NHL Betting

Betting Tips

With division, conference and even century-old rivalries, the drama offered by the NHL strikes a personal chord with fans of all ages. Teams physically punish eachother almost nightly over an 82-season featuring 24 U.S. clubs and seven from Canada. The playoffs offer even more excitement as their grueling seven-game format does an excellent job removing much doubt that the two best teams face each other at the end of the season.

National Hockey League's Stance on Sports Betting

The NHL has been fairly ambiguous on its position regarding legalized sports betting. The league maintains an expansion team in Las Vegas that enjoyed a successful first season for one. While he has not clearly thrown its endorsement behind legal sports betting NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said on record that he isn't worried about possible legalization or how it would affect hockey.

NHL Betting Lines & Odds

NHL money lines are based on positive and negative figures and indicate how much money a better must wager to win $100 or how much a $100 bet would win. Negative numbers indicate how much you must bet to win $100. For example if Boston has a money line of -140 it means you must bet $140 to win $100. Positive numbers indicate how much you'd win from a $100 bet. So if Toronto has a money line of +160 would mean a win of $160 on a $100 bet. To work out how much you'd win on a different bet amount, you just have to scale the figure up or down proportionally.

Puck lines are an alternative to money lines in which the better gets a chance at more than even money. It essentially works the same, but the team listed as the favorite must win the game by more than 1.5 goals or the underdog must lose by no more than 1.5 goals. Therefore if Boston is favored by -140, you can bet them on the +1.5 puck line in hopes that they beat underdog Toronto by more than 1.5 goals. Likewise if Toronto is the underdog at +160, you can bet them on the -1.5 puck line and hope they stay within 1.5 goals of the Bruins.

Betting the totals involves betting how many goals will be scored in a single game by both teams involved combined. If Boston and Toronto are playing eachother with an Over/Under set at 6.0, you would be betting on whether or not the teams would score 6.0 goals combined with the opportunity to double up your bet if you are correct.

Futures bets involve season-long goals for both teams and players. These can be bets on whether a team will win the Stanley Cup, the Eastern or Western Conference Championship, their Division title or enough games to simply make the playoffs. Bets can also be made on whether players will win a variety of annual awards such as the Hart Memorial Trophy for MVP, the Vezina trophy awarded to the best goalie and the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the best rookie. The odds for these long-term goals shift nearly every day, so timing is everything when placing bets.

Tips for Betting NHL games

While hockey appears to be a simple, brutal game on the surface, the strategy that underlies it makes it very difficult at times to predict and bet consistently. It often takes a cultivated understanding of the rules of the game and familiarity with the schemes, styles and personnel of each team.


Timing and knowledge of where a team is in its schedule can play a big role in determining the best teams to bet on in a particular matchup. Teams often engage in extended road trips and these can either help or hurt their chances depending on how they characteristically react to these trips. For some teams, road trips are a slog and they get brought down by the travel across time zones. Jet lag is often documented as teams fly back and forth from the East to West Coast.

Other teams use the added adversity of road trips as a chance to focus up and bond as a unit and sometimes even play better away from home than in front of their own fans. The same can be said for back-to-back games which are another common occurrence. While days off are often ideal for such a physical sport, there are times when every NHL team must play on two days in a row. Oftentimes this gives their opponent on the second night a distinct advantage as they usually face a tired team with a backup goalie.


Original Six rivalries exist amongst the six teams that made up the NHL between 1942 and 1967. The Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers were founded between 1909 and 1926 and thus have established nearly 100 years of history together which is plenty of time to brew some intense feelings and bad blood.

The Bruins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs in particular bring a lot of animosity into most meetings making them fun to bet. There's definite knowledge that the best of both teams will be on display when any of these six are slated to play eachother.

Some of the best more recent rivalries to bet include the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. Regional and instate rivalries such as the Battle for Ontario between the Leafs and Ottawa Senators, the New York Islanders vs. Rangers, The Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings and the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers are all especially heated.

In-Game Betting

A game of hockey is played over three 20-minute periods and betting within those parameters can be a fun way to switch things up from traditional practice. It is thus beneficial to know whether a team excels in a particular period in terms of scoring or has a good record when leading or trailing after a specific point in the game. There are teams that are accustomed to getting out to early leads and holding them down, some teams are excellent at starting slow and rallying for results and others are adept at scoring late to win or close out games.

Making NHL Picks

One of the most important aspects of hockey to understand is the way a team's lines match up against its opposition that particular night. This is a more in-depth way to view the game that results in making smarter picks. Offensive lines involve three players, a center and two wings, while defensive pairings involve the two defensemen on the ice accompanying them.

Line Matchups

There are often 4 different offensive lines and 3 defensive pairings and coaches will often shift them throughout the season and playoffs to get the most out of their teams and capitalize on mismatches. Some lines, known as checking lines, are defensive-based and meant to slow down a particularly deadly line.

Since no one line can play an entire game, it's no guarantee the top scorers on a team will all be on the same line. Oftentimes a coach will try to split up his most gifted players to make his team deeper. Familiarity amongst linemates brings crucial chemistry throughout the season as a line's chemistry can make all the difference in a team's season.

Special Teams

One unique statistical category to hockey that often provides distinct advantages are teams' power plays and penalty kill percentages. When a player commits a rules infraction during a game, he is sent to the penalty box for either two of five minutes depending on the severity of the infraction. This results in a 5-on-4 advantage for the other team, known as a power play, while the other team's shorthanded "penalty kill" unit attempts to defensively thwart the opponent. Mastery in either field plays a big factor over the ebb and flow of a game as either scoring on a power play or coming up with a successful kill are often referred to as key momentum-shifting moments.

NHL Playoff Betting

While anything can happen in the NHL Playoffs, historical trends seem to hold a strong precedence in determining outcomes. The NHL, however, has more examples of teams overcoming even the most unlikely of odds than most other sports leagues that follow the seven-game format. While 3-0 and 3-1 deficits are often considered death sentences for trailing teams, there are many examples that buck the trend.

A total of 28 teams have come back from 3-1 or worse deficits and its definitely a phenomenon of the modern game since 26 of those comebacks have occurred since 1987 and seven since 2010. In that year the Flyers did the unthinkable becoming the first team since 1975 to come back from a 3-0 deficit doing so against the Bruins in the conference semifinal round. The feat was repeated by the Kings against the San Jose Sharks in 2014 meaning there are two examples to inspire teams to do the improbable.

Even being the best team in the league does not appear to carry a distinct advantage in the NHL. The postseason is such a haul and struggle that even teams that end the season as the odds-on favorite have lost in recent years more often than not. The team with the most points in both conferences wins the President's Trophy and is viewed as the "champion" in a sense of the regular season. Since the 2002-'03 season only two winners of that trophy have won the Stanley Cup.

Betting Tips

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