Betting on hockey is no easy task for the uninitiated.
Beginners shouldn’t expect to simply check the latest NHL odds and feel confident in placing winning wagers.
There is a lot to learn before you even get started. You’ll need to understand what all of the numbers mean, as well as all of the options that are out there.
The good news is that we have done our best to cover it all for you in our guide to betting hockey!
Reading the NHL Odds & Hockey Betting Lines
Learning how to read the odds for hockey games obviously important if you want to bet on them!
When you view the NHL odds you are typically going to see a money line on each team and a total for the game.
If you are familiar with how to bet on baseball, hockey betting works very much the same way.
Let’s look at how to read the money line and the total.
NHL Money Lines
One of the most popular hockey bets that NHL fans make is on the moneyline. When we talk about money line bets with hockey wagering, the important thing to keep in mind is that you are simply picking who you think will win the game, there is no point spread to worry about. What you do have to worry about is the price of each side (that’s the number following the team name).
For the purposes of this article, we will use a fictional matchup between the Canadiens and the Bruins. Here is what you would see at the sportsbook:
Montreal Canadiens +120
Boston Bruins -130
Sportsbooks aren’t dumb, they know that some teams are better than others (or have a better chance of winning a particular matchup), so they aren’t going to allow you to just bet $100 to win a $100 on either side. This is where the money line comes in. Think of it as each team’s probability or perceived expectation to win the game.
If you want to delve into this further, our moneyline-to-win percentage conversion chart shows the hypothetical percentage a team is expected to win at a given money line.
Just like with point spreads in other sports, the negative number (-) represents the favorite and the positive number (+) represents the underdog in the matchup.
In our example, the Boston Bruins are small favorites. If you want to bet on the Bruins to win have to pay a premium since they are the favorite. The simple formula for calculating how much you will need to risk to win a given amount is:
(Favorite Money Line/100) x Amount to Win = Risk Amount
For a bet on the Bruins to win $75, this plugs in as:
(-130/100) = -1.3
-1.3 x 75 = -97.5
This means I would need to risk $97.50 in order to win $75.00 on the Bruins.
The formula for underdogs is just the opposite:
Risk Amount x (Underdog Money Line/100) = Win Amount
So, a $75 bet on the Canadiens +120 would look like this:
75 x (120/100)
75 x (1.2) = 90
This means a $75 bet on the Canadiens would pay $90.00 if they won the game.
If you want to learn more we have a guide on understanding how moneylines work that goes more in-depth.
Betting on the Puck Line
The puck line is a 1.5-goal “spread” on the game with an adjusted money line. About 47% of all NHL games are decided by just one goal, so you take some added risk (albeit with a better payout) if you take the favorite on the puck line. On the flip side, because so many games are decided by one goal, you pay a premium to take the underdog on the puck line and get that extra cushion built in.
If you take a favorite on the puck line, they must win by two or more goals. If you take an underdog on the puck line, they must either win the game outright or lose by exactly one goal.
Here’s an example:
Detroit Red Wings +1.5 -260
Chicago Blackhawks -1.5 +210
Now, to understand just how big of an impact the puck line has on the price, consider that this is what the normal money line would look like for this same game:
Detroit Red Wings +120
Chicago Blackhawks -140
The closer the game is expected to be (note the small money line in the example), the bigger the payout is going to be on the favorite and the bigger the risk will be on the underdog.
The favorite on the puck line is a classic “too good to be true” scenario. It almost always looks tempting because of the payout and the fact you are betting on the better team!
Unfortunately, books wouldn’t offer them if they were easy winners. Let’s look at why it’s not a good idea to just jump on the puck line bandwagon blindly.
Looking back over the last decade, favorites in the NHL win by two or more goals right about 32% of the time. That other 68% of the time they either win by exactly one goal (25%) or lose the game outright (43%) – either would be a loss betting the favorite on the puck line.
For simplicity let’s say we bet $100 on 100 games with a puck line of -1.5 +200 (note that you obviously wouldn’t get exactly +200 on every puck line, but we can assume that is near average). Here’s what we get:
68 losing bets at -$100 = -$6,800
32 winning bets at $200 = $6,400
Total Win/Loss: -$400
Now, just to be thorough we should look at the flip side and see how we’d do betting underdogs. In this case, we’d win 68% of the time (one goal losses plus outright wins from above) and lose 32% of the time. We’ll go $100 per bet for 100 games again, but we’ll need to use -220 as the approximate average vig:
68 winning bets at $100 = $6,800
32 losing bets at -220 = -$7040
Total Win/Loss: -$240
This information isn’t provided to deter you from betting on the puck line at all, it’s simply here so that you know the underlying expectations that the sports books use to set the lines in their favor, regardless of the outcome. There are definitely situations where it makes sense to take either a favorite or an underdog on the puck line in hockey betting, just don’t make a habit of doing it blindly.
We got into more detail on betting hockey puck lines here.
Wagering on Totals (Over/Under Bets)
With hockey totals, the sportsbooks set a hypothetical number of total goals to be scored in a given game, and hockey bettors wager on whether they think there will be more goals than that number (the over) or fewer goals than that number (the under).
For example, let’s set the total in our fictional Canadiens/Bruins NHL betting matchup at 5 goals. If you think the teams will combine to score more than five goals, you would wager on the over. If you think there will be less you take the under. If the game ends with a final score of five combined goals then you have pushed your bet.
An important note to consider when betting on hockey totals is whether or not your sports book includes overtime/shootouts when they settle their totals. This can vary from book to book, so be sure to check the NHL betting rules before placing a wager so you are not caught off guard when it comes time to collect!
Grand Salami Betting
Closely related to totals betting is the grand salami. This type of hockey betting is when the sportsbooks set the combined number of goals that will be scored in all of the day’s games.
This is a great way to give yourself a small piece of action in the entire board. You’ll have a vested interest in every single game.
The way it works is very similar to a game’s over under. The books will set a total, let’s use the example of 32.5, and then you can bet on the over or the under.
If all of the day’s games add up to more than 32.5, then the over would profit. If the total is under 32.5 then the backers of the under would win.
It’s pretty simple, and fun but you can also have a significant edge if when you are handicapping the games you see a lot more totals you would bet on one side or the other.
Futures are a type of bet you make on a…wait for it…future event. In the NHL this is typically going to be to make the playoffs or to win the Stanley Cup, but it can really be anything.
The book sets the odds for each team in the league to win the event, then adjusts throughout the season based on the results.
For example, you might see the NY Rangers at +700 (or 7/1) to win the Stanley Cup before the season starts, but they lose their first five games in a row and the odds are adjusted to +1000 (10 to 1).
Futures are usually presented in one of two ways:
Money Line Style: NY Rangers +700
Fractional: NY Rangers 7/1
Both of these mean the exact same thing.
Fractional odds for futures can sometimes be easier to understand, which is why you will see them often in this format. In the example above 7/1 simply means for every $1 bet, you win $7 if your bet ends up winning, so a $10 bet would win you $70 and so on (remember our money line formula from above: $10 x (700/100) = $70).
NHL Player and Game Props
Props (or propositional bets) cover a wide variety of situations and outcomes to bet on. Props can literally be anything a sportsbook thinks of. These can be yes/no situations, bets based on player performance, or even silly things like the color of a coach’s tie. Some common hockey props might be:
Will Patrick Kane Score a Goal Tonight?
How many saves will Jake Allen Have Against the Avalanche?
Over 30.5 -110
Under 30.5 -115
What Color Jacket Will Joel Quenneville Wear at Tonight’s Game?
Any Other Color -120
NHL Season Win Totals
Before the start of a season, oddsmakers set the number of games each team will win and give the option to bet over (more wins) or under (fewer wins) than that number. These are called win totals and are pretty straightforward.
Here’s an example:
Pittsburgh Penguins Over 46.5 Wins -110
Pittsburgh Penguins Under 46.5 Wins -135
Most of the time you’ll see a fractional number to avoid pushes. See the current NHL season win totals here.
Parlays to Increase Your Payouts
A parlay is a group of multiple bets you make for an increased payout on the condition that all of the games in the group must win.
Calculating odds for hockey parlays can be a little tricky, particularly with money lines, so I’d suggest using our parlay calculator.
Remember that parlays can be great, but the increased risk that comes with lumping all of your games together can come at a hefty price.
For example, if you had a five-team parlay that ended up going 4-1, a very profitable day of betting each game individually turns into a total loss.
Live Betting on Hockey Games
As you can with most sports nowadays, you can bet on hockey while the game is being played.
You will still have the same options as above with a moneyline, total, and a puck line, but the numbers will adjust according to the game situation. If the underdog takes an early lead, they might become the favorite. If there isn’t a lot of early scoring the total will drop.
Betting live is attractive to bettors because they can see how the teams are playing before deciding on which wager to make.
However, it’s important to remember to wait for breaks in the action. The live feed the books receive comes directly from the NHL, while the game you are watching on television likely has a few seconds of a delay in place. That means you could be placing bets not knowing a big event has happened. That’s not a spot I like to be in.
First, Second, & Third Period Bets
You can also bet hockey by a period instead of on the full game. This is simply an adjusted money line or total for that specific period. The first-period lines are set prior to the game, with the second and third-period lines getting created and updated during intermissions.
NHL Hockey Betting Tips to Help You Win More Bets
Researching hockey so that your probabilities are better than the oddsmakers is no easy task but it can be done with some hard work. We have the best NHL handicappers on the planet on this site as proof that bettors can win with the right info.
The number one thing you have to analyze when betting on the NHL is goalie analysis. With a good goalie, you are going to make it difficult for the other team to score, whereas a bad goalie can let the other team off easily.
There are advanced metrics that you can use to improve your handicapping of goalies. A few of them are the 5v5 save percentage, expected save percentage, delta save percentage, and goals saved above average. These stats will help you identify which guys in the net are better or worse than expected.
You’ll also want to evaluate penalties. How often a team commits them, how well they defend short-handed, and how often they convert on power plays.
Home ice advantage is a real factor. When you get a team with a real edge at home playing a team that is weak on the road, that can oftentimes be enough to beat the books.
Lastly, scheduling and fatigue can give you profitable situations. The leagues are better about giving teams nights off now, but you can still see guys racking up a lot of minutes during a week and imagine how they might not be at full strength for today’s game.
NHL wagering can be fun and profitable. It’s always better to watch the games with a little action on it, but it’s really fun to watch and win. Hopefully, our guide to betting on hockey helps you understand all of the different options you have and will increase your chances of beating the books this winter!