The 2014 NHL Winter Classic betting matchup is set, as always, for New Year’s Day and this one features two of the league’s most historic franchises in one of the most famous North American stadiums that exists. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, who are neck-and-neck in the hotly contested Atlantic Division will wage war on the open ice of Michigan Stadium. Of course, most of us just call it “The Big House”.
So are we in store for a big deal in The Big House? Of course! Outdoor hockey is both hilarious and unique, and you’d be an idiot if you weren’t getting acquainted with both teams thanks to HBO’s always brilliant “24/7” lead up. And in case you haven’t been tracking hockey this year, I’ve got all the details you need listed below.
This will be the second time that Detroit has starred in the Winter Classic betting matchup. They beat Chicago 6-4 back in 2009 in Wrigley Field. That was the highest scoring Winter Classic ever, and one of just two times that this game has been decided by more than one goal. So those of you that prefer puckline gambling might want to think twice before trying to bet on increased odds. The moneyline is a safer play in general anyways.
Despite the prestige that the Red Wings have, the odds are against them winning in front of their home state fans as well. The road team has traditionally travelled well in this game while going 4-1 SU in the last five. The only time a home team won was when Boston pushed past Philadelphia in a 2-1 overtime thriller at Fenway Park in 2010.
Coincidentally, that Winter Classic betting matchup had the lowest attendance. The highest was the first game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which had a mind boggling attendance of 71,217 fans. Michigan Stadium’s capacity is 109,901 for football games. If Michigan and Ontario fans roll down in droves, they could set the newest capacity record for the Winter Classic. And this game should be as entertaining as you hope.
Selling this matchup on paper is a bit difficult considering that the Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967. This is still a young, up and coming team but they’ve had some very frustrating defensive problems early this year. The Leafs have allowed 2.7 goals against per game (17th), but also allow the most shots against with 36.2. On top of that, they’re a very undisciplined bunch. The Leafs are one of the most penalized teams in the NHL.
But Toronto is also one of the most entertaining teams in the league. They almost never pull away from opponents much to the dismay of their tortured fanbase. In fact, four of their last five games have been pushed to a shutout. The Leafs head in to this matchup with a 3-2 SU record in their last 5 games. Phil Kessel has been much better in his last two games, scoring 3 goals and totaling four points in his last two games.
When Kessel is enjoying a bit of momentum, the Leafs are simply a better bet. The Leafs are 9-0 SU when Kessel has notched at least two points in a game, so the 2014 Winter Classic betting matchup comes down to whether or not you think Detroit’s defense can contain the polarizing scorer.
The 2014 Winter Classic betting matchup ends up being a contrast in styles. The Red Wings have always been one of the best defensive teams around, and allow just 28.7 shots against, ranking them 10th in the league. Detroit’s attention to defense has also made them one of the best penalty killing units there is, and they’re incredible when it comes to staying out of the penalty box, unlike their Winter Classic betting opponents on New Year’s Day.
Obviously, Detroit boasts a lot of value to bettors just on namesake and coaching alone. But the reason to wager against them in 2014 Winter Classic betting is between the pipes. Former Leafs castaway Jonas Gusatvvson has been piling up minutes in net with Jimmy Howard sidelined due to a hand injury. The Monster is 5-5 SU in the month of December, but has also picked up a 3 game winning streak lately, including a 5-4 shootout victory against Toronto a few days before Christmas.
Gusatvvson is a great backup option for Detroit, but he’s been insanely vulnerable all year allowing 2.39 goals against on average with a save percentage of just .914. His 11-3-2 SU record is built more so on the team in front of him than his ability to protect the crease.
By comparison, Jonathan Bernier is a much more solid goalie to bank on. His .930 save percentage and 2.42 GAA is slightly worse but he’s simply a better netminder than his opposite in this game. The Leafs defense is a bit worrisome, but Detroit isn’t a great offensive team overall. They can certainly dominate Toronto in the face off circle, but the Leafs have a definitive advantage in net and should be able to give Detroit a serious challenge at The Big House.
The 2014 Winter Classic betting matchup should be a great game, and overall your money is safer with the Leafs who have built a big of momentum and are dealing with a Detroit team that simply doesn’t travel all that well. The Red Wings are obviously a more popular bet, a better overall franchise and a stronger team but these Leafs are better than you think and should be able to reward their backers in front of a record crowd.