extra when the Penguins and Rangers get together. NBC Sports Network is generally on hand and it is a division rivalry game between two of the league’s most celebrated franchises. So far, the Rangers are off to an atrocious start with just one win in six games. Henrik Lunqvist has struggled and the Rangers haven’t found much offensive chemistry. Pittsburgh is bobbing and weaving along, as you would expect with a Stanley Cup hangover. The Penguins will be a road favorite here, but it’s fair to wonder if the Rangers are going to turn things around and get it going.
Carolina Hurricanes at Edmonton Oilers – The Hurricanes are at a bit of a disadvantage right now as far as I’m concerned. They have only played three games, while everybody else has played at least four. It takes time to gel. It takes time to develop some chemistry. It takes time for the goaltenders to get comfortable seeing pucks and maintaining proper positioning through traffic. The Oilers have dropped three straight and should play with a sense of urgency in this one. Carolina’s first road game came this past Saturday in Winnipeg, so it isn’t a long trip, but with a time difference and some downtime north of the border between games, this spot sets up well for Edmonton.
Montreal Canadiens at San Jose Sharks – The Habs kick off the dreaded three games in four nights swing through California. Montreal is having all sorts of problems scoring goals thus far and some late starts on the west coast are not exactly conducive for generating chances. San Jose is off to a similarly slow start on offense, despite playing all four games at home to this point. The under certainly makes some sense here, but I’d also look at the Sharks. Teams that can’t score are often hindered by getting unfavorable matchups because of the home edge that comes from having the last line change.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – A rematch of last year’s first-round Eastern Conference playoffs series between the Maple Leafs and the Capitals is on tap on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena in Washington. My guess here is that the young Maple Leafs are going to put a little bit more emphasis on this game than the seasoned Capitals, so I’d expect a pretty big effort from Mike Babcock’s team as a very live dog.
Vancouver Canucks at Ottawa Senators – We have all sorts of situational angles on Tuesday night. The Canucks hit the road for the first time this season against the Senators. It is a long trip east to Ottawa and this kicks off a four-game Eastern Conference swing. The Canucks only scored nine goals in four home games. I wouldn’t expect them to do much here. The Senators are already crushed by injuries, so we might get a little bit of line value on them based on who is out.
Wednesday October 18
Montreal Canadiens at Los Angeles Kings – A rematch of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals is on the docket for Wednesday between the Habs and Kings. The situational spot here is pretty obvious, with Montreal playing a back-to-back out west in California. The San Jose to Los Angeles swing is the more challenging one because it requires an up-and-down flight after the game. The Los Angeles to Anaheim swing is just a short 45-minute bus ride. Keep that in mind when you see teams playing this stretch this season. Also keep in mind that Not Carey Price as the backup for the Habs is a pretty big downgrade.
Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs – One of the angles that we look to play against in the NHL is the standalone road game. Toronto virtually had one of those against the Capitals after playing in Montreal for Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. With the emotion built up for that game against Washington, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a real flat spot for the Leafs in this one. Detroit gets a crack at former head coach Mike Babcock in this one, so they’ll certainly be invested. I’d look to grab the plus money side on the road dog here.
Thursday October 19
Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets – The Lightning wrap up a stretch of four games in six nights and five games in eight nights before heading home to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blue Jackets are one of the deepest teams in the NHL, so it can be very tough to head into Columbus on a travel stretch like this. The Blue Jackets and Lightning both have a day off prior to this one, but the spot favors Columbus and your position on the game should as well.
St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche – The Avalanche didn’t really take advantage of what home ice means in the altitude. They’ll have a chance to do so here on Thursday night in what is a great spot for the home team. The Blues come in off of hosting the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. Those games always have a little bit of extra juice to them. Colorado, far and away the worst team in the league last season, is off to a strong start thus far under second-year coach Jared Bednar. The home team catching plus money is the way to go here.
Carolina Hurricanes at Calgary Flames – Another enticing underdog takes the ice on Thursday in the Carolina Hurricanes. As mentioned above, Carolina isn’t in the greatest of spots against the Oilers, but this is a much better situation. Calgary will be playing its first game in four days. Early on in the season, players want to play. They want to get into a rhythm. They want that sense of normalcy that comes with the season. Playing four games in six days and then sitting around waiting for four days doesn’t feel normal. If Carolina does struggle in Edmonton on Tuesday, as I expect they will, there will be a little bit of urgency to start fast here. At the very least, Carolina in the first period makes sense.
New Jersey Devils at Ottawa Senators – Standalone road games are a tricky spot for teams. The Devils are in one on Thursday night. They host Tampa Bay on Tuesday, go to Ottawa on Thursday, and come right back home to face the Sharks on Friday. As mentioned, the Senators lineup is a bit of a disaster right now, but this spot definitely favors the home team.
Friday October 20
San Jose Sharks at New Jersey Devils – How’s this for a situational spot? The NHL season began on October 4. The San Jose Sharks play their first road game on October 20. It will be all the way out on the east coast against the New Jersey Devils. The Devils aren’t in a great spot here, as mentioned one game above. Still, I’d have to consider them in this spot since they’ll be catching plus money as the weaker of the two teams by a decent margin.
Vancouver Canucks at Buffalo Sabres – Say what you will about the results that the Sabres have had for the last few seasons, but they have an extremely passionate fan base and it will be a full barn on Friday night when the Canucks come to town. Vancouver’s first road game of the season on Tuesday will be followed by three more this week, including a back-to-back with travel from Boston to Buffalo. The Sabres play in Boston on Saturday, but their efforts will be focused on getting Friday night’s win. This is probably my favorite play of the week and we should get a pretty reasonable number to lay on the Sabres.
Saturday October 21
Minnesota Wild at Calgary Flames – The days off early in the week should help a Wild team running low on healthy bodies, but this is a spot that clearly favors Calgary. It is a back-to-back with short travel from Manitoba to Alberta, but it is the fact that Calgary will be back into some semblance of a rhythm with one day off between games. Add in the Wild’s injury woes and this is a perfect spot to take the Flames. Calgary should be a pretty solid team this season, so we’ll have to see if this price reflects that sentiment or if they remain undervalued.
Los Angeles Kings at Columbus Blue Jackets – With the Ohio State Buckeyes on a bye, it will be a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena for this one against the visiting Kings and former friend* Jeff Carter. It should be a good atmosphere as the Kings play their first road game since the first week of the season. It will be their first road game outside of California since the preseason back on September 26 against Vegas. The Blue Jackets are set up very nicely in this spot to secure two points with a resounding home win.
San Jose Sharks at New York Islanders – The Sharks go from their first road game of the season on Friday night right into their second roadie of the year on Saturday night. That makes this a horrible spot for San Jose. We’ll see the backup in one of these two games, and probably this one in hopes of setting the tone for the trip on Friday. The Islanders have a light schedule throughout the week with short travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan, so they are in a good spot for this one.
St. Louis Blues at Vegas Golden Knights – The Blues have a day off, a Friday night actually, in Vegas before suiting up for Saturday night’s game against the Golden Knights. Again, these are situations that I want to closely monitor. The Blues will be more focused with a loss to Colorado, which we discussed the possibility of earlier, but wins over Chicago and Colorado could lead to a bit of complacency in a tricky spot. Keep an eye on how the week plays out because you could get a good chance to back the expansion team in this one.
Edmonton Oilers at Philadelphia Flyers – The Oilers play in Chicago on Thursday night and then play a Saturday matinee in Philadelphia on Saturday. Day games in Eastern Time are always tough for visiting Western Conference teams, so this is one that you’ll want to watch closely. Similarly, the Nashville Predators at New York Rangers game is a 12:30 p.m. ET start time.
It’s fair to wonder which team is helped more by this. The visiting team is already in a hotel close to the arena. The home team has to travel in from their homes and it really throws off the schedule. Either way, it is a unique spot and you should handicap both of them accordingly.
Sunday October 22
Vancouver Canucks at Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings have some really good spots this week. Here’s another one with the Canucks playing their fourth road game in six days, all in the Eastern Time Zone. Attendance should be strong for Detroit throughout the year with an invested fan base and a new arena, so I’d expect a good crowd for Sunday night to help the team over the hump against a road-weary Canucks squad.
Keep an eye out for these NHL situational spots throughout the season!