NHL Hockey Betting
Pro hockey is extremely popular in some parts of the USA and Canada and has almost no following in others. Though the sport doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of the NFL, MLB, or NBA, national broadcasts are commonplace, and lines on hockey games are available at sportsbooks all over the world.
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If you’re a hockey fan and grew up watching the sport and imitating your heroes – or even if you’re a newcomer to hockey fandom – you’re probably almost ready to place NHL wagers. All you need are a few pieces of information to shore up the hockey knowledge you’ve already got.
Here is a breakdown of the most commonly-used betting formats among fans of the National Hockey League:
The moneyline asks bettors to pick which of two teams they think will win outright.
The moneyline is the most popular version of pro hockey wagering, on par with moneyline wagers in other major sports. One major difference in NHL and NFL moneylines? Most hockey game lines include a 20-cent line as a sort of league standard. In layman’s terms, the vast majority of hockey games are handicapped by sportsbooks in such a way that odds are separated by 20 points. Believe it or not, this $0.20 line tradition is even used in games with a heavy favorite; that means the NHL often provides good value on favorites, unlike other pro US sports.
Here’s an example of an NHL moneyline:
This simple collection of words and numbers transmits a ton of information in very little space. The minus symbol (-) identifies the favorite, in this case the Canadiens. The number next to the favorite’s symbol indicates how much you have to bet in order to earn a $100 payout; in this case, $120.
The plus symbol (+) next to Calgary identifies the Flames as the underdog. The number 100 means that a winning bet on Calgary will pay out $100 for every $100 wagered.
Game Totals (Over/Under)
Over/Under bets require that the bettor wager on whether the total number of points scored by both sides will be “over” or “under” a number set by the sportsbook. If you predict a game will feature more points than the book says, you take the “over.” If you think the game might finish with fewer points, you take the “under.”
I’m not a big fan of this kind of betting for hockey, mostly because hockey matches tend to produce a fewer number of total points than other sports. That leaves little room for bookmakers to move the line.
NHL Betting Basics
Since you’re a fan of the game and you’re now familiar with the basic bets used in NHL wagering, all you need to get out there and be a successful hockey bettor are a few basic tips to get you started.
1. Become a hockey roster expert.
Injuries are common in hockey – it’s a brutal sport full of hard contact and speed. Hockey games also occur with frequency, which means injuries and shifts in rosters and starting lines are common. In fact I’d say that rosters change often enough to justify a daily review of injury and roster changes on the games you’ll be betting on.
Tip #2: Be aware of goalie wear and tear.
We’ve already said that hockey is a tough contact sport – goalkeepers get the worst of it. Imagine the tough job of an MLB starting pitcher, except now imagine the entire starting lineup for the other team is flying towards him attempting to knock him out cold. The wear and tear on goalkeepers in the NHL is a serious problem for bettors that overlook the impact of recent activity on a team’s defense. With NHL goalies, recent history is much more important than historical performance.
Tip #3: Look beyond the box score.
You can’t become a winning NHL bettor by reading box scores and a couple of segments on ESPN. Baseball’s Sabermetrics craze has leaked over into the NHL, and statisticians are now looking at hockey performance under a microscope. Becoming familiar with the full spectrum of hockey stats is crucial to success as an NHL bettor.
Let me give you an example of a hockey stat that’s really useful as a predictive tool – PDO. PDO was created by a hockey blogger to determine whether a player is about to streak or about to go cold. I know hockey bettors who swear by PDO. What they do is add a player’s even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage. It’s an elegant little stat that helps people predict future performance. The purpose of using PDO (and other stats like it) is to catch on to upward or downward trends in performance before other bettors do.
PDO is not the only advanced stat you should look into. I provided that example to get you motivated to go out and find some tools of your own to advance your understanding of hockey. But be careful – these stats are powerful and addictive, and you may find yourself becoming something of a stat geek.
Pro hockey takes place during a season that’s mighty similar to the more-popular NBA. Both leagues involve 82 regular-season games, and they start and end around the same time. If you’re already familiar with the way the NBA works, you’re even better prepared to bet on pro American hockey. I’ll admit – it can be more difficult to research and handicap a hockey game as compared to an NBA game, just do to the increased interest in the NBA. For those who figure out how to gain access to stats and updated information, NHL betting offers a lot of value.