By Tomi Rantanen
Understanding Kontinental Hockey League
The newest addition to AccuScore predictions selection, the Russian based Kontinental Hockey League has been up and running for about a month now. We’ve already seen significant profits early on the season and here we have a look at certain characteristics and anomalies which might make the KHL a bit different from many other leagues. It’s not all roses at the eastern front.
Reminder: For every Kontinental Hockey League match, AccuScore has KHL betting picks and advice
There is a salary cap of sorts in the KHL, but the playing field is all but even. The big teams especially in the western conference boast by far the biggest budgets hence attracting the best, or at least most prestigious players, such as Ilya Kovalchuk (SKA) and Alexandr Radulov (CSKA Moscow). There is a massive quality gap between the top dogs and the bottom feeders, which is often reflected in the odds. And sometimes a bit too much. Ice hockey matches are never decided on the team sheets and many smaller teams play with a chip on their shoulder against the big boys. Look for ridiculous odds for the underdogs, especially at home.
Which leads to another specialty of the KHL – road games at the edge of the world. Russia, which as we all know is a vast country, is ranging from the edge of Europe to the Pacific. There’s six time zones from Moscow to Vladivostok and the road trips can be gruesome. Home advantage plays a big part and not only because of the travel miles, but because of the atmosphere and other conditions – the visiting teams are not always treated as royalty and the visits are often made unpleasant in purpose. In addition to teams in Russia, the KHL boasts teams from Croatia, Slovakia, Finland, Latvia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The home advantage is remarkable especially for the European teams, with fanatic home crowds and familiar surroundings, while the away teams might find it difficult to adjust. Same goes for the teams in the far eastern edge, such as Vladivostok and Amur Khabarovsk. Look for undervalued home teams specifically in inter-conference and back-to-back games on long road trips.
Another quite specific characteristic of KHL is the amount of goals scored. On average, the KHL game sees no more than 4.67 goals scored, including overtime. The difference is remarkable compared to the NHL, where equivalent number is 5.46. This is usually taken into consideration when the oddsmakers set their over/under lines, but it’s something to keep an eye out. Lower scoring equals increased chances of tied games? Wrong. KHL sees a lot less overtimes than NHL: last season only 20.7% of games were tied after regulation, while in NHL the number was 24.9%. In KHL, as in many European leagues, the teams get three points for regulation win and only two points for overtime or shootout win, which seems to reduce the probability of a draw after regulation. Something to note as well.
The last point we have is a small one, but something that can be used to our advantage. As mentioned before, the vast gap in salary budgets between the top and bottom teams results in vast difference in quality of players. Many times a lesser player can make up the lack of skill with different attributes, motivation etc. but this is not the case with the goaltenders. Most of the teams do boast an excellent starting goalie, which evens out the playing field (and helps to keep the score low), but the backups for the smaller teams are more often than not unproven juniors or other not-so-expensive options. Look for the starting goaltender selection for surprising over-picks or decisive edge one way or another.