When reviewing the betting odds for hockey, it is similar to baseball in the context the starting goalie is a lot like a starting pitcher, able to cause line moves depending on who is playing.
If a pitching ace or top goaltender is scheduled to play, the NHL odds in this case will be higher than say if the backup is between the pipes or a No.5 starter in baseball.
Ultimately, these are team sports and no matter how good or hot a netminder might be, he needs help from his teammates in order to consistently win games. A good measuring stick the NHL uses is the plus/minus rating, which tells hockey fans and those placing NHL picks who are the most effective players on the ice when goals are scored and allowed. The NBA has a similar stat, but it has never caught on to the casual fan, but is definitely used by teams when looking at analytics of matchups for best lineups.
The same is also true in hockey when trying to match skills among players, finding the right combination of offensive lines or defensive pairing to optimize results. Here is a look at some the best plus/minus players thus far into the season.
Washington Trio Tough to Handle
Some might say this is the chicken or the egg, because Washington is the best team in the league they will have more players for this category, but if they same players were not performing at this level, would the Capitals have the same 35-12 SU record and be +17.1 in wagering units?
This we do know, Washington has three of the Top 10 players who are not only excellent offensive players, but doing some dirty work to help the defense. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov is tied for the top spot at +24, with teammate Alex Ovechkin in the fifth slot at +20 and Nicklas Backstrom tied for 7th at +18. This contingent is among the reasons why the Caps lead the NHL in scoring at 3.32 goals a game and they often end up on the ice for power plays, which also happens to be the best at 26.8 percent.
Los Angeles Following Toffoli's Lead
When the Los Angeles Kings finally became a very good hockey team, their plan was to be strong down the middle of the ice and wanted top notch centers and goalie. L.A. has succeed being 30-19 this season, leading the Pacific Division. Among the players doing their job on a nightly basis is Tyler Toffoli, who at just 23 years old and in his third season is emerging as top center in the NHL and is +24 on plus/minus. Fellow veteran center Anze Kopitar is not too far done the list at +16. The Kings are actually -1.8 units on wagering, but that because of four nasty -200 favorite losses this season, otherwise very solid, thanks to their leaders.
Must Read: Ranking Top 10 Goaltenders At All-Star Break
Detroit Youngster and Chicago Seasoned Vet Leading Teams
Dylan Larkin is all of 19 years old in his rookie season for Detroit, yet is tied with the leaders in the NHL at +24. He wasn't even the Red Wings top prospect coming in the season, but earned his way on the roster and all he's done is shine with 15 goals (five game winners) and 18 assists, while still learning the ropes. Even former Detroit greats marvel at his drive and toughness.
Patrick Kane of Chicago has three Stanley Cups, been huge factor for the Blackhawks and is playing like his career is just ready to take off. He has a P/M rating of +22, leads the NHL in scoring by a wide margin (15) with 73 points, has the most goals scored with 30 and got his name in history books with 26-game scoring streak. He personally carried Chicago in the first part of the season.
A Plug for Florida's Ekblad
At No.6 for P/M is Aaron Ekblad who is also 19, but deserves special consideration as the highest listed defensemen at +19. Backliners cannot impact this stat as much as offensive players, as their first job is to prevent goals, not score them. Ekblad has shown exceptional two-way talent and besides being a part of the top defense in the NHL, is has 10 goals for the Atlantic Division Panthers.