For the avid sports bettor who wants to make cash on a continuing basis, there are few opportunities better than the NHL. The NHL, like the NBA, offers an 82-game season. This is followed by a long and intense postseason known to all as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite everything offered by the NHL, the league tends to be under bet. Numerous chances are lost by those who could capitalize on them. If you want to make cash in sports betting, take time to get to know this game, the league, the teams, and the players.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for sports bettors in the U.S. is that many don’t understand the intricacies of the game and handicapping often seems to be an incomprehensible chore. How exactly do you determine an NHL matchup, what team attributes will serve to dominate an opponent, or how can you determine when five or more goals will be scored?
There are ways to determine these things, but stats go just so far. Hockey is often a game of inches, where the puck rings off the post or the crossbar, a player on the screen tips the puck over the perfectly positioned goalie, or a skater negates an advantage by stepping on the ice too early and getting a penalty assessed.
It’s best if you can watch as many games as possible until you understand not only what is happening, but why. In the U.S., most people can do that with basketball, football, and baseball, but many are hard pressed to do it with hockey. So, if you are going to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist to wager on the NHL, make sure you use the time it takes to learn as much about the sport as is possible.
NHL Betting Articles
- Betting on NHL Draft
- Betting on NHL All Star Game
- Betting on the Stanley Cup Playoffs
- Betting on the Stanley Cup Finals
Preparing for the Season
Season preparation starts at the end of the playoffs, when you start monitoring summer developments, injury rehabs, and trades. Look for up-and-coming players who are ready to make a difference, young superstars poised to redefine the game, or goalies on the verge of a great season.
Once the Stanley Cup is over, take a look at the newly posted NHL futures. These are not guarantees of what will happen, but they will tell you what bookmakers think will happen. Are futures odds always accurate? Not usually, but they do offer you an overview of the league, and monitoring them as they change will give you an indication of what bookies are seeing and anticipating.
As the new NHL season gets closer, sports bettors focus on previews, camps, and preseason games, as well as the American Hockey League (AHL), which is the primary minor league for the NHL. Once the regular season starts, you want to be ready to go.
With sixteen Eastern Conference and fourteen Western Conference teams, there are many games and ample wagering opportunities each week. However, with teams spread across the U.S. and Canada, large rosters, and constant movement between the AHL and NHL, there is a lot of daily work to be done by the sports bettor who wants to make smart bets.
Hockey offers three basic bets with two focusing on the outcome of the game and the other on totals. You can find moneylines on games where you wager on who will win the game outright. Not all online sportsbooks offer moneylines on the NHL but most do. With the moneyline you bet more to win less on the favorite and less to win more on the underdog.
The other type of outcome wager is the puckline, which is a lot like the runline in baseball. The puckline, which is a combo point spread/moneyline bet, is usually listed at +/- 1.5 goals. Because the favorite is put at a disadvantage (-1.5) and they must win by two goals, the stakes are reversed. With the puckline, you wager less on the favorite, to win more. And, because the underdog has been given goals (+1.5), they cost more to bet on, and if you win, you get less.
The other wager you can make is a totals or over/under bet. The totals, which may or may not be listed as a half-goal, usually range from as low as 4 up to 6. The most common over/under you’ll find is 4.5 goals.
NHL games often go to overtime, so you have a choice between a three-way bet (Team 1, Team 2, or Tie) and a two-way (Team 1 or Team 2). The three-way bet pertains to just regulation time, because a game can be tied at the end of regulation. The two-way covers overtime and the shootout because once you get into overtime, there has to be a winner. Games in the NHL never end in a tie. The totals wagers pertain to overtime but not to the shootout.
Thus, hockey bettors have a few choices to make in terms of how they actually place their wagers. Puckline bets can provide premium payoffs on the team listed at minus 1.5 goals, while the moneyline is an exceptionally good wager of you smell an upset.
Offense and Defense
The NHL, like the NBA, demands that the same players play both offense and defense. The pace of the game offers immediate changes that in one second can spell victory or defeat for a team. It is essential for sports bettors to understand both the contributions of players on the offensive and defensive ends.
Understanding the effectiveness of each player is important, but equally important is that you have a solid idea of the efficiency and productivity of each unit and all four lines.
There are a few things to remember about goalies in the NHL. Goalies are not like any other player on the ice. Their equipment is entirely different than that of skaters; they go through highly specialized, unique training; and they play a game that is based entirely on one standard: perfection. Goalies in the NHL are all incredibly proficient at what they do, and very little separates one from another.
Elements that differentiate one goalie from another include mental toughness, reaction time, and how exacting their skill development has become. You also cannot underestimate their relationship to the other defensive players, and the ability of their teammates to keep opponents from taking too many quality shots.
Of course, in the NHL, goaltending is considered by many to be the difference between a winning and losing season. It is important to carefully consider who is in net and how you believe he will perform. Don’t just check stats, make sure you review how the goalie handles the particular team that he’s facing. Some goalies will have a tough time with particular teams, and they are not necessarily teams you’d think would be difficult for them. Also, look for goalies that are on a hot streak, that play for teams that give them great goal support, and who are tough to beat at home.
The league has some definite cellar dwellers. Teams that have poor goal tending and lack topnotch players can be fairly consistent clubs to bet against. Also, teams with young players on defense will often struggle.
D and O Matchup
Matchups can play an important role. For example, if a team with three tough lines and one of the top ten goalies in the league is matched up against a premier offensive team, you may want to take the moneyline on the defensive team even if they are the underdogs.
What about teams with good offensive units? Again, look at how they match up across all lines and in all spots. It really is about which team can out-match the other, especially in terms of two-way play. If an offense is almost assuredly going to take it to the opposition’s D, then go with that team or the puckline if it appears that they will win by two of more goals.
Injury and Minor League Factors
Injuries are inevitable in a hockey season, and sometimes they can affect a very important player for a major part of the season. Always pay attention to injuries and how they will affect a club. If the leading goal scorer or assist guy ends up on the DL, you’re going to have to rethink what the team is now capable of accomplishing.
Minor league players, especially those from the team’s AHL club, will often come up for a stint. Some may stay for the entire season, while others will be in the NHL for a limited time. Teams that have developed solid minor league clubs can often fill the gaps left by an injury. Don’t discount the contributions that a new minor league player can make to a team.
The bottom line is that sports bettors need to adjust their handicapping of a team and game to the changing personnel.
The trade deadline in the NHL is in the first week of March. Often important deals are made as teams attempt to fill some roster gaps. For a trade to help a team, it does not have to include superstars or be a blockbuster deal. Often the addition of two or three solid guys can help a club in areas that they are lacking.
When a trade occurs, consider who the new players are on each team and try to define what each player’s role will be. Do team stats indicate that the club needs help on the penalty kill? Will this trade provide that assistance? Maybe they require an enforcer, another goal scorer, or a playmaker? How does a trade address such areas in which a team is weak?
Some referees and linesmen in the NHL seem to make more calls against certain teams than they do against others, and other refs are simply prone to mistakes. Although a referee is supposed to be impartial, to fans he rarely is, and some officials will sometimes seem to go to any length to call a penalty on a club.
There are 42 refs and 36 linesmen in the NHL, and a large majority of them are from Canada. Getting the scoop on each official will help you when handicapping a game. This is not an easy task. In order to do so, you’ll need to take note of any references to specific officials in media reports, check highlight videos, and watch a decent number of games.
The fact is one or two bad calls by an official can change the outcome of a game. The NHL does have instant reply for plays involving goals, but not for penalties. Two extra penalties in a game called against one team means that the club being punished must skate shorthanded for up to 4 minutes, opening the door for their opponent to score.
The NHL is a rough and tough league and ice hockey is a fast game where emotions can explode. If a team was humiliated the last time they met their upcoming opponent, if a player from the opposition took a cheap shot against one of their guys, or if one of their players was injured, then the next contest may be an emotional one where they try to avenge the wrong. If a grudge match seems to be in order, try to determine which team will benefit the most. Often the team that has suffered some form of humiliation will come back in the next game against that same opponent and dominate them.
NHL teams can go on winning or losing streaks at anytime. If a team that you have found to be a reliable pick starts to lose a few games, be sure to pay special attention. In the case of losing streaks, be attentive to roster changes due to injury, goaltending problems, and teams that seem to be offering fewer quality minutes on the ice. Determine if a team has hit the skids due to some problem with a specific line, player, or decision by management.
When a club goes on a winning streak you’ll also want to determine the reason for it and project how long it may last. Has the team’s goalie suddenly gone on a hot streak, saving everything that’s tossed at him, has a specific line stepped it up, or has the club’s defense gelled? Perhaps it’s a number of positive elements that have come together to make the team unbeatable on the ice. Like losing, winning is contagious.
Finally, winning or losing streaks may be related to specific teams that a club is facing and have a hard time beating, an arduous road trip, or thin lines that are starting to show weakness from stress and strain during mid-season.
Basics of Making Cash
Hockey betting is focused on three basic wagers. These are the money line, puck line and totals. Parlays and other types of wagers should be avoided.
Sports bettors need to focus on specific teams and matchups for games. Understanding what games to wager and which type of bet to utilize will offer you the best chance at making cash. Hockey betting is very basic. It’s important to keep it that way.
Soft Lines and Arbitrage Betting
Because the NHL is under bet, lines for NHL games are often very soft. If you shop around and check out leading sports books, you will find numerous solid wagering opportunities that you can exploit throughout the week. In order to make the most of any lines, you’ll need to do your homework and properly handicap each contest.
Of all of the professional sports that bettors can wager on, the NHL offers the most chances for arbitrage opportunities. If you shop around, especially when lines are first posted for games, you may find odds at two different sportsbooks that will allow you to bet each side of the line and make cash, as one book may favor one team while the second book favors the other team.
Be sure to check money lines versus puck lines. There may be a way to take the puck line on one team and money line on the other and make cash. Be advised, this is riskier than simply going with one type of bet for each team because only one of your wagers is governed by the spread. But in a game where you feel that the puck line favors you, it can work very nicely, allowing you to profit no matter what the outcome of the game may be.
With a long NHL season and an extended postseason, the NHL provides serious sports bettors with many quality betting chances. With so many games and such diverse matchups, the NHL can be a daunting league to handicap. For the dedicated sports bettor who wants to make money, however, hockey offers real opportunity.
To be successful, you will need to take each game seriously, don’t get sloppy in your handicapping, and keep up to date. Know when rosters, goalies, and lines change. Get a solid understanding of each team’s minor league team and the depth of the organization. Don’t become complacent when looking for deals, and instead carefully compare the money line and puck line of each game. With care and diligence, you can enjoy a profitable NHL season.