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What should you make of scoring dropoff in NHL preseason?

July 31, 2020 12:19 AM

Bettors were quick to pick up on the fact that scoring was down in the NHL preseason. The average goals per game over three days of exhibition hockey was 4.5. Down from the roughly 6 goals per game that we’d expect based on the last two seasons of play. Maybe it had to do with ice conditions (it’s the middle of the summer and there are multiple games being played per day) or  that these players were sitting at home for almost five months. Of course, we can’t rule out random variance being the culprit, either. 

When dealing with a small sample size (like 12 games) it’s important to remember that shooting and saving are skills that are heavily influenced by luck. If there was anything worth paying attention to in the early going, it’s that teams combined for fewer shots on goal during preseason play than they did in the regular season. The average game saw 55 shots on average, which is roughly 8 shots fewer than we saw in the regular season. And since league shooting percentage was about 9.5 percent in 2019-20, we’d might expect a drop of about 0.75 goals per game if one out of every 10 shots is a goal, and we’re seeing 8 fewer shots than we did in the regular season. We are still talking about a 12-game sample size, though. 

From a betting perspective, when we compare the totals from the last time that these matchups occurred, it doesn’t appear that oddsmakers anticipated a drop in goals per game, at least not across the board. In fact, in eight out of the twelve exhibition games, the total either remained unchanged since the last matchup, or was increased by half a goal. So, if there is something going on here, the adjustments don’t appear to have been made yet.

As far as recent results go, despite the fact that not a single game managed to go over the total, it’s important to know that there have been many instances where a streak of consecutive games went under (or over) the total. These things tend to sort themselves out, though, and we likely wouldn’t pay much attention to an occurrence like this if this were to happen in the middle of the regular season. 

However, if there is something here (a betting angle) and a bettor chooses to take a cautious, wait and see approach, it might be too late. On the other side of the coin, if a bettor decides to fire on a hunch, they could lose out big. That’s just one example the type of tough decisions hockey bettors are going to be forced to make over these next couple of weeks. Heading into the play-in round, bettors should take a peak at the sports odds history to get an idea of whether or not oddsmakers have adjusted their totals since the last time around.

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