How to Bet on NHL
Types of NHL Bets
There are several popular types of NHL bets including moneyline bets, puck line bets, over/under bets, parlays, futures and player props.
Moneyline betting is most common because the bet is very simply just who will win the game.
Puck lines are similar to point spreads, but in lower scoring sports like hockey or baseball, the line is almost always set at -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.
Totals are the over/under on total goals scored in any given game.
Player props are bets that are based on how a specific player performs in a game. Common player props are goals, assists, points (goals and assists), or shots on goal, as well as saves for goaltenders.
Parlays are combining any of these bets together for a potentially higher payout. Remember with a parlay, you lose all your stake if ANY of the legs of the parlay lose.
Futures are bets that will be settled as the season progresses, likely at the very end. Common future bets include the Stanley Cup winner, President’s Trophy winner, Hart Trophy (MVP) and Norris Trophy (best defenseman).
How to Read NHL Moneylines
An NHL moneyline bet is simply betting on which team will win that game. It doesn’t matter the final score or how it happens — if the team you bet on gets a win in the standings, it’s a win for your bankroll.
The favorite is listed with a (-) sign (so you need to risk more than you will win) and the underdog has a (+), meaning that a potential win would pay out more than your stake in purely winnings.
Of course you’d get back your stake as well. There are some times when it’s an even matchup when both teams will be slightly minus on the moneyline. For example, the “favorite” listed at -113 and the “underdog” at -107.
Lines in hockey are often tighter than many other sports.
HProjected goaltenders can make a massive difference in a moneyline from game to game, with most teams using two different goalies to help manage the intensity of the schedule.
How to Read NHL Puck Line (Point Spread)
In hockey, the point spread is referred to as a puck line. Just like the point spread in any other sport, for your puck line to win, your team must “cover” the line.
Since the NHL is so unpredictable and for the most part there’s not a huge separation between teams, and the games are lower scoring than football or basketball, the puck line is almost always set at -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.
For example, if the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing the Philadelphia Flyers in Pittsburgh, the Penguins might be -1.5 favorites. Any bet on the Penguins puck line would win if the Penguins win by 2 or more goals. On the other hand, a puck line bet on the Flyers at +1.5 would win if the Flyers win the game OR lose by 1 goal.
Since not as many goals are scored in hockey as points in other sports, the 1.5 puck line often comes with skewed odds. For example, maybe in that game the Penguins are barely the favorites and it’s expected to be a tight game.
Penguins -1.5 might be at +135 odds since any 1-goal game is a loss. This would make Flyers +1.5 around -155 odds since they can win OR lose by 1 goal.
With puck line bets, it’s important to remember the potential for empty-net goals late in the game. If a team is trailing in the last few minutes of a hockey game, it will often pull the goaltender and replace them with an extra offensive player in hopes of tying the game.
While this creates a virtual power play man advantage, the net of the trailing team’s own goal is empty and it is common for the team leading to extend its lead with no goaltender there to save a potential shot.
If a team is winning by 1 and scores an empty-net goal, that completely flips the result of the puck line.
How to Read NHL Over/Unders or Totals
Along with the moneyline and puck line, betting an NHL total is one of the most popular ways to wager on hockey. Because there are so few goals scored in hockey games as opposed to points in football or basketball, the line for the total goals scored almost always falls in the same range. It’s rare to see a total that is not between 5.5 and 6.5 or maybe 7.
Let’s stick with the Penguins and Flyers from the puck line explanation as our example for the total as well. If the over/under is set at 6.5 and the final score is 4-2, regardless of who wins the game has gone under the total of 6.5.
On the other hand, if the teams combine for 7+ goals, the game goes over and those who bet the over cash their tickets. In some cases, the total will be set at a whole number like 6 instead of 5.5 or 6.5.
In that case, if there are exactly 6 goals scored the bet is graded as a push and the money is refunded. It’s like the bet wasn’t even placed at all.
NHL totals are typically lower in the playoffs when teams are exclusively playing their primary goaltender, the games are more physical, and fewer penalties are called resulting in less time with a team on the power play.
How NHL Player Prop Bets Work
Player props are a great way to find positive expected value through OddsJam and the NHL is no different. For each game, there are hundreds of player props ranging from specific players to score a goal at any time, to score the first goal of the game, to register a specific number of shots on goal, to register an assist and even total saves for goaltenders.
Because of the sheer volume, many hockey player props appear on the OddsJam positive expected value page, meaning there are plenty of opportunities for mathematically profitable bets on hockey player props.
How NHL Parlays Work
NHL parlays are combining multiple bets into one that pays out at a higher rate than straight bets. In order for a parlay to win, none of the legs in it can lose. If one pushes (hockey totals can be whole numbers like 6.0 as opposed to 5.5 or 6.5), that leg of the parlay is eliminated and it reverts to a parlay with one fewer leg.
For example, if you have a four-leg parlay and three wins while one pushes, you get paid out as if it was a three-leg parlay.
Hockey parlays are incredibly popular but also very tough. With random bounces and general “puck luck” as they call it, any team can and will beat any other on any given night, which makes winning a hockey parlay difficult.
Same-game parlays, or parlays that are all within the same game, are also popular in hockey. It’s possible to choose combinations from main markets, as well as alternate lines and player props.
For example, in a Penguins-Maple Leafs a same-game parlay might be:
- 1st Leg: Penguins Moneyline
- 2nd Leg: Sidney Crosby To Score a Goal
- 3rd Leg: Auston Matthews Over 2.5 Shots On Goal
NHL Betting Strategies
Now that we’ve gone over the most common ways to bet on the NHL, let’s talk about a few strategies to consider before placing those bets.
As with any sport, make sure to check out the injury reports before the bet is placed to have a full understanding of which players will be taking the ice.
The goaltender situation in hockey is a little unique because in crowded parts of the schedule, teams will often start a second goaltender and give its primary goalie a night off. Occasionally, it is unknown which goaltender will start until shortly before puck drop. But, for the most part, teams announce it well in advance.
The schedule can play a large role in team performance even besides which goalie is starting. There are many times each year when teams have to play back-to-back nights, often in different cities that aren’t particularly close by. This is especially true in the more geographically spread out Western Conference. Tired legs can lead to poor performances especially in the third period of those back-to-backs.
Another strategy for betting NHL is to live bet, particularly with totals or team totals. Sometimes the sportsbooks leave the odds open deep into the third period. If you think you know when a team will pull its goalie, great prices can be had just before that team does bring on the extra attacker. Once the net is empty, books generally close their lines.
OddsJam Betting Guidelines for NHL
NHL Expert Picks
Here at OddsJam, our team has daily articles breaking down the best bets around hockey for that day. We have you covered on everything from totals and sides to player props:
NHL Public Betting Data
In addition to finding value in the odds using the OddsJam Perfect Line, another way to identify value in hockey is through seeing where the public money is.
Public money means the percentage of bettors on one side of a bet. For example, teams like the Boston Bruins that have a large fanbase and are consistently hammered by the public often force the odds to shift to a worse price. That means their opponent for the day may end up at a far better price than the opening line, and could present value.
The percentage of bettors on one team is just one side of the equation. The other is the percentage of actual money staked on the teams. If the Bruins have 80% of the bets, but the amount of money is split 50/50, that means that big money is coming in from the 20% of people betting against the Bruins.
This suggests sharp action on the opposing team because the sharps have identified value and risked larger amounts than the typical public bettor.
There are many different sites and tools to get access to these percentage breakdowns that can be very helpful for finding value.
To find the implied probability of your bet winning based on the odds, head over to the No-Vig fair odds calculator on OddsJam. Let’s say that the Edmonton Oilers are -145 against the Dallas Stars, who are listed as the underdog at +125.
Plugging those odds in gives us this:
As you can see when you remove the juice from the line, the fair odds on the Oilers are -133.16 which gives an implied win probability of 57.11% on an Oilers bet and 42.89% win probability betting on the Stars. For more on implied probability, visit our article: How to Calculate Implied Probability.
NHL Betting Data
For a comprehensive look at every market for NHL games just go to the NHL tab and click on the game you’re interested in. You’ll be able to compare odds from every market, including moneyline, total, team total, puck line, player props and much more.
Within the main markets like spreads and totals, you’ll also see alternate lines at the books that offer them as well as the OddsJam Perfect Line depending on your subscription tier.
You can also use all of our tools to help decide if the bet is worth placing. The expected value calculator can determine your expected value in relation to the win probability from the OddsJam Perfect Line. The No-Vig fair odds calculator can also help by showing you the true no-juice odds of the bet at the sportsbook.
The parlay calculator can also show you the total payout from a series of wagers you are thinking of combining into a parlay.
Where can I bet on NHL games?
Now that we’ve gone over the most popular ways to bet on hockey, here are our favorite sportsbooks to place our bets:
How do I read NHL odds?
NHL odds are similar to other sports, but are often highly specific numbers on the moneyline depending on the sportsbook. Instead of rounding to increments of five or 10 like football and basketball, it’s more common to see a moneyline of say -127 instead of -125 or -130.
As always a (-) sign next to the odds means that you have to risk more than your potential winnings, while a (+) sign means that the winnings would be more than your stake.
What are the most popular NHL teams?
The most popular NHL teams are historic brand names like the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
Frequently Asked Questions
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