How to Bet on Hockey – Hockey Betting Guide & Betting Strategies

<p>AP Photos</p>

AP Photos

Hockey betting has three mainline bets: moneyline, puck line (spread) and total goals. Let’s dive into these bets and potential strategies for each.

How to Read Hockey Odds

Moneyline

To win a moneyline wager in hockey, you must accurately predict the winner at the end of the game, including overtime. Moneyline odds are always present as the favorite notated at – and the underdog as +.

In the example above, Vegas is the favorite, notated as -130. Anaheim is a slight underdog, at +102 odds to win outright. If you were to bet $130 on Vegas to win, your winnings would be $100. On the flip side, a $100 bet on Anaheim will net you $102.

A note on overtime: Remember, unlike the NFL, the NHL does not end their games in a tie. In the regular season, games that are tied at the end of regulation will have a five-minute, sudden-death, overtime period. In this overtime period, you may notice a lot of open space on the ice. No, this isn’t because of players in the penalty box. In the overtime period, teams play 3v3.

If there is no winner at the end of the five-minute period, the game moves to a shootout. You may be thinking, why is explaining the overtime rules necessary? Well, NHL games require overtime far more than any other sport. A whopping 29% of all NHL games were decided in OT or shootouts in 2021. 

Hockey 60-Minute Line Bets

The 60-minute line is a popular money line style wager in which you are betting on the winner at the end of regulation. When you go to place a 60-minute line bet, you’ll notice you have three options: Team A, Team B, or Draw (aka to go to overtime).

The odds on a team to win outright in 60 minutes are much longer than the regular moneyline because of the frequency of overtime in the NHL. 

Puck Line (Spread) 

In hockey, spread betting is referred to as the puck line. As you’re scrolling through all the mainline bets for that day, you’ll notice every main the puck is set at +/-1.5. Much like other main lines in betting, you can buy or sell points (goals) in alternate puck lines (ie +2.5, +3.5, etc).

In the example above, if you bet Philadelphia -1.5, they will have to win by 2 or more goals for your bet to win. 

How does overtime impact the puck betting? Because of the NHL’s sudden-death format, the maximum a team could win by in OT or shootouts is 1 goal. With that in mind, if you have the favorite side of the the puck, -1.5, your bet would be an automatic loss in the event of OT.

On the other hand, a +1.5 bet would be an auto-winner; as that team is guaranteed to lose by no more than 1 goal.

Total Goals

Hockey totals have some of the least variation between games compared to most other sports. On average, NHL teams score 2.89 goals per game. With that in mind, the total goals line will typically be set between 5 and 6.5.

If you see a line set higher or lower, you’ll want to do some research into why that line is set so far from the average. This is typically due to injuries, backup goalies or a matchup between two extremely hot or cold teams. 

Grand Salami

A Grand Salami bet is a bet on the total goals scored in the entire day’s slate of games. Keeping in mind the average goals scored per game is 2.89/team; an eight-game slate will typically have an o/u line set between 40-50 goals. 

Player Props for Hockey Betting

Not all United States sportsbooks offer NHL player props yet, but for the books that do offer it, you’ll have several to choose from. Let’s run through the typical offerings for player props in hockey:

Goals

This is pretty self-explanatory, the total goals scored by that player in the game.

Assists

The assists that are recorded by the player in the game.

Points

Points in hockey are a combination of assists and goals recorded by a player. If a player records 1 goal and 2 assists in a game, his points for that game will be 3.

Shots on Goal

For a shot to be officially recorded as a shot on goal, the player’s shot will have to make it all the way to the net. Simply put, a shot on goal must result in a goal or a save by the goalie. A shot that is deflected wide by a defender will not be recorded as a shot on goal. Rather, that defender will get credit for a blocked shot. 

Future Bets in Hockey Betting

There are a number of team and individual player futures typically offered by sportsbooks. These futures are set before the season begins and the lines are continuously adjusted as the season continues. 

Typical team futures offered are the Stanley Cup winner, conference winner, division winner and Presidents Cup winner. The Presidents Cup in the NHL is the team that finishes the regular season with the best overall record. 

There are a handful of awards handed out to players at the end of the season; all of which can be bet on as a future throughout the season or postseason. 

Hart Trophy

Most valuable player award, as voted by the Hockey Writers Association.

Vezina Trophy

The league’s most outstanding goalkeeper; as voted by the 32 general managers of NHL teams.

Calder Trophy

Awarded to the league’s most outstanding rookie; as voted by the Hockey Writers Association.

Norris Trophy

Awarded to the league’s top defenseman; as voted by the Hockey Writers Association.

Art Ross Trophy

The player who has recorded the highest total number of points in that season. 

Rocket Trophy

The player who records the most goals in the NHL season. 

Conn Smythe Trophy

An award given to the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs.

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How do the Stanley Cup Playoffs work

The top eight teams in each division, East and West, make the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, unlike the NBA, in which the teams are seeded 1-8, the NHL uses its division to determine seedings and pairings.

There are four total divisions in the NHL; the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions in the Eastern Conference and the Central and Pacific Divisions in the Western Conference. The top three teams from each division get an automotive berth into the playoffs.

The next two teams with the highest points total in the conference are awarded the two wild-card slots. The division winner with the highest point total will play the wild-card team with the least amount of points. The other division winner will play the wild-card team with the most points

  • Note: regular-season standings in the NHL are determined by points. Each win is considered 2 points. A team is also awarded 1 point for an overtime loss. A record of 36 wins, 25 regulation losses and 9 overtime losses, would result in 81 points for a team on the season.

The NHL playoffs are a pure bracket style. The teams do not “re-seed” after each round. Here’s an example of how those brackets would work:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division Bracket

  • 1 seed plays the 1/2 wild card (depending on points)
  • 2 seed plays 3 seed

Second round

  • The winner of 1 vs. WC plays the winner of 2 vs. 3

Metro Division Bracket

  • 1 seed plays the 1/2 wild card
  • 2 seed plays 3 seed

Second round

  • The winner of 1 vs. WC plays the winner of 2 vs. 3

Eastern Conference Finals: Atlantic Bracket winner vs. Metro Bracket winner

Western Conference

Central Division Bracket

  • 1 seed plays the 1/2 wild card
  • 2 seed plays 3 seed

Second round

  • The winner of 1 vs. WC plays the winner of 2 vs. 3

Pacific Division Bracket

  • 1 seed plays the 1/2 wild card
  • 2 seed plays 3 seed

Second round

  • The winner of 1 vs. WC plays the winner of 2 vs. 3

Western Conference Finals: Central Bracket winner vs. Pacific Bracket winner

Stanley Cup Finals: Eastern Conference Champion vs. Western Conference Champion

All matchups are decided by a best-of-seven series. Each series is played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format. The team with home ice advantage will host Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 and the lower seeded team will host 3, 4 and 6.

In the first two rounds, home-ice advantage is awarded to the team with the highest seed in the division. For the two final rounds, total points will determine the advantage, regardless of the team’s place in their respective division standings.

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Hockey Betting Strategies

Now that we understand everything you could possibly bet on in hockey. Let’s go into the strategies for placing profitable bets.

Goaltender Matchup & Injury Report

One of the most important factors in lines for all hockey bets is the goaltender matchup for that game. With an 82-game season, a team’s starting goalie will need the occasional rest day.

Depending on the player, starting goalies will only play about 55-65 games per year. This leaves about 20 games in which a team will start their backup netminder. Identifying when teams are starting a backup goalie is crucial to understanding why lines are trending in a certain direction for that game.

In this scenario, overs may be a popular bet, but this could also mean worse odds and less value on those bets. Once you identify a favorable goalie matchup, you can use OddsJam to help you calculate the positive expected value to be sure you’re placing a profitable wager.

Other injuries could also result in skewed lines, depending on the matchup. Be sure to check the full injury report before placing any wagers.

Schedule Advantages

Within an 82-game season, an NHL team can expect to play between about 13-17 back-to-back game sets. Why is this important? Well, teams on the second night of a back-to-back have a marked disadvantage.

Teams on their second leg have a worse winning percentage (both home and away) and worse goals scored on average. 

Overvalued Home Teams

Historically, the majority of NHL teams have performed above a .500 winning percentage on the road. However, road teams are consistently undervalued due to the public perception that home teams are the safer play.

If you identify a road team you like, calculate the positive expected value on the bet to ensure you are placing profitable wagers.

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