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How Special Team Impact NHL Bets

How Special Teams Impact NHL BetsHere’s how special teams impact NHL bets.

Key Points

– Special teams impact NHL bets during the regular season.

– NHL bettors should understand how special teams impact the postseason.

How Special Teams Impact NHL Bets

NHL teams place a lot of emphasis on their power play and penalty killing units. It only makes sense that NHL handicappers do the same. However, should bettors rely as much on this data when the NHL playoffs come around?

Bettors should use a dynamic online betting portal where they can find the most accurate stats, betting odds, lines, and more.

There are a number of seasons that offer some insight into how handicappers can use (or not use) special teams numbers when making NHL bets in the regular season and the postseason.



Take the current season as an example. The Edmonton Oilers have the best power play percentage (32.14%). Defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado is seventh at 25.20%. Does this mean we should be betting on the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup? 

On the other end, the Boston Bruins have the NHL’s best penalty killing unit (85.07%). The Bruins also have maintained the league’s best record for the most of the current season. 

Historically, teams that lead either category don’t necessarily fare all that well in the postseason. That’s because the numbers change. Take last season as an example.


The 2021-22 NHL Season

Last year during the NHL regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs had the league’s best power play. The Maple Leafs scored on 27.27 percent of all their power play opportunities. That’s certainly some information bettors could have used when placing NHL bets last season.

What’s interesting is that the Leafs weren’t in the top-10 of NHL teams on the power play in the playoffs. The No. 1 team was Colorado, which scored on 32.79 percent of its postseason power plays. The Avalanche went on to win the Stanley Cup.

During the regular season, the Avs were seventh in power play percentage (24.01%). Why the discrepancy? Is this something that happens regularly? 

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Making NHL Bets in 2009-10

The 2009–10 season gives us some insight into the importance of penalty killing and power play percentages in the NHL. The outcomes from this random season are largely in line with what we might anticipate from similar outcomes in future years.

During that season, seven of the top nine teams in terms of power play percentage from the regular season made the playoffs. Eleven of the top 13 teams in penalty killing percentage also made the postseason. There were only two teams - San Jose and Detroit - that made both lists. This proves that balance isn’t as important as long as a team is proficient in at least one of the categories.

Things change during the postseason. The percentage of power plays doesn't seem to matter as much. The top two power play units in the playoffs in 2009-10 were unable to go past the opening round. Despite scoring an astonishing 10 power play goals in just 26 attempts, the Los Angeles Kings lost their opening round series. 

By the end of the second round, each of the top four power play teams had been eliminated. In the regular season, there was a strong correlation between power play effectiveness and overall success; however, this wasn't the case in the playoffs. 

Penalty killing, however, was different. Both Stanley Cup finalists - Chicago and Philadelphia - were among the top four penalty killing units. Three of the top four penalty killing units advanced as far as the third round. The ability to kill penalties appears to be more crucial than being able to capitalize on power plays in terms of success in the playoffs.

When placing NHL bets in the regular season compared to the playoffs, it’s apparent that special teams may have different impacts.


Smaller Postseason Sample Size

When placing NHL bets in the playoffs, bettors need to realize the sample size is smaller. The regular season consists of 82 games. By the later games in the season, special teams numbers more accurately reflect what a team is actually capable of.

Teams that go deep in the NHL postseason might only play 15 games.  A brief hot streak or cold spell can affect the number dramatically. That makes the numbers less reliable. 

Think about it this way. After the first few weeks of the MLB season, a player is hitting .428. He’s only had 70 at-bats though. Over the course of the season, his average drops and if you’re understanding MLB run lines, it helps with your MLB handicapping.

It’s the same in this NHL situation. It’s why the power play and penalty killing percentages are higher in the playoffs. It’s also one of the problems with early season NHL betting.

Familiarity in Making NHL Bets

Playing a team repeatedly over the course of a season leads to some familiarity with an opponent. Teams get used to the power play and penalty killing strategies. 

During the regular season, NHL teams play their division opponents more than any other team. That affects NHL bets during the regular season. The same occurs in the postseason when two teams play each other for at least four games in a row.

The Goaltending Factor

Teams that advance to the postseason typically have a goalie who is doing exceptionally well. A hot goalkeeper can have a significant positive effect on his team's penalty killing percentage. In a shortened period like the playoffs, a hot goalie has a huge positive effect on penalty killing.  

The same is true for a goaltender in a slump. He’ll have a large negative impact on the penalty killing percentage. Finding hot goalies is a key to NHL postseason betting. Finding the best sportsbook bonuses is a key to successful sports betting.

The Final Word

For those making consistent NHL bets, how is this information used? If you compare several regular seasons to the same year’s playoffs, you will find similar data. Penalty killing and power play percentages just don’t correlate as well as they do during the regular season.

Special teams data is more valuable during the regular season. Use it wisely and focus on other performance-related statistics - save percentage, for example - during the postseason.


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