We’re now two weeks into the 2022-23 NHL season, which means most teams have played at least five games. It’s still a small sample size, but it gives bettors a chance to look around the league and figure out what trends are real, which are just noise, and what new ones may emerge.
Today, we’ll examine a few surprising teams off to hot starts and see if we can poke holes in them.
Philadelphia Flyers (4-2-0)
It’s not uncommon, nor is it unique to the NHL, to see a couple of long shots get out of the gates hot to start a season and get tongues wagging about whether they’re actually good or if the hot start is just a mirage propped up by the variance we see in the first few weeks of a six-month season.
For the Flyers, the answer is almost certainly the latter. Philadelphia deserves plenty of credit for winning four of its first six games, especially when those wins came against pretty strong opposition (Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Nashville and Vancouver), but if you look at the underlying metrics, it’s pretty clear that this streak is being propped up by spellbinding goaltending from Carter Hart.
Philadelphia is getting caved in at five-on-five, but Hart is standing on his head in goal with a .947 save percentage and a league-leading +6.52 Goals Saved Above Expected. When Hart cools off — even if it’s just a little bit — the losses will start to pile up for the Flyers and we’ll start to see them tumble.
Verdict: Tread lightly.
Buffalo Sabres (4-1-0)
Buffalo’s five-on-five metrics are also a little suspect and they’re being helped by an unsustainable 107.8 PDO (shooting percentage + save percentage at five-on-five where 100 is the average), but when you look at the quality of competition, the Sabres’ pedestrian expected goals rate isn’t much of a red flag and their counterpunching style has proven effective thus far.
The Sabres are probably not going to threaten a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and they’re not going to be the type of team you want to play as a big favorite against the also-rans, but they profile really well as big underdogs. Don’t be afraid to back this team at big numbers, no matter the opposition.
Verdict: Keep buying Buffalo as underdogs.
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Detroit Red Wings (3-0-2)
As for the Red Wings, it seems fair to remain skeptical of their 3-0-2 start. Detroit has wins over New Jersey, Montreal and Anaheim to go along with overtime losses to Los Angeles and Chicago. That’s one playoff team from last season and four others that finished with 76 points or fewer in 2021-22.
And even with that easy schedule, Detroit is struggling to tilt the ice in its favor. The Wings sport a -2.54 expected goal differential and have given up 11 more high-danger scoring chances than they’ve created at five-on-five so far.
Detroit’s goaltending has been solid and its tandem of Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic has the best chance of being effective for an entire season out of this bunch, but this looks like a house of cards. I don’t expect the Red Wings’ hot start to last much longer.
This story originally appeared on NYPost