NHL Goalies and Their Impact on Betting Picks

In the fast-paced, high-scoring world of the NHL, goalies play an outsized role in determining the outcomes of games and bets. While offensive firepower gets most of the headlines, savvy NHL bettors know that finding edges often comes down to evaluating netminders and how they match up against opposing offenses. Here’s a comprehensive look at how goalies affect NHL betting picks and how to factor them into your betting strategy.

Starter Quality Matters

Not all starting goalies are created equal. The elite goalies in the league can single-handedly give their team a chance to win every night, while weaker starters can be a liability. When handicapping a game, the first thing to look at is NHL consensus picks and 2nd the projected starting goalie for each team and their save percentage, goals against average and record over recent games. A significant advantage in starter quality often makes one side a better bet.

For example, if the Penguins are starting Tristan Jarry who has a .925 save percentage this year, while the Blue Jackets counter with Elvis Merzlikins who sits at .890, Pittsburgh would likely be a strong play even as a road favorite. Understanding starter talent gaps like this on a nightly basis gives you an edge.

Goalie Matchups Set Game Totals

The over/under for NHL games is largely determined by the perceived skill level of the starting goalies. Elites like Igor Shesterkin and Connor Hellebuyck will lower the totals of games they start, while unproven young goalies or veterans past their prime will raise them.

Analyzing the individual stats and recent results of the projected starters gives a good sense of whether a posted total will be too high or too low. Two struggling goalies could lead to a higher scoring affair and make the over a good bet. On the other end, an elite goalie matched up against a weak offense would signal an under play.

Schedule Spots Matter

When goalies start also significantly impacts their performance. With 82 games in a season, NHL coaches have to manage their goalie’s minutes carefully to keep them fresh but also well-prepared.

Certain schedule situations tend to lead to poor goalie performances:

  • Playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back
  • Starting after several days of rest
  • Playing the 4th game in a week

If you see these red flags in the starter’s recent schedule, it may signal a chance to target that goalie and team. Similarly, goalies starting with an ideal schedule setup could outperform expectations. Tracking schedule trends is key for goalie betting.

Target Cold Goalies

Like any position in sports, goalies are prone to falling into cold streaks where they struggle over a string of several starts. Maybe they are fighting through an injury, lacking confidence or have a technical flaw in their game – regardless of the reason, the results speak for themselves.

When handicapping a matchup, always check how the starting goalie has performed over his last 3-5 games. If the save percentage is plummeting, that is a major betting angle to take advantage of. The inverse is also true – riding hot goalies on winning streaks can also produce wins. Don’t overthink it, just follow the trends.

Follow Backup Goalies Closely

When starters need a rest or are injured, the backup goalie quickly becomes the most important player on the ice. The talent gap between starters and backups in the NHL is massive, and betting markets can be slow to adjust to a change in net.

Many recreational bettors just look at team names and assume equality in net. This creates big value on opponents when weaker backups are starting. Keep close tabs on backup goalies and look to bet against them when they get tapped to start. Their poor play can also create profitable live betting opportunities when they let in early goals.

Target Goalie Matchups Against Former Teams

Revenge spots and grudge matches are enticing betting opportunities in all major sports. Goalies facing their former teams often see these games as circled on their calendar. The chance to play well against old teammates and coaches provides extra motivation.

Some goalies thrive in these spots and dramatically outplay their averages. Others can press too much early, struggle and get pulled. Regardless, anytime a goalie is facing his old team expect the unexpected. Dig into past results in these spots before betting either side.

Ride Streaky Goalies at Extremes

The old gambling saying goes: the trend is your friend. This applies heavily to backing streaky NHL goalies. While most starters will have general ups and downs throughout a season, a select few live on wild extremes. One week they can’t stop anything, the next they look unbeatable.

When you identify these extreme streaky goalies, you want to ride their hot streaks but avoid them entirely when they are struggling. Goalies like Jonathan Quick, Sergei Bobrovsky and Marc-Andre Fleury have proven capable of carrying or sinking betting tickets during their peak and valley runs. Trust the recent trends with them always.

Target Fatigued Goalies in Conference Finals, Stanley Cup

By the time the NHL playoffs reach the final four teams, injuries and fatigue take a toll. The condensed schedule and increased physicality of the postseason can drain goalies who carried big workloads. With fewer off days between games, their reflexes dull and efficiency erodes.

In recent years goalies like Matt Murray, Jordan Binnington and Andrei Vasilevskiy have had their flaws exposed in the Conference Finals after strong early playoff performances. Bettors need to check for signs of fatigue and target struggling goalies before books catch up. Riding fresh backups in these spots can provide value.

Trust Goalies in Contract Years

Money is a huge motivator. Goalies know their next contract depends heavily on their regular season and playoff performance leading up to free agency. These contract year goalies consistently show up with strong, focused play.

Two recent examples were Ben Bishop in 2016 and Pekka Rinne in 2018. Both played out of their minds before landing huge contracts from the Stars and Predators respectively. Backing contract year goalies, especially when they faced adversity the prior season, is an underutilized betting strategy.

Stick With Goalies You Know Well

Handicapping goalies you follow closely provides two key edges: understanding their true talent level and spotting peaks and valleys before the oddsmakers do. Most bettors just check the recent stats and make picks. Going deeper by knowing goalie personalities, tendencies and motivations leads to more predictive picks.

Create your own niche by studying a subset of goalies extensively. Follow their interviews, practice habits and health news. Get a feel for when they thrive and when they struggle. Some goalies can turn it on in big games, others shrink from pressure. Knowing them gives you an informational edge to capitalize on.

Trust Your Eyes Over Stats Alone

Finally, trust what you actually see over stats and narratives. Sometimes the results don’t match the eye test. Goalies with poor technique who give up a lot of rebounds and dangerous changes consistently struggle long-term. Meanwhile goalies who square up to every shot and control rebounds thrive over time, even if a couple fluky goals reduce their stats.

Don’t overthink it – if a goalie passes the eye test, back them confidently. If they look completely lost, don’t hesitate to bet against them until they show improvement. Your own observations can identify betting value when the stats cloud the truth.

By mastering these goalie handicapping principles, you can spot profitable betting situations the public misses. In a league with razor-thin margins, properly evaluating goalies gives you the edge needed to come out ahead. Take advantage of perception gaps, schedules and form cycles to beat NHL odds and your bookie consistently.