Despite their dismal rankings in the NHL standings, several of the league's poor performers have been turning a profit at the window. Florida, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington are among the teams paying off for bettors, and with the tight races in both conferences, they could even pay off eventually for their fans.
There’s close enough for rock ‘n roll, and there’s close enough for hockey.
Moneyline betting is becoming more and more the weapon of choice for hockey handicappers, matching the format widely used in baseball. But there is still plenty of money to be made against the spread. Just remember that the difference between the two types of bets is huge in the NHL.
With the moneyline bet, all you need to do is pick a winner. The against the spread bet, also known as the puckline, sees the favored team lay 1½ goals, with that usually dropping to half a goal for the playoffs. In this scenario, the underdog can lose by a goal and still cash in. And there are a lot of teams doing just that this year. Here’s a rundown of the league’s most profitable losers thus far.
The Panthers have the dubious distinction of leading the league in overtime losses at 10. That’s excellent news for handicappers; Florida is the most profitable team in the league at 32-19 against the puckline, yet they’re in second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points (19-22-10) at the time of publication. That’s still only six points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final seed.
Getting Todd Bertuzzi back in the lineup should help Florida find the back of the net more often. He's due to return from back surgery sometime in February.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues had nowhere to go but up after last year’s NHL-worst 21-46-15 performance. And so it came to pass as St. Louis is raking in the cash at 30-20 ATS. Goal scoring is up slightly from 2.35 to 2.48 per game, while goals against have plummeted from 3.46 to an even three.
Picking up Detroit Red Wings castoff Manny Legace was a masterstroke; he’s 17-12 as a starter with a respectable .909 save percentage. The Blues are in much the same boat as Florida, in the back of the Western Conference pack with 48 points but close enough for an exciting run to the postseason.
What in the name of Eric Nesterenko is going on here? The Hawks went on a 7-4 tear, with three of those losses in overtime, after hiring Denis Savard as their new head coach. That streak got Chicago over the .500 mark, but then the Hawks hit the skids, recently losing 10 games in a row at just 3-7 ATS.
Chicago remains near the top of the puckline standings at 29-21. However, those profits could dry up completely after the Hawks are done playing nine out of their next 10 games on the road, all within the span of three weeks.
Los Angeles Kings
At least Chicago’s first game will be in Los Angeles. The Kings continue to find new and creative ways of losing. They’re camped out in last place in the West with 40 points, but remain royalty to bettors at 28-24 ATS.
Those numbers should rise dramatically now that Sean Burke is between the pipes. The veteran was signed as a free agent after Los Angeles was down to the No. 4 goalie on its depth chart, Tokyo native Yutaka Fukufuji. It’s a big step up from Japan’s Kokudo Bunnies to the NHL, after all. Burke has led the Kings to the pay window in each of his two starts with his new club.
The Caps have almost shed the loser’s label. They’re one game below .500 and one point ahead of Florida in the Eastern standings with a game in hand. But that’s a huge improvement over last year’s 29-41-12 record, and that leap has Washington firmly in the money at 29-21 on the puckline.
Alexander Ovechkin is the club’s famous scoring machine with 31 goals, yet it’s the added work of less heralded sophomore Alexander Semin (29 goals) that has lifted the Caps out of the doldrums. If only the other guys who represent the nation’s capital had that kind of exit strategy.