Starting goaltenders are an important factor for NHL bettors to consider when placing wagers on games. The performance of the goaltender can significantly impact the moneyline and the over/under. As a result, bettors must often rely on the insight of beat writers and reporters to determine which goaltender will start on any given day. However, sometimes this information is not reliable and can lead to confusion for bettors, which can really shake up the board.
For example, on Wednesday (Jan. 4th) it was widely believed that Andrei Vasilevskiy would start for the Lightning in Minnesota, but Brian Elliott ended up starting instead. This type of confusion can be frustrating for bettors and highlights the importance of double-checking information before placing bets, but that's tough to do when two verified Twitter accounts send out conflicting tweets at the same time, though, which is exactly what happened prior to this game.
6:14 p.m. PT - Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Elliott will be between the pipes, and he provided evidence i.e., Elliott led the team out for warmups.
6:14 p.m. PT – Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press in Minnesota contradicts Encino and suggests that Vasilevskiy will start in goal, but he does not provide any evidence.
6:31 p.m. PT – Erik Erlendsson, also known as Lightning Insider, also suggests Vasilevskiy will be in goal, but he doesn’t provide any hard evidence, just unnamed sources.
6:41 p.m. ET – Encina is back with his no-nonsense reporting on the matter. Not only did he emphasize the fact that he watched Elliott lead the Lightning onto the ice and take shots during the line rushes, he also cited the roster report.
6:50 p.m. ET – Finally, Gabby Shirley, a reporter employed by the Tampa Bay Lightning, confirms once and for all that Vasilevskiy is not starting due to an illness.
Encina provided evidence from the start and continued to add context. I couldn’t ask for better reporting. Mizutani, however, later confirmed that he had acted on a hunch. There’s no need of that. Erlendsson didn’t provide any reasoning as to why he was adamant that Vasilevskiy would start even though his colleagues suggested otherwise, but regardless, it looks like he received bad information. To make matters worse, websites like Daily Faceoff, through no real fault of their own, picked up on the erroneous reports and signal boosted them on Twitter.
Beat writers could keep their hunches to themselves and only report the facts, but there will always be those that jump the gun due to overconfidence. Some bettors will see this as another reason why the NHL should force teams to divulge information about starting goaltenders at an earlier time in the day, but sharp bettors will see the value in the chaos, as frustrating as it might be.
Hopefully, after seeing how this debacle unfolded, NHL handicappers, and those looking to learn how to bet on hockey, will be better equipped to distinguish the good reporting from bad. After all, it doesn't matter how well you know your goalie stats if the goaltender you have projected to start is on the bench.
This was an extreme case involving a future Hall of Famer, and mistakes like this rarely happen when you think about how many games there are (over 1,300). But, this mistake was likely very costly for some, and beat writers and reporters must realize the important role they play in the NHL betting market when it comes to injuries and starting goaltenders.