The Chicago Blackhawks are the favourites to win the Stanley Cup with British bookmakers William Hill. Seven ice hockey teams are still in the mix to win the season’s championship though realistically Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Washington are the only viable alternatives to the Blackhawks. The Chicago outfit play in the Western Conference and finished third in the Central Division.
See UK odds at British bookmakers William Hill
Betting on Ice Hockey
Ice hockey is big betting business in America and there is a simple rating system that can be used to identify the best bets during the regular season and play-offs. The season runs from September to May and the play-offs are now taking place and culminate in the Stanley Cup which is the sport’s equivalent of the World Series in baseball. The Stanley Cup is the trophy awarded to the play-off winners.
The National Hockey League (NHL) is the top professional league in North America with 30 teams in cities across the US and Canada. In a season they all play each other several times meaning each team plays 82 matches. Six or more games are played most days during the season. Games are contested between two teams of six with rules kept to a minimum. Each team aims to score by hitting the puck into a goal.
The “national” NHL refers to Canada but the league extended to the United States in 1924. A labour dispute caused the abandonment of the entire 2004-05 season and play resumed under an agreement that included a salary cap. Since then the sport has flourished with records for sponsorship, attendance and viewing figures. There are players from about 20 countries in the NHL with more from Europe and America and relatively fewer from Canada.
Eastern and Western Conference
The current 30 team structure involves the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Each conference is divided into divisions with the Eastern having two divisions of eight teams and the Western having two divisions of seven teams. Sixteen teams have qualified for the Stanley Cup play-offs, three from positions in the league and four wildcards. The winners of the Conference finals progress to the Stanley Cup series of seven matches which identifies the NHL champions.
The Montreal Canadians are the most successful team in Stanley Cup history with 24 wins from 33 appearances from 1916 to 1993. The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs are the only other sides that have a double digit winning record. Twenty- three different franchises have been the NHL champions including the two prominent Canadian teams. Six active teams have never made an appearance and two have contested the Stanley Cup without winning the trophy.
Visit the NHL website for the latest wild card standings.
Offense and Defence Rating System
The sport is awash with statistics and some of those can be used in a basic rating system to predict winners. This strategy will enable bettors to quickly assess the likely outcome of any match. Some statistics are needed to compile the ratings but these can be found on several websites including www.espn.com. The NHL website also features a vast amount of player and team records and is updated promptly after matches.
The first element of the analysis is offensive ratings which show how effective a team is in attack. Shots on goal are divided by the average number of goals a team scores per game. This figure will indicate how many shots a team makes on average before they score a goal and provides an effective measure of their attacking prowess.
Defensive ratings are used to discover how good a team is at shutting out opponents. The average number of shots made by a team’s opponents during a match is divided by the average number of goals a team concedes per game. The resulting figure indicates the number of shots an opposing team has to make before they score a goal. This provides a good guide to the team’s overall defensive abilities.
Combining these figures can highlight a team that has an edge in both offence and defence. A team that requires fewer shots to score a goal and absorbs more shots before conceding represents a good bet. US bookies generally set the prices and are on top of injuries to key players. However, it can sometimes take time for the odds to react so it’s a good policy to look out for stories about significant injuries.
Chicago in 2014-15
Chicago won 48 of their 82 matches in the regular season and made the play-offs by finishing in the last qualifying position in the Central Division. They did not need a wildcard to progress but St Louis and Nashville won more divisional matches ahead of the Stanley Cup rounds. They had a losing streak of four matches during the season and won 24 matches both home and away. They won most points of the four teams in the NHL that finished third in their respective divisions.
The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup five times since being formed in 1926. They are one of the six original members of the first NHL and since 1994 have played home matches at the United Center in Chicago. Although regular qualifiers for the play-offs the team did not win the Stanley Cup between 1961 and 2010 as fan interest waned and they were an uncompetitive outfit. Chicago won the Stanley Cup again in 2012-13 and are contenders to win a sixth NHL championship this season.
The Blackhawks have qualified for the Western Conference final. They beat the Minnesota Wild on the road in the deciding match to win the semi-final series 4-3. Chicago have now made five conference finals in the last seven years but at 3-0 down against Minnesota at one point that seemed unlikely. Four straight wins got them through the series and Anaheim or Calgary await them in the final and the last step before another Stanley Cup series.
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