NHL Betting Guide: Understand Odds, Bet Types & Winning Strategies
Here is your complete NHL online betting guide for states where you can legally wager AZ, CO, DC, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MI, MS, NV, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY, and OH (2023). This article will teach you how to read betting lines and understand popular bet types and strategies. Use top sportsbooks such as BetRivers and claim free bets.
If you’re new to betting on hockey and you are looking at an NHL betting line, at first glance it may look complicated, perhaps even confusing. Really, though, it’s not all that difficult to comprehend.
NHL Betting Lines and Odds Explained
For starters, let’s take a look at a typical NHL betting line:
Team Moneyline Puckline Total
New York Rangers +125 +1.5 (-120) O 5.5 (-110)
Pittsburgh Penguins -115 -1.5 (+100) U 5.5 (-110)
There are three elements to an NHL betting line – the moneyline, the puckline and the total. Let’s go through each of these three betting options, explain what they are and how they work.
What Does -1, -1.5 in NHL Betting Line Mean?
The simplest method for wagering on an NHL game is through the moneyline. You either bet on the favorite or the underdog. If the team you backed wins the game, you win your bet.
Another option is the puckline. This is similar to the point spread in football. Each team is assigned a number. Unlike a point spread, however, almost all pucklines on favorites tend to be set at -1.5 goals, or on occasion -1 goal. Betting with the puckline can get a player better odds on a favorite than playing a straight moneyline wager. And playing the underdog in the puckline gives a bettor a cushion that offers their bet a slightly better chance of cashing.
Suppose the Detroit Red Wings are playing host to the New York Islanders. The home team, the Red Wings are listed in the puckline as -1.5. They’ve been set by oddsmakers as the betting favorite in the game.
Should you choose to wager on the Red Wings, they are assigned a -1.5 goal deficit when the puck drops. It’s as if the Islanders take the ice holding a 1.5-0 lead on the scoreboard.
In order for your bet on the Red Wings to cash, Detroit will be required to win the game by at least two goals.
What Does -180 Mean In NHL Betting?
The betting line for an NHL game features three components – the moneyline, the puckline and the total.
The puckline is like a point spread wager in football, except instead of points, the bettor is giving or getting goals.
With the total, also referred to as the over/under, the outcome of the game is irrelevant. All that matters is how many goals are scored by the two teams. Bettors wager on wager that number will go over or under the total established by an online sportsbook.
Moneyline wagers are straight bets on the outcome of a game. Whether you bet on the favorite or the underdog, all they need to do is win the game for you to win your bet.
A moneyline bet is based upon a $100 wager. In this instance, the New York Rangers are the underdog. This is indicated by the + sign before the number. At +125, that means if you bet $100 on the Rangers at Caesars and they won, you would realize a $125 profit from that bet.
At -115, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the favorites. Moneyline odds on favorites are the flip side of the odds on an underdog. It’s telling you how much you’ll need to bet in order to realize a $100 profit on the wager. In this case, you’d need to bet $115 on Pittsburgh to win $100.
The puckline works in similar fashion to a point spread on a football game. You are getting or giving goals, depending upon whether you bet on the favorite or underdog. In almost all puckline wagers, the amount you will be giving or getting is 1.5 goals.
At +1.5, the Rangers are the underdogs in the puckline, so you are getting 1.5 goals. It’s as though if you bet on New York with BetRivers, you are starting the game with a 1.5-0 lead. Should the Rangers win the game or lose by one goal, your bet will be a winner.
In the case of the Penguins, they are -1.5. In essence, Pittsburgh is down 1.5-0 when the game gets underway. Bet the Penguins and they’ll need to win the game by two goals or more to cover your wager.
NHL Total Bets
With total wagering, also known as the over/under, the outcome of the game is irrelevant. This wager is all about the final score of the game. The total is a number assigned to the game by oddsmakers as an estimate of how many goals the two teams will combine to score. In this example, it’s 5.5 goals.
As a bettor, you either wager that they will go over or under this total. Thus, a 3-1 Pittsburgh victory would amount to four goals and hit on the under. However, should the Rangers win 4-2, the total would be six and the over is the correct play.
How to Make Money Betting on the NHL?
We’re not going to sugarcoat it – just as hockey is the hardest sport to learn to play, it’s also the hardest to be successful at when it comes to betting. Played at a breakneck pace, a hockey game has more variables and uncontrollable factors than any other major North American sport.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made. In fact, a shrewd, knowledgeable hockey bettor can turn a tidy profit if they are willing to put in the time and effort required to learn the ins and outs of NHL wagering.
Goaltending is a Stopper
Goaltending is to hockey what pitching is to baseball. If a team doesn’t have it, they’re in big trouble. It’s difficult to quantify what percentage of success is owed to good goaltending. It’s a certainty that bad goaltending equals 100 percent of failure.
Two key stats to watch for with netminders are 5v5 save percentage and goals saved above expected.
Special Teams Are Vital
A hockey adage that’s been around for years and is as true today as it was back then – teams that win the special teams battle also win the game.
When betting on the NHL, look for squads that rate among the best on the power play. A club clicking at 25 percent with the man advantage is likely to score a goal if awarded four power plays per game.
A simple method for checking if a team is solid in the special teams area – add up their NHL ranking on the power play and the penalty kill. If the number is less than 10, that means they are outstanding.
Know The Schedule
For the most part, home-ice advantage isn’t what it used to be. The construction of new rinks that are all cookie-cutter in style means that the quirks once found in old barns like Boston Garden or Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium have gone the way of the helmetless player.
Still, there are times when home-ice can produce an edge. Teams nearing the end of long road trips are more susceptible to being beaten. East coast teams playing on the West coast at times of night when they’d normally be getting ready for bed are also good to best against.
On the other hand, watch for teams playing the second game of back to backs – especially when the first game is on the road. It’s just possible that in this case, the visiting club is already in the host city, getting a good night’s rest. Meanwhile the home team is in a foreign city, getting back in the wee hours and taking the ice a tired club.
How To Build An NHL Betting Model
Just as there are many layers to building a successful hockey team, building an NHL betting model that works will also involve a number of steps.
For starters, it’s best to narrow your focus when wagering on the NHL. With 32 teams, following all the action is going to prove quite time consuming. Pick an element to make your pursuit. It might be totals, it could be betting on home underdogs. It’s entirely up to you.
Once that focus is established, the next step is to do a deep dive into the data. For instance, let’s say you opt to put the emphasis on betting NHL game totals. Do the math, put together charts. If the Washington Capitals are playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, you should have the raw data on whether their games generally go over or under at your fingertips. Break it down even further to see the outcome of games in each team’s rink. The more you know, the better your chances to win.
Another important factor in any NHL betting model will be your budget. How much discretionary income do you have available to bet on hockey? This amount should be determined before a first bet is placed and must be adhered to religiously. As well, eliminate emotion from the equation. Bets shouldn’t be made on the spur of the moment but only after careful and calculated research.
You should never wager more than 5 percent of your entire bankroll on one bet. Thus, if you have a betting budget of $500, then your maximum bet should be no more than $25.
Why is NHL Betting so Hard?
One of the elements of hockey that make the game difficult to bet is the empty-net goal. Teams will pull the netminder in a close game, hoping having an extra attacker on the ice will provide the vital tying goal.
NHL coaches are pulling their goalies earlier and earlier, sometimes with 2-3 minutes left in regulation time. If you’re betting the puckline and your team is down 2-1, you’re sitting on a winner – at least you were until they pulled their goalie, gave up an empty netter and lost 3-1.
The shootout is another element making a hockey wager a difficult play. Imagine losing a bet because of a penalty shot competition. Well, you don’t have to imagine it. In hockey, that’s how they decide games still tied following the five-minute 3-on-3 overtime frame.
What Is A Unit In NHL Betting
A unit is a measurement of the size of a bet, the total amount that is being wagered. Not all units measure up equally. They are based on the size of a bettor’s bankroll and represent a percentage of that bankroll.
The standard view in NHL betting is that a unit should never amount to more than five percent of the bettor’s entire bankroll. Thus, if a player’s bankroll is $1,000, then one unit would be the equivalent of $50.
Generally, the recommendation is that a bettor should rarely risk more than one unit on any specific wager. Even if they’ve got inside information, and believe their bet to be as close to a sure thing as there is in NHL betting, the popular wisdom is no more than a maximum of five units should ever be put into play on a single wager.
As mentioned earlier, units are serving as a form of measurement in the NHL betting world. Sharp bettors don’t talk about how much money they’ve won, or how many bets they’ve cashed. All they are concerned with is how many units they are up on the season.
Sure, it’s nice to say you are 17-11 on your NHL bets for the season. However, it will be much more lucrative to be able to say that you are 10 units ahead on the campaign. That’s especially going to hold true if each of those units is worth $50 in your bank account.
What Is First Period Totals In NHL Betting?
Total wagering is a popular play in NHL betting. Also known as the over/under, this wager sets a bar and then asks a simple question of bettors – will the two teams go over or under that bar?
For instance, a game between the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild might have a total of 5.5 assigned to it by Caesars Sportsbook. This is the total goals that will be scored by both teams in the game. A wager on the total would either be that the two teams will go over 5.5 goals, or under 5.5 goals.
Adding To The Total
The simplicity of total wagering is what gives the bet such popularity. And it’s the popularity of total wagering that gave oddsmakers the idea to expand the options for over/under betting during an NHL game.
One easy twist was to include one team totals. In that aforementioned Wild-Ducks game, you would be wagering on one team’s total goals rather than both clubs.
Hockey is a game of three periods, with overtime or shootouts to decide the outcome, since tie games are not permitted. Online betting sites such as Barstool Sportsbook came up with the idea to assign total wagers to each period of the game.
Generally, the standard for NHL first period total betting is 1.5 goals. Again, the bettor’s choice is to wager on over or under that total. Each outcome is assigned betting odds. For instance, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, the over 1.5 goals was -130 and the under 1.5 goals was set at -104.
How To Read NHL Stats For Betting
When it comes time to wager on the NHL, it’s going to be of vital importance to be able to decipher the league stats. Both team and individual statistics are necessary factors to be considered when betting on hockey.
Fortunately, we are living today in the information age. There’s more data available today than at any point in history and thanks to the internet, it’s also readily accessible to everyone.
Through sites such as NHL.com, bettors can gain instant access to both standard stats and analytics, providing plenty of info to digest and assess prior to placing any bets.
Let’s look at a glossary of the most important NHL data:
G – Goals. These can be totals for both players and teams. Teams that score a lot usually win a lot
A – Assists. A maximum of two assists are awarded on each goal scored. Players who garner a regular supply of assists are good plays in over/under player points props.
P – Points. Goals and assists each count for one point.
PIM – Penalties In Minutes. Beware of betting on teams that accumulate a lot of PIM. It’s often a sign of undisciplined play and that can prove costly.
GPI – Games Played In. Indicates the number of appearances made by a goaltender.
SO – Shutouts. When a goaltender doesn’t allow a goal during a complete-game performance, they are awarded a shutout. Teams with goalies who post a lot of shutouts can be a solid bet, since you can’t lose if you don’t surrender a goal.
GAA – Goals Against Average. By multiplying the goals allowed by a netminder by 60 (the number of minutes played in a regulation game) and then dividing the actual minutes played, you can calculate the average number of goals per game allowed by a goaltender.
ENG – Empty Net Goal. When a team is trailing late in a game, they will pull their goaltender for an extra attacker in search of a tying goal. This can often backfire and result in an empty net goal. Those empty net goals are the arch enemy of the puckline bettor. A 2-1 game in which you’ve played the underdog at +1.5 goals in the puckline can be scuttled into a betting loss by a late empty net goal.
PPG – Power Play Goals. One of the most important stats to study in hockey betting. Teams that win the special teams battle generally also win the game. It’s to bet on teams that feature strong special teams play.
S – Shots. Shots on goal player props are popular hockey wagers. By dividing a player’s shots on goal total by the number of games they’ve played, you can calculate their shots per game average and figure out whether to play the over or under on their shots prop.
Analytics Worth A Look
Analytics, also referred to as fancy stats, can provide a more accurate portrayal of how a team is playing. Here’s some key analytics to study:
Corsi – This is basically an assessment of shot attempts for and against during a game. Teams with Corsi averages above 50% are squads that have the puck more than their opponents and having the puck is a good way to win the game.
Underdogs Get Positive Number
By contrast, were you to bet on the Islanders to win in this same game, they would be assigned a puckline of +1.5. Thus, should you wager on the Isles, you’ll be starting off the game with a 1.5-0 lead.
If the Islanders win the game, you win your bet. But because of the puckline, you can also win a bet on the Islanders as long as they lose the game by less than two goals.
High Danger Chances: A high danger chance is one that comes from areas on the ice where more often than not, a goal will be the outcome. Teams that allow an abundance of high danger chances are not good bets. For example, during the 2021-22 NHL season, the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes allowed the most high danger scoring chances. Both club’s endured dreadful seasons. Also check out which teams have goalies with strong high danger save percentage numbers, because they will be the elite NHL netminders.
How Do NHL Parlays Work In Sports Betting?
Parlays are popular plays for hockey bettors looking to make a big score without taking a significant financial risk. They are similar to triactor wagers in horse racing in that the bettor is combining a number of potential outcomes into one wager in order to try and increase the return on investment delivered by the bet.
The minimum number of outcomes allowed on a parlay bet is two. You could bet the St. Louis Blues to beat the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils to defeat the Buffalo Sabres. However, for the bet to cash, both outcomes must finish in your favor.
NHL Parlay Odds
Naturally, the more legs that are included with a parlay bet, the greater the potential payout. A two-leg parlay offers odds of 13/5, a three-leg parlay pays out at 6/1 and a four-leg parlay at 10/1. Payouts basically double from that point onward with each additional play. And eight-game parlay delivers 150/1 odds.
Staking $10 on an eight-leg parlay, if each of the eight teams bet offered -110 odds, would provide a payout of $1754.46.
Again, though, remember all eight legs must win in order for the player to win the parlay bet.
Same Game Parlays
One of the more popular trends in NHL betting these days is the same game parlay. With this wager, a bettor can put together a parlay card utilizing betting lines all from the same game.
Suppose you played a same game parlay on a game between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning at Caesars. You could take the Avalanche at -120 in the moneyline, the over on the total of 6.0 goals at +105 and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog to go over 1.5 power play points at +700. A $10 stake on this three-leg same game parlay would deliver a return of $290.67
There are some online sportsbooks that offer NHL bettors parlay insurance. For example, BetMGM offers one game parlay insurance on NHL games. Players will receive their stake back if all but one of the legs of their parlay play comes in.
Moneyline is a Straight Win Wager
The third element is the moneyline. This is a straight wager on the result of the game. There’s no spread involved. As long as the team you bet wins the game, you cash your bet.
Moneylines will look something like this:
Pittsburgh Penguins -180 at Philadelphia Flyers +150
With a moneyline wager, the favorite is indicated by a negative number and the underdog by a positive number. These digits are based on a $100 wager on the game. In the case of the Flyers at +150, that means if you were to bet $100 on Philly in the moneyline and the Flyers won the game, you’d collect a +150 profit on your $100 wager.
The -180 betting line on the Penguins is a bit more complicated. Instead of the amount won on a $100 bet, with the favorite in a moneyline wager, the number next to the team indicates how much needs to be wagered in order to realize a $100 profit. In this case, you’d be required to stake $180 on the Penguins to gain a $100 payout on top of your stake.
What Is The Best Indicator For NHL Betting?
Narrowing down the best indicators for NHL betting to one area isn’t easy to do. There are several elements that a bettor should be tracking when it comes to placing wagers on the NHL. However, there are three areas that should always be taken into account when putting money on NHL games.
Special teams are perhaps the best of all the areas to study in terms of narrowing hockey betting decisions down. Teams that win the special teams generally win the game.
During the 2021-22 season, the top eight NHL power plays and 10 of the first 11 all made the Stanley Cup playoffs. On the penalty kill, seven of the top nine earned postseason positions. Four of the top eight power plays ended up competing in the NHL’s conference finals.
The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche were seventh on the power play and 15th on the penalty kill. The Cup finalist Tampa Bay Lightning had the NHL’s No. 8 power and No. 11 penalty kill.
There’s a number of analytics that are worth studying due to their impact on NHL outcomes. Corsi is one of the easiest to understand. Basically, it takes all of one teams 5-on-5 shot attempts for and subtracts all of the 5-on-5 shot attempts against. Teams that end up better than 50% in this stat have the puck more than they don’t. And it’s much easier to win when you have possession of the puck.
In fact, 11 of the top 12 Corsi teams in 2021-22 made the NHL playoffs. Colorado was seventh overall, while Tampa Bay was 12th.
Tracking the success of a team scoring the first basket in an NBA game would seem a waste of time. However, tracking the scorer of the first goal of an NHL game is vital.
Hockey is a sport in which teams that play with a lead generally finish the game with the lead. Overall, teams scoring the first goal of the game win two out of every three NHL games.
Some teams are better at playing with a lead than others. For example, during the 2021-22 NHL season, the Edmonton Oilers were 32-2-1 in games in which they were scoring the first goal.
How Do Futures Work In NHL Betting?
Future betting is for those who want the opportunity to make a big splash with a small stake and don’t mind waiting to cash in on their wager. Basically, you’re betting on an outcome that won’t be determined until the end of the season.
In the NHL, there are both team and player future bet options.
Team Future Bets
The most common NHL team future book play is wagering on the outcome of that season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Generally, even the top favorites to win the Cup will be offered at decent odds prior to the start of the season. For instance, bettors could access +500 odds on the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche to win the 2021-22 Stanley Cup when the first betting lines were posted in August of 2021. Thus, a $10 wager on the Avalanche would’ve returned a $60 payout – a $50 profit plus the refund of the $10 stake.
Bettors can make similar wagers on which team will win the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team or to win their respective division or conference title. Another popular team-based wager is season point totals. Each NHL team is assigned a projected point total by an online sportsbook such as BetMGM. Bettors wager on whether they think the team will go over or under that total.
Player Future Bets
Future book wagering is offered by online sports betting apps such as Caesars on all of the major NHL awards. These include the Hart, Vezina, Art Ross, Calder and Norris Trophies. Solid prices can often be obtained through these wagers. For instance, 2021-22 Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers was available at opening odds of +2000. In this case, a $10 bet would’ve brought a return on investment of $210.
Player stats season totals are another common player-based future book bet. Players will be assigned goal and point totals, while goalies may be given win totals. Wagering on whether the player will go over or under these digits is the task of the bettor.