NHL's Top Prop Bets: Crosby vs. Ovechkin vs. Stamkos
The NHL is the perfect league for propositional bets, with photo finishes annually in almost every category, and where changing of the guard is almost yearly.
With so many different situational stats, it is perfect for finding some of the most fun and interesting scenarios in which to wager your money. While some may seem obvious, there really is no telling who will win any of these categories, as hockey is one of the most even playing fields as soon as the teams hit the ice.
That’s what can make prop bets so fun, but also so dangerous, where there is no such thing as a “sure thing” as much as you think there may be.
But in any case, here are some prop bets for the 2010-2011 NHL season.
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Who Will Win The Goal-Scoring Title?
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While a strong case can be made for any one of these three players, it’s a pretty safe bet that Alex Ovechkin will take the goal scoring title this year.
Despite the fact that he finished third to both Crosby and Stamkos this past season, and that Stamkos saw a 28-goal increase from his rookie goal totals to net 51, there are a couple of big factors that played into why last year’s goal standings finished up the way they did, and why Ovechkin should walk away with this year’s Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.
Stamkos and Crosby played in 82 and 81 games respectively, while Ovechkin missed a significant 10 games due to suspensions and injuries, not giving him much of a shot to repeat his 65-goal performance of two years ago.
It was only last year that Crosby broke the 50-goal plateau, having a previous career-high of 39 goals. That earned him the label of more of an elite playmaker—putting up over 100 points pretty consistently and more than 60 percent of them being assists is good justification—and won’t likely to be able to touch Ovechkin’s pure goal-scoring numbers.
And while we expect continued improvement from Stamkos, adding another substantial amount of goals to his 51 would be difficult, not impossible, but difficult.
So barring any serious injuries or suspensions, Alex the Great should return to glory and to form, and put up the league’s best goal total as he did the two seasons prior.
Who Will Be This Year's Rookie Sensation?
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While there are so many talented young prospects and rookies that will be breaking into the NHL and making their debuts this year, with names such as Hall, Seguin, Eberle, Ennis, Schenn(Brayden), and Kadri it’s really hard to pick which one outshine the others and earn the Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie.
So I won’t pick one of them.
My pick for the Calder Trophy goes to PK Subban of the Montreal Canadians who made his debut and his presence known in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. He jumped right into the lineup and was consistently one of the best, if not the best defenseman on the ice.
He was cool, calm, and collected, as well as maintaining a veteran-like composure which earned him a spot on the Hab’s top power play unit.
He showed glimpses of being a big game player, netting the first goal against Pittsburgh in Game 7, beating Marc-Andre Fleury short side on a shot that had eyes.
The biggest cause for concern for this promising young talent is the spotlight and pressure that will be put on him from day one in Montreal. Look at Carey Price for example, he was said to be one of the goalies with the most potential and really rise to stardom, but when things started off a bit rough the fans got on him and he has still yet to take form.
Luckily for them, Subban seems to have his head on straight, his expectations high, and thick skin so completing the transition to “the show” should be quick and easy for Montreal’s brightest young star.
Ryan Miller's Save-Percentage Over/Under .929?
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Last year, Ryan Miller finished with a .929 save percentage which was second best behind only Tuukka Rask(.931). So this year will Ryan Miller maintain his form and post a percentage the same or better than last year, or will the free agent period the Sabres had prove costly and hinder his performance?
To keep it simple, Ryan Miller is one of the world’s best goaltenders, if not the best, which he showcased to the world at the Winter Olympics earlier this year. While they lost Lydman and Tallinder, they replaced them with two more than capable, and possibly more compatible, defenseman in Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrison.
While Leopold has more of an offensive side to him, allowing him to aid Tyler Myers in carrying the goal-scoring load from the back end, Morrison is a good stay at home, shutdown defenseman and at 28-years old is primed to fulfill whatever work load head coach Lindy Ruff decides to put on him.
They also added Rob Niedermayer, a good defensive forward that will provide that back-pressure needed to effectively back check an opponent’s rush, while also being capable of chipping in occasionally in the offensive zone.
I don’t think anyone expects Miller’s play to drop off anytime soon, so as long as he has any kind of help from his defense, and possibly a few more nights off for fatigue purposes, we expect him to at least match last year’s percentage.
Who Will Have The Most Time on Ice?
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It may seem like a strange stat but it’s certainly one that can go unnoticed and greatly affect the outcome of the game depending on who is on the ice.
Picking Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks would be a good bet if you were to wager anything on this, considering over the course of the season he played 2,180:34 minutes, and 55 more minutes than the second highest total.
He played all 82 games, leaving him with an average of 26 minutes and 59 seconds of ice time per game, and incredible feat. For anyone who needs it spelled out more, he played well over an entire period of a game night in and night out, and still somehow managed to play every contest.
Chris Pronger took second place but with his offseason surgery, and missing training camp and likely the start of the season will really hinder his minutes for a while. It makes Keith even more of a safe bet, but barring any serious injury as usual.
Who Will Score The Most Shorthanded Goals?
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Last season Marian Hossa and Alex Burrows tied for the league lead in shorties each netting five goals while down a man. It seems that this would make it a photo finish in choosing who to bet on, but taking a closer look at the numbers reveals a heavy favorite.
While credit is due to Burrows for putting up five goals while on the kill, it took him the entire 82 game season to do so, whereas Hossa only played in 57 games, meaning he completed the same task in 23 fewer contests than Burrows did.
But while most will put their money on Hossa to take the prize, a diamond in the rough can be found in Mike Richards as a sleeper pick.
Two years ago Richards put home seven goals while his team was shorthanded, holding the league lead for shorties by three goals. That is penalty kill dominance at its finest, and shows that Richard’s has the potential to regain his special team’s prowess.
Either one of these two would be a smart pick if you were looking to put a bet on this, personally I would go with Richards who plays a more gritty, physical, and durable game than Hossa, allowing him to use his physical play to create chances for himself, and not just rely on finesse alone.
Is It a Shoo In For The Selke Award?
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Throughout history the Detroit Red Wings have been the team with the most Selke Award winners in it’s history with Sergei Federov winning it twice, Steve Yzerman, and Kris Draper have also won it since ’94.
Oh, and of course, Pavel Datsyuk who has won it the past three years running and shows no signs of slowing down. This makes Datsyuk a shoo in foe this year’s Selke Award.
If you’ve ever watched a single Red Wings' game you notice the responsibility that Datsyuk takes in his team’s own end, whether it be from sustained pressure or on the back check. It was on display to the fullest extent in the Stanlely Cup Playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes where he saved multiple goals on the back check and quickly turned the puck up ice for and offensive opportunity.
The odds are even more in his favor this year after playing for an injury plagued Wings club that “struggled” (I use the term loosely and relatively) last season. Look for an even better performance with a healthy team and another responsible player in Mike Modano.
Picking Datsyuk is a no brainer, for most of his value as a player isn’t his offensive effectiveness, but his yearly pride in not being a defensive liability on the ice. Many times it goes under the radar so it’s nice to see him recognized at the end of each successful season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Win Total Over/Under 30?
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It’s safe to say the Maple Leaf’s weren’t satisfied the outcome of their season last year, and especially not with how valuable the pick they dealt became because of that.
They finished last in the East with 30 wins and a mere 74 points, but have began to address many of their glaring needs and may well be one or two top-six forwards away from a playoff contender.
So will they surpass last year’s 30-goal mark? In short, yes they will.
They have a solid blue-line consisting of Phaneuf(C), Schenn, Kaberle(for now), Komisarek, Beauchemin, and Gunnarsson. With that bolstered back-line, and multiple offensive threats from the point the Leaf’s look ready to dramatically drop their goals against from last season.
J.S. Giguere will also help to accomplish that task, being a serious upgrade from Vesa Toskala who would surrender weak, backbreaking, goals on a nightly basis. He also brings Stanley Cup experience, where he helped lead Anaheim to their championship in 2007.
All that leaves are holes at forward that need to be filled before the Leaf’s can really make a playoff push. With Versteeg, Kessel, and maybe Bozak as their only real top-six forwards, they seem to be one or two good players away from having a contending roster.
But this season the Leaf’s will easily break 30-wins, no question.
Martin Brodeur: Over/Under 9 Shutouts?
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Well since I just jinxed him by saying the superstitious word “shutout” I’m going to have to go with under.
Just kidding—but seriously I’m going with under.
Brodeur is still one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, and pretty much hands down the best of all time, but his age will catch up to him some time. I mean he is the all-time career wins leader, so that means he must have been playing for quite a while.
I think this might be the year that we may start to see a decline in his stats a little bit. Not a lot, but a little, so relax Devils fans.
I’m not saying he’s only going to get one or two shutouts, but I’d say anywhere in the 6-8 range can be expected of him. It’s tough to put up nine shutouts consistently at the age when you frequently start to see the decline of stats at the professional level.
Take what you want from it, but I think the under would be a smart choice this season for Marty Brodeur’s shutouts.
Who Will Be The Victim Of This Year First Coaching Change?
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Coaching jobs are so up in the air these days, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see a coaching change within a month of opening night. I mean look at Barry Melrose, it really didn’t take him long to get canned in Tampa Bay.
With coaches like Julien, Renney, Sutter, Wilson, and Maurice all on the hotseat it’s tough to pick who will get the boot first.
Having to pick though, I have to go with New York Ranger’s head coach John Tortorella, for the simple fact that it’s unlikely you’ll see a GM go. Year after year Glen Sather has put Tortorella in such predicaments with his brilliant contracts, ahem-Wade Redden, and his underachieving pickups, yes you, Frolov.
The Rangers look good on paper and Alex Frolov definitely has the skill to produce, but his compete level needs to raise a couple notches before he can be the caliber player that Ranger faithful are expecting him to be.
Glen Sather is arguably the worst GM in the league and leaves Tortorella with little to no option more times than not. But when the team starts to falter, and begins to struggle like the Rangers have done the past few seasons, management looks to shake things up which usually means a coaching change is in store.
Well in the case of the Rangers a GM change is what’s really in order, however the odds of that happening are slim to none, which makes Torts the prime target for an unjustified pink slip pretty early on in this season.
It may not be fair, but it certainly is true.
Which Team Will Have The Best Goals Against Average?
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The past two years the Boston Bruins have been at the top of the GAA list, playing a tight defensive style and relying heavily on Zdeno Chara for a lot of it’s success.
Last season, Big Z had an off year the Bruins will still able to finish second in the NHL in GAA with 2.33 goals against per game, second to only New Jersey.
They also went from the best offense in the league, to the worst last year, and were still able to make it into the playoffs as the six seed. This can be attributed to their goaltending, but above all their defense.
And with the return of Dennis Seidenberg, team leader in blocked shots, expect an even more rejuvenated blueline for the B’s. And expecting Chara to return to form, the number from last year should fall even more.
If Tuukka Rask can even come close to the numbers he put up in his rookie season working in tandem with former Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, then you can expect the B’s to take over that top spot.
But you can’t count out New Jersey as they have added NHL blocked shots leader Anton “A-train” Volchenkov to their back end as well.
This one is really a toss-up, and could easily go either way this year, making this choice the toughest call so far.