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NHL Free Play for December 14, 2009–Coyote Cafe – SportsUntapped.com
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Added December 14th, 2009 by David Glisan

NHL Free Play for December 14, 2009–Coyote Cafe
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Another NHL winner on Sunday as the Blackhawks and Lightning played ‘under’ the total.  That runs our NHL record here at SportsUntapped to 13-6 and our overall sports record to 20-11.  And we’ll be back to playing the Phoenix Coyotes ‘under’ today.  There’s a long standing sports gambling axiom that ‘squares’ play favorites and ‘overs’, while ‘sharps’ play underdogs and ‘unders’.  There are exceptions to that rule (eg: two NFL teams will a reputation for defense will often get a lot of public ‘under’ money, as will games in bad weather) but its a generality that has a good deal of validity.   We’ll talk about the public’s fondness for favorites some other time, but its clear that recreational players don’t like playing games ‘under’ the total.  The best explanation I’ve heard for this is that recreational players want ‘action’ in their bets and a bet on the ‘under’–regardless of the sport–is essentially a bet on a *lack* of action.  The basic thinking is that ‘John Q. Public’ enjoys downing some brews at his local pub or sportsbook and cheering for ‘action’ in the form of scoring, but less enjoys cheering for a *lack* of action in the form of good defense and–in the case of the NHL–solid goaltending.

In sports handicapping, going against the public is usually where you’ll find the value and ensuing profits.  That means a lot of ‘under’ totals plays and underdogs, as well as moneyline dogs in the sports that use ’em.  There is such a thing as an ‘undervalued favorite’ that we’ll talk about when the opportunity presents itself:  basically, this is a favorite that should be priced higher than it is usually due to some unique wagering interest on the underdog (eg:  a ‘Cinderella story out of nowhere’).   In the NHL, you’ve already seen a very effective longterm wagering strategy:  find teams that play a lot of ‘under’ games due to their personnel and/or style of play and keep betting them.  In hockey, that’s the flip side of the narrow margin of error we’re working with as linesmakers can only go so low on the totals they deal.  In the NBA, there’s plenty of room to adjust based on a team’s O/U performance, personnel, public perception, etc.  In hockey, however, you’re basically dealing with a 1 or 2 goal swing either way.  The result is that you’ll seldom see a total go below 5 or over 6′, even if the specific matchup might warrant it and particularly during the regular season.


This year’s Phoenix Coyotes team is shaping up to be one of the best ‘under’ teams in recent NHL history.  The biggest problem I’m having with the Coyotes at the moment is that I’m running out of clever ‘titles’ for these plays.  Today’s makes reference to the influential Santa Fe, New Mexico based restaurant formerly owned by uber-chef Mark Miller and responsible (along with New York’s Mesa Grill and Chicago’s Frontera Grill) of popularizing more upscale and imaginative Southwestern cuisine than you’ll get at the local taqueria.  Yeah, its a bit of a stretch but at least I found a picture of an actual Phoenix Coyotes cheerleader to use for this post.

The overnight line on this game was 5′, and most books are now dealing a 5.  Typically (and this is something we’ll go into detail with down the road) if I’m presented with an option between playing ‘under’ 5 at +110 or ‘over’ 5′ at -145 or higher I take the lower goal total.  There’s some theoretical reasons for this dealing with the actual ‘value’ of a half goal, but since on a practical level the bigger moneyline investment just gives you a win instead of a ‘push’ if the game lands on five.  If the teams combine for six goals you’re screwed either way, and I’d rather have the lower theoretical breakeven of the underdog moneyline working for me knowing that there will be a few games along the way where we’ll have a ‘push’.

We’ve talked about the Coyotes at length this year–they’re a solid defensive team that lacks playmakers on offense.  Oddly enough, a team that is frequently considered the New York Yankees of hockey, the Detroit Red Wings, are in the same boat right now.  Detroit has gone ‘under’ in 20 of 31 games this year including 13 of 16 at home.  Phoenix has gone ‘under’ in 24 of 31 games this year, including 11 of 14 on the road.  Detroit has gone ‘under’ in four straight and 12 of 14, while Phoenix has gone ‘under’ in six straight and nine of ten.  3 of the last 4 head to head matchups at Detroit have also gone ‘under’.

Much of sports betting success is ‘gettin’ while the gettin’ is good’.  Phoenix’s defensive intensity could suffer from external factors related to their off ice financial problems, or on ice conditions like injuries.  For now, there’s no reason to not keep playing them ‘under’ against another low scoring/solid defensive team in Detroit.


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