Advantageous betting circumstances are developing daily in hockey because of the Sochi Olympics, even though the 2014 Winter Games are still more than a month away – but what do they have to do with the NHL?
Plenty for all of the players who were led to believe they were in contention for roster berths, yet were snubbed at the last minute.
Last week on New Year’s Day, the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team was announced following the Winter Classic (we told you to avoid Detroit!), and it directly led to one big score for savvy bettors that very evening.
Less than six hours after Team USA general manager David Poile released the participants on NBC, Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop played one of his most complete games of the season, leading the Lightning (+135) to a 4-2 road victory over Vancouver.
The 6-foot-7 Bishop was led to believe he would be heading to southwestern Russia, especially with the status of L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in question. Instead, Bishop back-stopped an Eastern Conference squad to victory against perhaps the hottest program out west in the Canucks, which posted an outrageous 10-1-2 record in December.
Score another one for the heads-up bettor, who realizes players’ emotions – something followed much more in college sports than in the pros – continue to be a valuable tool when handicapping NHL games, including revenge situations for individuals as well as teams.
If the season ended right now, Bishop would be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the league and likely considered to be the front-runner for the award thanks to an extensive resume: 21 victories with a 1.89 goals-against average (second-best in the NHL), and a .935 save percentage that’s tops among goaltenders. He has allowed two or fewer goals in seven consecutive games and 25 of 30.
Poile instead went with Quick, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
Twenty-four hours later, Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan, who cried to the media about being chided from Team USA, skated as a mild home favorite past rising Winnipeg, which had won three straight. Ryan did not produce a point, but his Senators got the message – a 4-3 triumph.
Meanwhile, Columbus alternate captain Jack Johnson was penciled for duty on defense, but his season has been sub-par, so others went ahead of him. No problem, no complaints, and no looking to bet the Blue Jackets on his behalf.
On Tuesday, selection committee chair Steve Yzerman will make public his roster for Team Canada on national television (CBC, NBCSN). Again, many expect to hear their name, but when it doesn’t happen, look to play on the teams that feature players who are the most disappointed.
One of them could be Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, who opened the calendar year with a solid 4-point outing (1G, 3A) against Dallas.
Subban, the current holder of the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, is believed to be a liability on the wider European rink. However, the key to playing at 100-feet wide (instead of 85) is controlling the boards, which is his specialty.
Fully expect Subban to not make the Canadian team, so leap with the Canadiens on their roadie to Philadelphia on Wednesday to beat the Flyers.
Meanwhile, be aware of other top players missing the trip to Sochi to look for motivated underdog teams to bet on.
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