Computer Picks: 02/02/2010—A Look Ahead Spot

Updated: February 2, 2010 at 10:11 am by Jeff Tay

After seeing a number of teams go on wildly successful runs during the month of January (Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, Ottawa, and Washington), and a number of teams go in the exact opposite direction (Calgary, Edmonton, NY Rangers, Boston, and Toronto), I am actually inclined to believe that many of these extreme winning and losing stretches will not continue at the same rate for too much longer. Quite simply, with the parity that exists in the league and the general league-wide averages of winning and losing streaks, it just seems unrealistic to expect all of these teams to continue playing at such extreme ends of the spectrum.

The reason that I have brought this topic up is actually because many of the teams that I have just listed above will indeed be in action on Tuesday, and I have recently come to believe that when teams are on season-high winning or losing streaks, their play really becomes much more difficult to predict (whether by judgment or by analysis). This is of course due to the ever-present debate over how long these streaks are supposed to last, and when they are “due” to end. Therefore, I also believe that it would be worthwhile to not act too hastily when deciding on how to bet these teams, and to at least take an extra moment to consider the bets’ pros and cons.

As for another issue that I am currently looking ahead at, it has suddenly become very critical that I shorten this daily column even further, as I will very soon be starting work on some new projects (outside of gambling). Therefore, I am currently opening up the suggestion box to anybody who has any ideas on how I can narrow this thing down to about 500 words a day. For today’s edition, I am going to try a rapid-fire format, which would be a much quicker way for me to do this. Feel free to let me know what you think.

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Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins

The Question is: Is this “too obvious”?

The Stats say: These are two teams that are currently headed in opposite directions, and quite frankly, the Bruins look at least 2 tiers below the Caps—powerhouse teams (Washington), good teams (Ottawa), bubble teams (Boston?). The Bruins are also getting minimal offensive production lately, averaging just 1.57 goals in their last 7 home games, and the Caps are suddenly starting to stifle opposing offenses as well, with solid goaltending from Michal Neuvirth. Really bad news for Boston.

The Answer is: Maybe it is, but you still gotta take it, right? Caps moneyline—no upsets, please.

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New Jersey Devils vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Question is: How many times have the Leafs read the ‘How to Deal with New Jersey’ Handbook?

The Stats say: Toronto has given New Jersey all kinds of trouble over the last 2 seasons, and the Leafs have actually amassed a 3-0-2 record against the Devils during this stretch. The Devils have also won just 3 of their last 10 games, and 1 of their last 6 games on the road. Meanwhile, the Leafs have been fighting hard lately; they just haven’t been winning. Goaltending has been probably the biggest issue for them, but fresh troops have just arrived, so this home dog is live.

The Answer is: Enough times to make playing them +0.5 in regulation worthwhile. The Devils just can’t seem to shake the Leafs off in regulation.

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Atlanta Thrashers

The Question is: Is there anything worth betting on here?

The Stats say: Tampa Bay can’t score on the road, and their offense at home hasn’t been that much better lately either. Meanwhile, Atlanta is only good for an occasional offensive outburst nowadays, and the Lightning did manage to hold the Capitals to just 3 goals in their last game, which counts for something. Atlanta is at an advantage playing at home, but Tampa bay also has a 1-1 record in Atlanta this season, and 3-1 record versus the Thrashers overall.

The Answer is: Nah. You can definitely find a better spot.

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Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens

The Question is: Can Vancouver be trusted as a road favourite?

The Stats say: Although the Canucks have won 3 out of their last 4 games when priced as a road favourite, they haven’t been very convincing in any of their games in that position this season. Most recently, the Canucks needed to overcome a 3-goal deficit against the Leafs to get a victory, and in their road game before that, they needed to come back from 2-0 down to the Oilers. Montreal has been bad, but they are certainly the more desperate team as well. It may or may not be enough though.

The Answer is: You can trust them if you like seeing early deficits and heroic comebacks. They are certainly not for the faint of heart.

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Phoenix Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators

The Question is: Is there something different about the Coyotes?

The Stats say: At one point in the season, about 66% of all of Phoenix’s games had gone under their posted totals, but the month of January has transformed Phoenix in a unique way. Right after the New Year, Phoenix had a home stand in which 5 out of their 6 games went over their posted totals, and currently, 4 out of their last 5 road games have also gone over their posted totals. Phoenix is scoring in bunches and also allowing a few more than they used to. Meanwhile, Nashville hasn’t played much at home lately, so they might be a little more difficult to gauge, but they haven’t been playing particularly well at either end of the rink recently.

The Answer is: Yeah. They are scoring goals and winning some high-scoring showdowns. There’s some value with them here, but play the Over 5.5 with caution because both teams can still slow the game down when needed.

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Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars

The Question is: Didn’t these two teams used to play defense-first hockey?

The Stats say: Their last meeting finished 4-3 about two weeks ago, and since that time, 4 out of Minnesota’s following  5 games have gone over 5.5, and 4 out Dallas’ following 6 games have gone over 5.5. Dallas gets better goaltending at home than on the road, but they also consistently score 3 or 4 goals a night. Meanwhile Minnesota has been hit-and-miss with regards to road offense lately, but their last two opponents were also much better defensive clubs than the Stars.

The Answer is: Yes, used to. Nowadays, not so much.

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Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Colorado Avalanche

The Question is: Which Steve Mason will show up for this game?

The Stats say: Steve Mason has alternated between good games and bad games lately, and he will coming off a bad game against LA, which suggests that he could have a good one here. Meanwhile, 8 out of Colorado’s last 10 games have now gone under the number, and they’ve only scored 3 goals in their last 3 games. 4 out of Columbus’ last 5 games have also gone under the number.

The Answer is: Probably the good one, because Colorado is struggling on offense. The Under 5.5 depends on it though.

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New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings

The Question is: How sharp will LA be after a long and prosperous road trip?

The Stats say: The Kings lost 4-3 to Minnesota after a 4-game road trip in late-December, and also lost 3-2 to Philadelphia after a 5-game road trip in mid-November. The first game back is generally a tough spot for any team, and the Kings probably won’t be as sharp as usual. The Rangers are still averaging just 1.70 goals over their last 10 road games though, so perhaps the Kings don’t have too much to worry about in that department.

The Answer is: Probably not sharp enough to bet confidently on. Maybe look towards the Under 5.5 though.

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Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks

The Question is: Why does Detroit “pown” San Jose all the time?

The Stats say: Detroit has already won both previous meetings against San Jose this season, and they’ve now won 4 of the last 5 meetings dating back to last season. The Red Wings also seem to play their best road hockey against teams that are ahead of them in the standings, and the Sharks, for whatever reason, always seem to have certain teams that they just can’t seem to figure out.

The Answer is: It’s just one of those things. If Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit never visited the Shark Tank, then San Jose would have the best home record in the league.

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New version vs. Old Version

The Question is: Wasn’t this thing supposed to be less wordy than the old version?

The Stats say: This edition of Computer Picks ballooned to over 1500 words.

The Answer is: I’m definitely going to be cutting it down somehow. I got a little bit carried away this time. Either less games or less words per game.