Hockey is the most underrated sports on the betting board. Hockey ranks behind every other North American sport in popularity and betting interest but it’s a great sport to watch---and a great sport to bet. In many ways, it offers all of the handicapping and wagering opportunities of the other sports all rolled into one. It has moneylines like baseball but unlike MLB every game is important. The competition for playoff spots is brutal—only 16 of the 30 teams make the postseason and in most years they’re not finalized until the last game of the season. Factor in an 82 game season to baseball’s 162 game and there’s much more ‘urgency’ on a nightly basis in hockey.
Like basketball, NHL hockey offers betting action every night of the week. NBA teams have an infamous tendency of ‘taking the night off’ on occasion. You’ll seldom see that in the NHL. The game also offers the combination of physicality and finesse found in the NFL. There are a number of ways to approach NHL handicapping—there are plenty of statistics to work with but the emotional/subjective factors are also very important. The most successful hockey betting experts combine the two methodologies.
Added January 8, 2016
NHL Hockey Best Bets for January 8, 2016
Six games on the NHL hockey board tonight. Here is our best bet for Friday:
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING AT EDMONTON OILERS:
Some sportsbooks offer a variety of prop bets on NHL hockey but there are three basic wager types. The first is the moneyline bet which should be familiar to anyone with a moderate degree of sports betting experience. The bookmaker sets a moneyline on each game with a ‘minus number’ for the favorite and a ‘plus number’ for the underdog. If the team you bet on wins, you cash a ticket. Moneyline bets are for the full game result including overtime and shootout unless specified otherwise.
Soccer fans will be quick to pick up the over/under totals wager in NHL betting. A number is by the bookmaker and the player can go ‘over’ or ‘under’. More often than not, there’s a moneyline involved with each position. In theory, hockey is a low scoring game like soccer but there are plenty of shootouts with a furious scoring pace producing an ‘Over’ result. Unlike soccer, however, totals wagers usually include the full game result (eg: with overtime and shootout) unless specified. NHL hockey games can’t end in a tie like regular competition soccer. So don’t think you’ve cashed a ticket based on the score of a NHL game heading into overtime. Some sportsbooks offer ‘alternate’ totals giving the bettor the opportunity to go ‘over’ or ‘under’ higher or lower goal totals with a resulting adjustment in the moneyline price.
In soccer, this kind of wager is called the ‘handicap line’ but in hockey it’s become known as ‘the puck line’. Until the late 20th century the ‘puck line’ was commonly known as ‘The Canadian line’ since US bookmakers and bettors preferred the straight moneyline. It is a hybrid of a pointspread and a moneyline or, more appropriately, the NHL’s version of soccer’s ‘handicap’ wager. The favorite in a NHL puck line bet is usually ‘laying’ -1.5 goals meaning they have to win by two goals to cash a ticket. The underdog, conversely, is getting +1.5 goals meaning they have to win or lose by win to reward their bettors. There is also a moneyline involved—in most NHL matchups the underdog on the puck line is the ‘favorite’ on the moneyline and assigned a ‘minus number’ price. The favorite laying the 1.5 goals is often given a ‘plus money’ moneyline price.
The 1.5 goal is not standard and you’ll occasionally see higher prices in the NHL (seldom higher than +/- 2.5 goals) and frequently in Olympic and college hockey. Before the NHL rule changes that eliminated ties the most common pro hockey puckline was +/- .5 goal. Even after the league implemented overtime in the mid-1980’s the ½ goal puck line continued but was graded on the first 60 minute (regulation play) result. The move to 1.5 goals was made in 2005 when the NHL added the ‘shootout’ to determine the winner in games tied at the end of regulation. Some sportsbooks offer both the ½ goal line graded after 60 minutes and the 1.5 goal line graded on the full game result.