2022-12-02 · 3 min read · NHL/Hockey
Jack Quinn of Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers goal

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports |

With the season more than two months in lets take a look at the three most interesting trends so far.
1. Goal scoring increase
  • At the conclusion of last season the NHL averaged 3.14 goals per team per game, which was the highest since the 95-96 season. It seems this was due to a litany of factors such as Covid impacting lineups and a record number of goalie be used. There is likely more to this as it marked the fifth straight season, minus the shortened 20-21 season, that goal scoring has increased. This season is on track to continue that trend as through 362 games, teams have scored 3.18 goals per game. Following the noted trends above, there is some serious multi-season data that has likely fuelled this. For example, now more than ever teams are built for speed rather than physicality. You could argue there are now three lines that prioritize scoring, a lineup that was once separated by “Top 6” and “Bottom 6” has been amalgamated into an interchangeable lineup Frankenstein to play matchups and situational hockey. Now more than ever, mid-game shuffles appear to take place whenever a coach seemingly needs to shake things up or exploit a perceived mismatch. All this included, the fourth line is still expected to chip in goals and most crucially draw penalties and control zone play, which of course leads to even more goals. There's also an increasing youth movement, as we see a lot of young guys come into the league with incredible creativity, in particular on the offensive end; think Trevor Zegras last year or Matty Beniers in this campaign. However, as has often been the case younger players don't pay the amount of attention to defensive detail that older veterans do; especially in the modern era of trick shots and offensive highlights being all the rave, it is much more common to see highlight reel skill plays than a formidable Patrice Bergeron backcheck. Analytics has made players and coaches more efficient and cognisant of a high value scoring chance, which in turn has changed the way offenses are schemed. The days of prioritizing booms from the point have been replaced by slick passing and smartly placed wrist shots, often meaning to create high chance rebounds or deflections. Lastly, rule changes over the last handful of years have favoured offence, contributing to the increase. Overall I think the current 3.18 goals per team per game is a bit excessive and likely to regress, but I will not be surprised to see this season come in higher than last season's 3.14 mark.
2. Comeback season
  • It seems like every week we hear another crazy comeback story, think the Edmonton Oilers scoring four goals in the third period the other week against the New York Rangers to complete the comeback win in regulation no less. Overall so far this season there have been 44 games where a team won despite trailing entering the third period, 23 teams have at least one such win. That would be the highest percentage of comeback wins in the last five years. At the same point last season there were 40 third period comeback wins and 22 teams had at least one of them, which was before Covid really started having major effects on lineups in December. This seems very likely to continue due to a variety of reasons, such as the above-discussed increase in goal scoring. Other important factors are the increasing proficiency and importance placed on power-play units, which currently come in just over a 22% league average, the highest since the 85-86 season. On top of this a shift towards teams pulling their goaltenders earlier, likely a result of coaches being influenced by analytics supporting it. A lead heading into the third period is simply not what it used to be, which is far from a problem for NHL fans. A great example of both this and the above point is the recent absolutely wild 17-goal Seattle Kraken vs. Los Angeles Kings game. Entering the third period the Kraken were up 8-6, and soon it was 8-8, with the Los Angeles Kings being able to grab a point despite giving up 8 goals, something you would have been hard-pressed to find a handful of years ago. Simply put no lead is safe anymore; especially if a team takes its foot off the gas, so don’t touch that dial if you think you’re tuned into a game that seems all but over.
3. Road favourites
  • Now lets focus on a lesser-known betting trend that's been around for a while in the hockey world. Pick road favourites, especially the rested ones. Going all the way back to 2005 road favourites have gone 2,586-1,935, equalling a 57% chance of winning. Now you won't be setting the world on fire with this system, but it seems to be the only major sport in North America where just betting road favourites has been positive on the money line. At the end of the day hockey is an incredibly draining sport and a bit of extra rest is absolutely crucial for players. Especially as the game becomes more and more about speed, re-energizing players' tired legs provides a huge advantage, let alone the fact coaches have extra time to break down film and game plan for the next opponent. In particular backing the road favourite coming off at least three days of rest since their last game provides exceptionally high returns. These teams have gone 655-417 (61.1%); this goes up another 3% when the road favourite is playing a team who missed the playoffs the previous year. This year the trend has more than held as going into Thursday night road favourites have gone 75-34-14 so far, for a 60.5 winning percentage. This is even more interesting when you know that home favourites have gone 137-69-28for a 58.5 winning percentage and road teams are 175-148-39 for a 48.3 winning percentage. Overall if you are struggling to decide on the bet and one of them is a road favourite, especially with three days rest, that's your pick.
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By: Chase Howard


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