NHL Betting: 3 Division Winner Value Bets to Target

by Aaron Brooks
on January 16, 2018

When it comes to parity in professional sports, the National Football League is usually the first league that comes to mind.

However, it’s the National Hockey League where fortunes can change the quickest, with the latest evidence of that coming this season. As the regular season passes its midway point, 6 of the 16 teams currently in playoff positioning did not qualify for postseason play last winter, including the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

In such a wild and unpredictable year as we’ve seen in the NHL so far, it’s also opened up some great bargains on the division betting odds. In this piece, I’ll take a look at the latest NHL division odds from BetOnline, then highlight my 3 picks as the best value bets to consider for the second half of the campaign.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 12:00 p.m eastern on January 16, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

NHL Division Betting Odds

With the NHL schedule a bit quieter this month as all of the teams take a CBA-mandated bye week in January, many betting sites have tried to spark some extra interest by posting updated odds on each of the NHL’s 4 division races.

Here’s a look at the latest NHL division betting odds at BetOnline, along with a short summary of the current situation in each grouping.

Atlantic Division Betting Odds

We haven’t even hit the all-star break, but the race for first in the Atlantic already seems to be over. Barring injuries to Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov or Victor Hedman, the Tampa Bay Lightning looks home and cooled with a 31-10-3 record and 9-point bulge over second-place Boston at this point. The Maple Leafs are the only other team within any sort of striking distance, sitting 12 points behind the Bolts.

  • Tampa Bay Lightning -700
  • Boston Bruins +600
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +800
  • Detroit Red Wings +10000
  • Florida Panthers +10000
  • Montreal Canadiens +10000
  • Ottawa Senators +25000
  • Buffalo Sabres +50000

Metropolitan Division Betting Odds

Many thought this was the year in which the Capitals would relinquish their hold on the Metropolitan, a division they’ve won each of the past 2 seasons. But Washington looks on its way to its 8th division crown since 2008 (they won the Southeast in 5 of the last 6 years for that division before realignment), enjoying a 6-point lead on Columbus. Two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh, the Caps’ biggest rival, sits 8 points behind Washington while the Devils are also right there in the mix.

  • Washington Capitals +125
  • New Jersey Devils +500
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +600
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +800
  • New York Rangers +1000
  • New York Islanders +1200
  • Carolina Hurricanes +1400

Central Division Betting Odds

Although the surprising Winnipeg Jets currently lead the Central, it’s the defending Western Conference champion Predators who are favored to win the division at season’s end. At the time of writing, Nashville trailed the Jets by 3 points but had 4 games in hand. These odds could look entirely different in a couple of weeks, however, as the Central is the tightest-packed division in the NHL from top to bottom. Even last-place Chicago was just 9 points out of first place going into Tuesday’s action.

  • Nashville Predators +175
  • Winnipeg Jets +300
  • Louis Blues +400
  • Dallas Stars +600
  • Minnesota Wild +1200
  • Colorado Avalanche +1600
  • Chicago Blackhawks +1600

Pacific Division Betting Odds

There have been tons of surprises in the Pacific Division, no bigger one than the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas is the second-biggest favorite on the NHL division odds at the halfway point of the season, thanks to a 29-10-3 record and 7-point lead over second-place Calgary. Meanwhile, Anaheim and Edmonton, two of the top Stanley Cup favorites coming into the year, find themselves way down the standings and may miss the playoffs entirely. One thing that hasn’t changed is the plight of the woeful Arizona Coyotes, who already sit 34 points back of the Knights.

  • Vegas Golden Knights -120
  • Los Angeles Kings +450
  • Calgary Flames +600
  • San Jose Sharks +600
  • Anaheim Ducks +1000
  • Edmonton Oilers +3300
  • Vancouver Canucks +3300
  • Arizona Coyotes n/a

NHL Division Betting: The Top 3 Value Bets

When it comes to futures betting, the best value can be a difficult thing to determine. Taking a flier on big odds with some darkhorses can be tempting, but those huge potential payouts don’t do you any good if the team you bet on doesn’t really have much of a chance of winning.

In coming up with these top 3 value bets, I’ve tried to blend the best of both worlds: teams that could deliver you a nice payday, but also squads that I honestly think have a decent shot at finishing atop their divisions.

1. Los Angeles Kings (+450)

I don’t want to take anything away from the Golden Knights. The success they’ve had this year has simply been incredible, and it’s not a fluke. This team brings it every single night and I’m convinced that they’ll be a really tough out in the playoffs. In case you haven’t noticed, the oddsmakers agree, with BetOnline making the Knights just +1000 to win the Stanley Cup in their first year of existence.

But would anyone really be surprised if the Knights stumble a bit down the stretch of the season? Bumps in the road are inevitable for even the best of teams over a long campaign, and things could unravel for Vegas if they see their lead in the division starting to slip away. Injuries to a couple of top forwards could also be deadly for an expansion team that doesn’t have much depth when it comes to elite talent.

The Kings are well positioned to take advantage if Vegas begins to falter. With star netminder Jonathan Quick back in the fold after missing nearly the entire season last year, LA boasts the best goals-against average in the NHL and the top penalty-killing unit as well. Another telling stat about the Kings’ potential this season is their goal differential, which at +22 is third-best in the Western Conference. With Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and Quick among the remaining players from the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 2012 and 2014, they’ve also got experience winning when things count the most.

2. Dallas Stars (+600)

After trading for goaltender Ben Bishop and re-hiring coach Ken Hitchcock, the Stars were on everybody’s radar coming into this season as the team that would improve the most from last year. Although they haven’t lived up to all the expectations yet, the signs are there for Dallas to make a second-half surge and win its second Central title in the last 3 years.

Simply put, the Stars are getting better and better as the season goes along – especially at the defensive end of the ice, which was their Achilles heel the past 2 years under former coach Lindy Ruff. Hitchcock, a defensive specialist, is putting his stamp on this team, with the Stars’ goals-against average dropping dramatically over each 10-game stretch so far this year. They are third in the league in fewest shots allowed, and the play in their own end might continue to get better now that defenseman Marc Methot and 2-way center Martin Hanzal are back from injury.

Dallas’ defensive improvements have come at the expense of offense, but goal scoring will never be a real concern for a Stars forward corps that includes such stars as Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov. Dallas’ 25-17-3 record does not accurately reflect the massive improvements this team has made, and I expect those improvements to pay off down the stretch of the season as defensive hockey becomes more and more important.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (+800)

Not much has gone right this year in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have already lost 5 games by 4 goals or more, including a 10-1 humiliation in Chicago and 7-1 pastings by both the Jets and Lightning. They struggled to find an adequate replacement for former backup netminder Marc-Andre Fleury (selected by Vegas in the expansion draft), they’re 22nd in the NHL in goals against per game their goal differential this year is -6, and they’d be a wild-card team if the season ended today.

Yet, with all that’s gone wrong, they’re just 8 points out of first place in the Metro. The goaltending situation has been stabilized with the return to health of starter Matt Murray and the emergence of young backup Tristan Jarry (9-3-2, 2.33 GAA in 17 games of action). Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both healthy and averaging better than a point per game, and Phil Kessel is on pace for the best season of his career.

I know Washington’s in first again this year, but these Capitals are not what they used to be. Pittsburgh will play them 2 more times down the stretch, an opportunity for the Pens to quickly trim Washington’s 8-point lead. The other 2 teams ahead of the Penguins in the Metro are the Devils, who have lost 6 straight and may be coming back to earth, and the Blue Jackets, who are just 8-10-2 in their last 20 games after starting the year 17-8-1.

Even though they’re behind the Devils and Blue Jackets on the Metropolitan Division odds, the Penguins are ahead of both teams on BetOnline’s Eastern Conference futures (Pittsburgh is +1000, while the other 2 teams are each +1200). That indicates to me that the oddsmakers know Pittsburgh is still the better team.

To borrow the Rudy Tomjanovich phrase, never underestimate the heart of a champion. I won’t do that here with the 2-time Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
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