Despite not yet being at the same level of betting as some of the other major sports leagues, National Hockey League (NHL) betting is quickly becoming more and more popular – and it is not difficult to see why. Often described as “the fastest game in the world” the NHL brings with it a plethora of excitement and opportunities even for the most seasoned of bettors.
In this article we will introduce you to the world of the NHL, cover the most popular types of bets, present our expert-led tips and strategies, and recommend who we think are most superior bookmakers in the industry. Are you ready?
What's in this article
- What is the NHL?
- What are Popular NHL Bets?
- Money Line Bets
- Puck Line Bets
- Totals Bets
- Parlay Bet
- Futures Bet
- What are Some NHL Betting Strategies and Tips?
- Shop Around
- Do your research
- The Goaltender
- Who’s in and who’s out?
- Travel bugs
- Don’t always bet on your favourite team
- Evaluate the consensus
- Who are the Best Bookmakers for NHL Betting
- William Hill
- Did you know?
- Final Words
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What is the NHL?
The National Hockey League (NHL) is an ice hockey tournament which takes place every year in North America. The NHL begins in October and finishes off the following June and is widely considered to be the leading ice hockey league in the world. Founded in 1917 and originally contested by just 4 Canadian teams, the league has grown significantly over the decades with the 2019/20 season consisting of 31 teams (24 in the United States and 7 in Canada).
The NHL season can be split into 3 parts – the preseason, the regular season, and the Stanley Cup playoffs. The preseason usually takes place in the second half of September and consists of exhibition matches. These give coaches the chance to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their teams properly before the season kicks off.
The regular season typically runs from October to early April. All NHL teams are split into two conferences – the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference (based on their geographical location). Each conference is then split again into 2 divisions with the Eastern Conference containing 16 teams (8 in Atlantic Division and 8 in the Metropolitan Division) and the Western Conference containing 15 teams (8 in the Pacific Division and 7 in the Central Division). Throughout the season, all teams play 82 games, 41 home and 41 away and the 3 teams from each division who acquire the most points (plus an extra 2 wildcards per conference) will progress to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Between April and June, the 16 teams that qualify for the Stanley cup playoffs will face off in an elimination battle consisting of 3 rounds of a best of seven series (i.e. first to win 4 matches wins). The two teams (one from each conference) who make it to the final will then compete for the coveted Stanley Cup.
What are Popular NHL Bets?
Whilst many of the wagers you can place in this league are similar to those in other sports, the NHL also offers some unique betting options. Let’s take a look at the some of the most popular of these bet types.
Money Line Bets
This term is used in all American sports and simply refers to betting on which team you think will be the winner of a match. Both teams will be assigned odds depending on who is the favourite and who is the underdog and your winnings will be proportional to these figures.
For example, in a match between the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins, the money line for the islanders if +155 whilst that of the Bruins is -175. This shows that the Bruins are favourites to win this tie. If you wager $100 on the Islanders, you will walk away with a hefty $255 ($100 from your original bet and $155 from your winnings). However, if you opt to play it safe and bet on the Bruins, you will walk away with $157.14 in your pocket (after subtracting the initial wager you will have a profit of $57.14).
Puck Line Bets
A puck line bet is a form of handicap betting (referred to as ‘runlines’ in baseball and ‘point spread’ in football). Since NHL games are typically decided by 1 or 2 goals, the puck line is normally set at +/-1.5 (however this is not always the case). This means that the underdog receives an advantage of 1.5 and the favourite is given a disadvantage of 1.5.
So if for a match between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets, the Blackhawks are given a odds of +1.5 (-160) and the Jets -1.5 (+140) then this means that if you play on the favoured Jets, they will have to not only win the game, but they will have to do so by more than 1.5 goals. On the other hand, if you bet on the underdogs, in this case the Blackhawks, they must either win the game outright, or else lose by less than 1.5 goals for your bet to be successful.
In a totals bet, also referred to as over/under betting, you have to choose whether the total number of goals scored by both teams in a game will be over or under a predetermined number chosen by the bookmakers. Even though on betting sites, the over bet will be listed next to one team and the under bet next to another, it is important to remember that these odds refer to the cumulative number of goals score by both teams and are simply laid out like that for better organisation.
If a bookie sets the number of goals to 5.5 for example, and you think that the total number of goals scored will be higher than that, a score of, say, 4-3 will make you a winner. A lower result of 3-2 will result in you losing your bet.
A parlay bet is commonly referred to as an accumulator bet in other parts of the world. This means that you can place multiple selections on the same bet slip. The upside to this is that the odds of each selection are multiplied by each other and can result in some seriously high potential winnings. With great reward comes great risk however, meaning that if you lose just 1 bet out of all your selections, then the whole bet will be lost, and you leave with nothing.
A future bet is a type of outright bet where the bettor predicts an outcome that will occur at the end of the NFL season. By far, the most common type of future bet is predicting the winner of the Stanley Cup. Other examples of this type of bet include guessing who the Eastern or Western Conference winners will be, a team’s leading scorers, and postseason awards. Odds for future bets will be available before the season starts which is when they are most valuable. As the season progresses, these odds will naturally fluctuate according to the performance of the different teams and players – so if you want to make a futures bet, we suggest you do it as early as possible.
What are Some NHL Betting Strategies and Tips?
There are countless bookmakers out there nowadays, each with their own different odds offerings. At the end of the day, you are playing to win and if you do win, you undoubtedly want to get as much profit from your bets as possible. We therefore suggest that before committing to one company, you look at different bookies’ sportsbooks to see who is offering the best odds for the type of bet you are looking to play. There is also nothing which states that you cannot have a registered account with multiple bookmakers to take full advantage of all the best possible odds. Try to also find bets which have value, identifying a team that might have a greater chance of winning than the odds suggest. This skill can take some time to master but we’ve put together this handy, comprehensive guide to get you started.
Do your research
It is not enough to just look at where a team stands in the league table before placing a bet. To increase your chances of winning, you need to make informed choices on your wagers. Do this by researching heavily on the teams you are thinking of playing on. Consider changes to the coach owners, or sponsor and the impact these might have had or important player transfers that took place. If it’s early on in the season, check out the teams’ performances during the pre-season and take note of who is over or underperforming. Additionally, see how two teams match up in their previous head-to-heads – who has won most? Is there a trend of high or low scores? Does one team tend to play better at home or away from home? What about the performances during power plays? By analysing information like this, you will already have a much clearer indication of which direction to go with your bet and increase your chances of getting that all-important win.
They say that a team is only as good as its goaltender. The goaltender (or goalkeeper) is arguably the most important player on the ice and his performance ultimately dictates the score of the game, which is crucial not only for the teams involved, but for bettors everywhere. It is important to familiarise yourself with the goaltender at all times. Before the match, learn who are the strongest, fastest, and most experienced goaltenders out there, and remember that if a team is playing numerous successive games, the goaltender will likely receive a rest day at some point. During the match, keep watch of any nagging injuries that the goaltender of the team you bet on might have so that if this affects the game and worst comes to the worst, you can cash out early and still take home some winnings.
Who’s in and who’s out?
Continuing on the topic of injuries, the fast and physical nature of the NHL makes it a highly injury prone sport. As a result of this, it is highly unlikely that any team will manage to go the whole season without have any of their players out injured. Keeping an eye out on a team’s injury list is of utmost importance for any bettor as even just a couple of injuries to some key players could be enough to topple to the best of teams and change the outcome of the game.
Due to the high physical and demanding nature of ice hockey, the effects of the many successive matches can take their toll on teams throughout the season. If travel schedules are not favourable, and a team has a to play a lot of consecutive games on the road, you can rest assured that this will heavily affect the players’ performances. As a bettor, you should take team travel schedules into consideration when deciding your wagers.
Don’t always bet on your favourite team
You have been supporting them for as long as you can remember and would do anything to see them victorious. But that does not mean that you should always bet in favour of your favourite team. Irrespective of whether your team is a favourite or an underdog, at some point throughout the season, all teams lose or even experience a sustained rough patch. Don’t naively bet in favour of your team when there is everything is stacked against them, just because you eagerly want them to win. Remember, passion can very easily cloud judgement.
Evaluate the consensus
The NHL consensus is effectively a way of observing how other people are betting on the games that you are interested in. Consensus sites such as OddsShark gather this information from multiple betting sites and provide percentages showing which teams are being favoured in the bets. Betting with the public can be a good way of increasing your chances of a win as if many people are betting on one particular team then it could be that there might be some crucial, potentially game-changing piece of information that you might have missed. This is especially helpful when the public bets in favour of a team that is usually an underdog. On the other hand, however, the public is not always right. Nobody knows exactly what the outcome of a match is going to be so ultimately their guesses are as good as yours. These consensuses take into account all bets, which include those of people who have not undertaken any betting research and simply bet on whoever is the favourite to win or on their favourite team without making an informed decision. We therefore suggest to never blindly bet with the consensus and to consider actually betting against the public if you feel that this is the right thing to do.
Who are the Best Bookmakers for NHL Betting
Building on its partnerships with the other major sports leagues, FoxBet is quickly becoming one of the more established betting companies in the American market. This bookmaker’s extensive selection of NHL betting options makes it a must-have on best bookmakers list.
This UK bookmaker has taken the American market by storm and does not look like it will be slowing down any time soon. Offering a wide range of betting options from the standard three-way hockey markets to goalscorer markets, period betting, total match goals and so many more, whatever your preference, you will be sure to find something you love on William Hill.
If fantasy football is more of your thing, then DraftKings is definitely the way to go. This young but vibrant company offers lots of big prizes to its players. With contests running over a period of one day or a few days, all you have to do is pick a sport, create your line-up and start playing! Join a private, friends-only league or go for a head-to-head battle and experience the world of NHL betting like never before!
Did you know?
- Starting from the 2021/22 season there will 32 teams competing in the NHL with the addition of a team from Seattle
- The word ‘national’ in National Hockey League came about because the tournament was originally only contested by Canadian teams and has never been removed
- The highest ever scoring game took place in 1920 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Quebec Bulldogs and finished 16-3 in favour of the Canadiens
- The Montreal Canadiens are the most successful team in the NHL with a whopping 23 Stanley Cup wins. The Toronto Maple Leafs are second with 13 wins
- There are at least a dozen spelling mistakes in the engraving on the Stanley Cup
- After their 1962 win, the Maple Leafs (accidentally) threw the Stanley Cup into a fire
We hope that this NHL betting guide has made you better aware of the different types of bets that are available to you and given some helpful tips and ideas to help you strategize your options accordingly. These tips are the same ones used by our team of experts and we are confidently that when applied properly with strong research, you will see some positive results. The NHL is a league full of excitement and opportunity and we highly encourage you to go and immerse yourself in the world of NHL betting and experience all that it has to offer.