Think of any vacation you’ve ever taken. When it’s time to go home, you’re done. Exhausted. Spent. Whether you were visiting your in-laws in Schenectady for the weekend or sipping ice-cold beers on a Caribbean beach for two weeks, by the time your trip is over, you are going to be tired.
NHL travel is like the last day of vacation. The flights are long and players arrive in their opponent’s city bleary-eyed and ready for bed. They have to sleep in a hotel room and hope the bed is as comfortable as theirs is at home. There’s sometimes a border crossing involved where passports have to be presented and players must speak to customs officers about the reason for their travel.
Since oddsmakers account for a team’s travel when setting NHL betting lines, it is essential for bettors to take this into account before making their wagers as well.
Travel Schedules and NHL Handicapping
When handicapping hockey games, take into consideration that a tired team just doesn’t have as much in the tank as a rested team.
Fatigue Impacts Performance
NHL teams sometimes play three games in four nights, and when they do, they tend to show signs of fatigue by the time the third game rolls around – especially late in the season when the effects of the schedule are really felt.
Hockey is a physical and grueling sport with NHL teams playing 82 games per season. Couple that with an intense travel schedule and most teams are due for a letdown spot at least once during the season.
While travel fatigue matters, so does the makeup of the team you are handicapping. Do not automatically fade teams based on the fact that they are at the end of a road trip. Fading refers to “betting against,” not what is happening to the Luc Robitaille jersey you’ve had since you were a kid. It’s hanging on by a thread. Maybe it’s time to stop wearing it?
Anyway, a team with quality depth does not necessarily rely on a handful of key scorers and is better equipped to pull out a victory in these types of situations. Think of the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins, who were so deep with talent that even though they traded Paul Coffey and Mark Recchi, they still managed to post a 39-32-9 record. Granted, they had Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens and Joe Mullen, who were responsible for a combined 341 points. You know what else had depth in 1992? The movie Sneakers. We’re talking Redford, Kingsley, Poitier, Aykroyd and Phoenix in their primes.
Keeping Goalies Fresh is Critical
Goaltending is one of the important factors to consider when handicapping tired teams. Those with elite goaltenders have the potential to steal a game even when their legs are not there. This is usually the case with Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
However, not every team has that luxury. Some teams also have a solid rotation of goalies that can work with them throughout a road trip. For some teams, the backup goalie may be just as good as the starter and rotate together perfectly. This is not the case with Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
The West has it Bad
Teams in the Western Conference face more daunting circumstances when they hit the road, because it is harder to travel east since you will lose hours due to crossing time zones. Let’s say the Los Angeles Kings are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs. In order to get to Toronto, they not only have to sit on a plane for 5.5 hours and cross the Canadian/American border, they also have to enter a different time zone which can wreak havoc on the body. This is why you need to know each team’s unique situations regarding their schedule before betting on or against them.
One tip is to look at records of West Coast teams when playing in the Eastern time zones and East Coast teams playing in Western time zones. You can also look at our Betting Trends page for additional handicapping.