All About the NHL Divisions
Tonight is the final night that teams play games outside of their division. As a result of the new NHL schedule, the last eight games of the season are played intra-divisionally. Each team plays the other two teams in their division twice: once at home and once on the road.
While almost every game is essential at this stage of the season, the Northwest Division, with four teams separated by three points and Edmonton making a late run will likely provide the closest race down the stretch. In the Central, the only meaningful games involve Nashville, and they have little margin for error as they sit four points out of the final playoff spot. San Jose will most likely win the Pacific division, and the most interesting battle out of the NHL's strongest division is whether Anaheim or Dallas will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Phoenix is barely alive, but the Coyotes have the best divisional record at 17-7-0.
The Atlantic division has tightened up due to the surging New York Rangers. New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and the Rangers all have a legitimate shot to win the division. Philadelphia is clinging to a one-point lead over Buffalo for the final playoff spot and will have a difficult finishing schedule. At least they have two games against the banged-up Islanders. In the Northeast, Montreal's two game set with Ottawa will likely decide who wins the division, and Boston's home-and-home with the Sabres will likely decide the Sabres' fate. Finally, in the hapless Southeast division Carolina, Florida, and Washington will take turns beating up on Tampa Bay and Atlanta. It is possible, but will be difficult for Washington or Florida to catch Carolina. Two losses probably means they playoffs are out of reach.
Before the season started I posted a preview of division betting as well as analysis. I also reviewed division betting on January 17th. Here are some highlights:
The Northwest division is playing out as expected, with the top four teams all having a chance to win the division. The best odds of the four were on Minnesota at +420, followed by Vancouver at +320, Colorado at +285, and Calgary at +275. The Wild's three point lead means little with the many divisional games remaining. I recommended Minnesota and Vancouver, because the division was a toss-up so why not take the longest shots?
Obviously the Red Wings were the clear favorite to start the season. The price on them to win the division was -163. This price means you would have to bet $163 to win $100. Detroit was the only team in the league given a better than 50% chance to win their division. They started strong and the division title was never in doubt. My recommendation was to lay the chalk and take Detroit.
San Jose's recent winning streak has put them in command of the Pacific division. Starting the season the Sharks were available at +200 (bet $100 to win an additional $200), Anaheim was available at +125, and Dallas at +600. My recommendation was to take the Sharks at +200 because without Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim and San Jose were basically equal. Niedermayer is back, but Anaheim could not make up for their slow start and catch the Sharks. Dallas made a charge but is too far back to still be considered a legitimate threat.
The Atlantic division is still undecided. New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and the Rangers can all still claim the Atlantic division crown. Of those three teams, New Jersey was the longest shot on the board at +500, followed by the Rangers at +225, and Pittsburgh at +220. The Devils are often overlooked, but any team with Martin Brodeur should be wagered on at +500 to win the division. I recommended passing on the Atlantic division, but I should have recommended New Jersey based on the "Brodeur Factor".
The Northeast division battle is between Ottawa and Montreal. Montreal is up three points, but Ottawa has a game in hand. Montreal is the best value of all of the division bets as they were available at +1400. The best odds on Ottawa to win the division before the season was +100 - even money. I recommended Buffalo at +385 as a value play. To my (partial) credit, on January 17th I said "Watch out for Montreal, +1400 and currently eight points behind a struggling Senators team."
It looks like Carolina will win the Southeast, but with all division games remaining, anything is possible. My original recommendation was any team besides Carolina. This is an example of focussing on process not results. I believed all five teams had a legitimate shot to win the division, and Carolina had the worst odds. I recommended Washington at +1400 strictly as a value play. It turned out to be a good recommendation, but not one that would net you anything other than a consoling pat on the back at the end of the season. Who knows? Maybe the Capitals or Panthers can make a late run.
For illegal curve, I'm Ari Baum-Cohen
March 13, 2008: How Secure Are the Top 16?
March 6, 2008: Ten Futures Bets You Should Have Made Over the First Five-Sixths of the Season.
February 14, 2008: Trade Deadline Tips and (As Always) Best Odds On Teams To Win The Cup
February 7, 2008: To Win The Conference or to Win the Cup Revisited
January 31, 2008: Does Parity in the Standings = Parity At the Sportsbooks?
January 17, 2008: Reviewing the Division Predictions
January 10, 2008: 10 Futures Bets You Should Have Made Over the First Half of the Season
January 3, 2008: Glossary of Terms Used on Frozen Assets
December 27, 2007: Ho Ho Horrible Homestands and Road Warriors
December 14, 2007: Western Conference: Starting Odds, Current Odds, Highest Odds
December 7, 2007: Eastern Conference: Starting Odds, Current Odds, Highest Odds
November 29, 2007: How to Find the Sportsbook For You, The NHL's best division - The Central(?)
November 22, 2007: 10 Futures Bets You Should Have Made Over the First Quarter of the Season
November 15, 2007: Explaining the Exchange(2), Random Thoughts on the Futures
November 9, 2007: Exaplaining the Exchange(1), This Weeks Best Bets
November 1, 2007: Profiling the Eastern Conference Teams
October 25, 2007: Profiling the Western Conference Teams
October 18, 2007: To Win the Conference or the Cup? Frozen Assets' European Vacation
October, 11, 2007: Top 5 Hockey Futures Books, Stanley Cup Odds
October 4, 2007: Bad Lines, Soft Lines, and Conference Odds
September 27, 2007: Avoiding Fraudulent Sportsbooks and Preview of Division Betting
September 20, 2007: Introduction to Frozen Assets and Futures Highlights From Last Year