The NHL may rank behind the other top three American sports in terms of viewers but hockey bettors are among the most loyal and fiercely competitive diehards as you will find. The game is faster than the NBA and even more physical than football and with all 31 teams playing 82 games per season, there are more than 1,270 games you can bet on before we even get to the Stanley Cup playoffs, which feature 16 teams playing best-of-seven series.
The NHL differs from the NBA and NFL both in terms of its viewership and its odds. Many bettors who wager on all four pro sports say they check out the hockey odds first every day because they tend to be more favorable to betting, perhaps because there is less action than in other sports. This means sportsbooks are constantly tweaking their odds to get an edge, which creates a prime opportunity for a wise NHL bettor to find the odds that most favor their pick.
NHL betting is new to millions of hockey fans and below OddsUSA will answer all your burning questions about NHL odds, who sets them, where to bet on them, and how to get an advantage over the competition and the professional oddsmakers.
Betting on NHL Games
Betting on NHL games is different than betting on NFL or NBA games. In the NFL, most bets are based on a point spread, which is a varying margin of victory that the favorite must win by to “cover” or pay out. The NHL does not have varying point spreads. Every game is based on the “puck line,” which essentially sets every game at a point spread of 1.5. That means a team has to win by 2 goals or more to “cover” or pay out on the puck line. The payout odds on each game will differ depending on the likelihood of the favorite covering the puck line.
You can also place a straight-up bet on the moneyline, which is the ratio of the payout to the initial wager. For example, if the Bruins are a -180 favorite, you would have to wager $180 to win $100. If the Penguins are a +140 underdog, your $100 bet would bring in $140 in winnings.
You can also bet on the point total or “over/under.” Sportsbooks will project what they think the combined goal total will be in a given game and you can bet on whether the final total will be over or under the projection. Unlike the NFL and NBA where point totals can vary greatly, the over/under in the NHL is usually between 5 and 7 combined goals.
NHL oddsmakers will often have varying odds from site to site as handicappers try to get an edge over the typical bettor. This means researching which site offers the most favorable odds for your preferred pick is more important in hockey than possibly any other sport.
Since all puck lines are 1.5, there is no emphasis on margin of victory but rather on probability of winning. Betting sites will offer a moneyline bet that allows you to pick the winner straight up but there will also be payout odds similar to a moneyline on puck line bets. So a Calgary +1.5 bet might come as a -240 line, which means you would have to bet $240 to win $100, which you only get if Calgary wins by 2 goals or more.
NHL Betting Markets
Once you are familiar with puck line, moneyline, and over/under bets, you can play around with more exotic bet types available at most online sportsbooks.
Many NHL sites will also offer future bets, which allow you to bet on things like who will win the Stanley Cup, which team will win the Metropolitan Division, who will lead the league in goals, and who will win MVP. Future odds are always changing during the season depending on a number of factors like injuries, trends, and transactions.
Some sites will offer in-game and prop bets, which allow you to wager on individual events or outcomes. For example, you can bet on whether Taylor Hall will get a hat trick or whether Braden Holtby will get more than 25 saves.
A popular type of advance bet is a parlay, in which you combine two or more bets into one. Both bets must then hit for you to win, so the odds of winning are lower than with just one bet, but the payouts increase the more bets you combine as well.
One bet type exclusive to hockey is the “Grand Salami” bet, which allows you to place an over/under bet on all of the goals that will be scored in that day’s games. These bets must be in before any of the games start.