How To Use STER & ESR Handicapping Methods For Our NHL Picks

Ross Benjamin

Thursday, February 4, 2016 3:30 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 3:30 PM UTC

Our NHL analyst shares two of his key components when searching for money line betting value. This article is sure to give you an additional edge when making your NHL picks in the future.

NHL Money Line Handicapping Methods
In the following article, I’m going to be sharing two key components I use when handicapping the NHL. My area of concentration will be geared toward money line wagering. I’m going to be touching upon the topics of special team efficiency ratings and even strength ratings. At the end of the day, I’m quite confident that after reading this piece, you’ll be provided with an additional edge when making your NHL picks. Please understand these are just two facets of NHL handicapping that I use, but they also provide a strong foundation when assessing daily NHL odds.


The Standings
I’m going to post the NHL standings below as of Monday 2/1/2015. I’m doing so as a reference point to be used throughout the article. There’s a method to my madness pertaining to the timing of this article. It comes during a period prior to play resuming following the All Star break. It also coincides with teams having completed better than half of their regular season schedules. The idea being, the bigger the sample size then the stronger the proven handicapping method becomes. I have a favorite saying pertaining to the previous sentence. “Numbers don’t lie and liars don’t figure”.




Eastern Conference


Western Conference


Special Team Efficiency Ratings
One of the key components that I’ve incorporated when handicapping the NHL is using what I refer to as special team efficiency ratings. The equation is quite simple. I take the percentage of time that a team converts on their power play attempts, and then add that number to the percentage in which that same team kills off power play chances by the opposition.

Example: The Boston Bruins have been successful in scoring a goal on 25.9% of their power play attempts this season, and they’ve also denied the opposition from scoring on 84.4% of their man advantage situations. By adding the two percentage numbers of 84.4 and 25.9 we arrive at a sum of 110.3. We’ve now established a special teams rating of 110.3 for the Bruins which is second to only Washington (111.4). This takes a bit of diligence to keep up on since each team’s rating will be altered on a game-to-game basis. I also take this one step further daily, and check each team’s special team efficiency rating during their previous five games. In doing so, it enables me to identify if a team is on an upward or downward spiral despite what their recent win/loss ratio may indicate. The chart below will illustrate my special team efficiency ratings as of Monday 2/1/2015.


                                   STER=Special Team Efficiency Rating 


Evaluating The STER
Last year at this time, I wrote an article specifically on NHL special team efficiency ratings. I concluded, by looking inside those numbers, Nashville seemed like a team to fade in the second half of the year. They were ranked near the bottom in STER, yet, were the Central Division leader at the time. I’m not right with these types of projections on every occasion, but am confident when assessing a handful of teams STER at better than the midpoint of its schedule, and arriving at somewhat accurate conclusions. My projection on the Predators turned out to be prophetic. They took a complete nosedive down the final stretch of the regular season, were overvalued for much of the final two months. Nashville also had an early exit from the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs after being eliminated during a first round series.

Well, let’s see if I can make a similar  forecast for the 2015-2016 NHL campaign. If the season were to have ended today, Arizona would qualify for the playoffs by finishing third in the Pacific Division. If you’ve followed the NHL, then you’ve heard on numerous occasions how the Coyotes are clearly the surprise team in the Western Conference thus far. However, they possess a poor STER of 94.4 which ranks 26th in the NHL. Although I don’t see the Coyotes being overvalued on a game to game basis like Nashville was last season, I firmly believe their demise is about to come sooner rather than later.

Contrarily, there’s a team that I predict will make a strong second half surge and that’s Anaheim. Currently, Anaheim is on the outside looking in with regards to the playoffs. However, their STER of 108.5 is third best in the league with only Washington and Boston being better. The Ducks have clearly underachieved thus far, and have been held back by some anemic offensive stretches. The majority of those scoring issues have come while playing at even strength. They’re just too talented a team for that to continue, and I’m looking for them to make a major push over the next two months. In addition, keep an eye on them as a money line underdog or small favorite in the upcoming weeks. Those kinds of situations and prices for Anaheim will be few and far between come March and April in my estimation.  


Even Strength Rating
This statistic is exactly the same as a player’s plus/minus rating, except its calculated for each individual team. Even Strength Rating is calculated by how many goals a team has scored at even strength less the goals allowed at even strength.

Examples: Washington is currently the best in the NHL regarding this category. The Capitals have scored 116 even strength goals thus far while allowing 79. By simply subtracting 116 from 79, Washington has a +37 even strength rating. Now let’s take a look at an opposite end of the spectrum. The Buffalo Sabres have scored 79 even strength goals while allowing 107. Because they’ve given up more than they scored, Buffalo is currently at -28 in this category. Fortunately for Buffalo, their special team efficiency rating is 101.5 which is 11th overall in that category. Basically, the Sabres special teams play has allowed them to be more competitive than teams would ordinarily be when performing so poor at even strength. The chart below will illustrate my even strength ratings as of Monday 2/1/2015.


                                      ESR=Even Strength Rating


Caps Not Fading But No Betting Value
It’s easy to see why Washington has clearly been the best team in the NHL this season. They rank #1 in both STER and ESR. If you factor their #1 goaltender Braden Holtby has performed at a world class level since late last season, it’s become a lethal combination. From a betting perspective, Washington will be a massive money line favorite at home the rest of the way, and a substantial one even in away games. Basically, there’s not a lot of value to be had, and the aforementioned categories don’t suggest they’re about to go into a tailspin any time soon.

Another way to look at the two charts (STER/ESR) that I’ve illustrated is by combining the two numbers of a team, and doing the same for their opponent on any given night. There will be occasions when you can catch a money line underdog price on a team that has a substantial edge over an opponent as a result of doing this exact calculation. That equates to very good betting value, and even if you win 50% of the time in which that occurs, it still will provide a very nice profit margin based on return on investment.

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