As the hockey season starts to move further on, there has been an alteration in one aspect of the game in the early going and it has caught sports bettor's and other's attention.
Scoring is up in the NHL to date, not dramatically, but enough to change sportsbooks like at +A rated sportsbooks thinking their NHL odds on totals. We have already seen a double-digit decrease by percents in the number of totals listed at 5 compared to the same dates a year ago. Sportsbooks are always quick to spot a trend and adjust accordingly and that is why the Under is 79-66 in all games played (as of 11/03) because they understood what was happening.
With that out of the way, what has led to this occurring and how should hockey bettors react?
Players Patience is Leading to More Quality Shots
It used to be players would seldom leave their feet to block shots, unless it was a very important regular season game or the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, in the past 1 1/2 to two years, coaching techniques have changed and players have been diving to block shots and ever-increasingly further out on the ice to limit shots from even reaching the goaltender, which also accounts for fewer rebound chances by players hanging around the net or trying to redirect pucks shot from various angles.
However, in the playoffs we began to see players either fake more shots to see if they could get the defensemen to commit or if they thought a shot attempt was coming, they held the puck longer and with the defender on the ice, more room opened up for passing lanes, which has led to more scoring chances.
Speed, Size and Youth Also Playing a Part
The NHL has been trending towards more speed the last several years, with the Blackhawks and now the Penguins at the forefront. More and more teams are playing faster transition hockey, meaning trying to go from one end to the other to gain breakaways or man advantage ( 2-on-1, 3-on-2) situations that generate better scoring chances or power plays, which by the way are up over 12 percent.
With this, the latest trend, younger and smaller players are in vogue. Other than freaks like Usain Bolt, athletes of more normal stature are better equipped to be faster and shiftier. Thus, more players coming into the league are 6'0 or less and can heat the blades on the bottom of boots and melt the ice.
With the youth comes mistakes, especially on the defensive end. With junior hockey geared more towards scoring, many players like in other sports have to learn the nuances of the defense. Until they do, they can leave their team's vulnerable to breaking down and being taken advantage of.
How Should Bettors React?
Those making NHL picks have to realize the sportsbooks have already adjusted. In this never-ending cat and mouse game, learn and focus on teams that can fly up and down the ice to create scoring chances, have a Top 10 power play and have the right mix of veteran and young players who can really skate to best take advantage of the sportsbooks.