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NHL betting basics

Betting on the NHL is a great way to add excitement to the game and get more out of this hockey season. But figuring out the mechanics of how to be a successful bettor can often be complicated and confusing, so we’ve put together this simple guide covering all the NHL betting tips you need to be successful.

From straightforward bets like the NHL moneyline and puck line, all the way to the complex world of parlays, we’ve got you covered. If you want to learn how to bet on hockey this season, start here.

Single Game NHL Bets

The first bets you’ll encounter at your online sportsbook will be puck line bets, moneyline bets, and totals bets. All of these bets require you to wager on the outcome of a single game, and they are great places to start as you learn how to bet on the NHL.

Undoubtedly, this is where most of the money falls in online NHL betting, and once you understand the structure and operation of the single-game bets you’ll be equipped with a solid foundation to read and analyze the entire breadth of NHL lines.

Betting the Puck Line

To begin, let’s look at an example of how the puck line, total, and over/under will read on a typical NHL line at your sports betting site of choice.

Betting on the puck line is directly analogous to betting on the run line in baseball, or betting against the spread in football. You might also hear the puck line referred to as NHL spread betting or hockey point spread betting. The underlying mechanics are identical to betting on the spread in any other major North American professional league.

The puck line is unique because you are not betting on an outright winner or loser. Betting the favorite means that they must win by a specified number of goals, while betting on the underdog means they have to not lose by the specific number of goals.

Let’s take a look at an example.

The Puck Line in Practice

Tampa Bay Lighting Spread: -1.5 (-110) Moneyline -175 Total 5.5 (-110) o

Washington Capitals Spread +1.5 (-110) Moneyline +150 Total 5.5 (-110) u

The betting line above might look a little complicated at first, so let’s walk through the pieces to see what’s what.

Puck line odds are listed as the ‘spread’ and the team with the negative number next to it, the Tampa Bay Lightning, is the favorite. If you were to bet on the Tampa Bay Lighting, they’d have to beat Ovechkin’s Capitals by at least two goals in order to cover the puck line, as indicated by the -1.5 and +1.5 next to each team name.

Another way of understanding the puck line would be to subtract 1.5 goals from Tampa’s final score and see if they still win the game. For example, if the Lightning won by a score of 4-2, they would still win the game. However, if they were to win 5-4, they would not have covered the puck line.

Conversely, if you bet on Washington, they would either have to win the game outright or lose by less than 1 goal in order for your bet to success. A “+” sign in front of the puck line will denote the underdog.

When betting the puck line, you are always taking the favorite to win by two or more goals. With any other outcome, the underdog covers and wins the bet.

The puck line will always include a half goal to avoid the possibility of a tie, or a “push,” and these half points are referred to as the “hook.” Either team scoring a half goal is impossible, which ensures that every bettor will either win or lose their wager. The NHL puck line is always set at +/-1.5.

Due to the low total score typically seen in hockey, especially in the post-lockout NHL (hovering around 5.5 for the last 8 or so years), it just doesn’t make sense for sportsbooks to create a larger spreads on the puckline. In practice, this means that bettors will always have the option to bet on the favorite to win by two goals (or more), or they can bet on the underdog to lose by no more than one goal or win outright.

Betting the NHL Moneyline

The most straightforward NHL bet is unquestionably the moneyline. When you place a bet on the moneyline, you’re betting on who is going to win the game straight up. There are no contingencies and victory is all that matters!

Tampa Bay Lighting Spread: -1.5 (-110) Moneyline -175 Total 5.5 (-110) o

Washington Capitals Spread +1.5 (-110) Moneyline +150 Total 5.5 (-110) u

Similar to the puck line, the team that has a “+” sign on next to its moneyline number is the underdog, while the team with “-“ next to its moneyline number is regarded as the favorite. These figures mark your potential payout, as well as the probability that your sportsbook has assigned to each team’s prospective chances of winning the game.

When you bet the NHL moneyline, you’re betting on who is going to win the game straight up.

In some cases, both teams will have “-“ signs next to them; in this case, the team with a number closer to 0 should be regarded as the favorite, i.e., – 105 would be the favorite over – 120.

A positive moneyline indicates how much money you would win if you were to bet $100; a negative moneyline shows you how much money you would have to bet in order to win $100.

If you were to bet on a negative moneyline (i.e. Tampa Bay Lighting, at -175), you’re required to bet $175 in order to win $100. Conversely, if you bet $100 on the Washington Capitals, you’d walk away with $250 ($100 from your stake, and $150 of profit) if they win the game.

If you need a more detailed reminder on how to read moneyline odds and how they affect your payout, read this moneyline article.

Totals Betting

Totals betting, also known as the over/under, is just as a simple to understand as the puck line and the NHL moneyline. For a totals bet, you are simply betting on whether the total score of both teams combined will be above or below a certain number. It is very rare that this number will be different from 5.5, but there are some exceptions to this rule.

Take the 5.5 seen in our sample line. If you were to bet the over, you’d be wagering that Tampa Bay and Washington would score 6 goals or more combined. Like the puck line, half goals eliminate any chance of a “push,” or a tie.

When betting totals (aka over/under), you are simply betting on whether the total score of both teams combined will be over or under a certain number.

You’ll notice that the odds are the same whether you choose to take the over or the under (as indicated by the -110 next to them). This number indicates the payout. The -110 odds seen here are an industry standard for totals betting. Because the sportsbook has set the totals number to result in 50-50 chances, there’s no need to set different odds for each outcome. There are some exceptions to this rule, but you can generally expect to put down $110 if you want to win $100.

Multiple Game Bets

Betting on the NHL becomes a little more complicated as soon as more than one game is involved; with a more significant number of games included, there are a higher number of variables. However, with a high number of variables, comes the chance of a much higher payout. That’s why multiple game NHL bets are a favorite of “sharps,” as they offer massive monetary rewards when successful.

NHL Parlays

A parlay is any type of bet that involves more than one specific event; this can be within a single game, or across several games. When you parlay the outcome of multiple games, you are betting that all of the outcomes will occur as you’ve predicted.

Tampa Bay Lighting Spread: -1.5 (-110) Moneyline -175 Total 5.5 (-110) o

Washington Capitals Spread: +1.5 (-110) Moneyline +150 Total 5.5 (-110)

Toronto Maple Leafs Spread: -1.5 (-110) Moneyline -200 Total 5.5 (-110) o

Florida Panthers Spread: +1.5 (-110) Moneyline +165 Total 5.5 (-110) u

Let’s look at our sample line once more to see a hockey parlay in action. Thanks to parlays, its possible to bet on both the Washington Capitals winning the game, and the total being over 5.5. If you wanted to add another event to that stake, say, the Panthers beating the Leafs, that would be possible as well. The more constituent events you tack onto your parlay, the greater your potential payout.

The reward for guessing every event in your parlay correctly can be massive, but it’s important to know that there’s no pot of gold waiting for you if you predict three out of four events correctly, or even nine out of ten events. In order to be successful, every single event within your parlay must be a winner. Consequently, you can stand to win a huge amount of money on a relatively small wager, but that’s only because the probability of every event within your parlay going your way is quite small.

Parlays can involve any number of combinations of moneyline, puck line, or over/under bets from either one game or multiple games. However, very few sportsbooks will let you include a bet on both the moneyline and the puck line of the same game. Sportsbooks do this to protect their financial interests and mitigate potential losses.

NHL Prop Bets

NHL Prop Betting, or propositional betting, allows you to wager on specific players and events within the game. The options for what specifically you can bet on vary from sportsbook to sportsbook, but bets like who scores the first goal of the game, if a player will score a goal, etc. are nearly unanimous as NHL prop lines.

Prop bets are often simple yes/no affairs, asking you to wager on whether or not a certain event will transpire during the course of a game.

NHL Futures Bets

Sportsbooks open lines on a variety of futures bets before the start of every NHL season: the winner of the cup, conference titles, and the destinations of marquee free agents, just to name a few. Betting the over/under on a teams win totals for the season is another popular futures bet.

Additional futures bets include individual player awards; these will also allow you to select a “FIELD” option, offering flexibility if you believe a player stands to win who is not listed as an option.

Further, if two marquee players are traded for each other (think something of the magnitude of Weber for Subban, Eberle for Strome, not Reaves for Sundqvist), sportsbooks may offer a futures bet of which player will end up with more points, assists, or goals at the conclusion of the season.

For the most part, sportsbooks will close futures bets once the season begins.

NHL Futures: Playoff Bets

Betting on the NHL playoffs is an undoubtedly the most popular form of NHL futures betting, despite the fact that these lines don’t open until NHL playoff seeding has officially been determined. Many sportsbooks will allow you to bet on the winner of not only individual series, but also of respective conferences. In addition, bets on who will win the Stanley Cup are offered again, often at significantly different odds than were available when the season commenced.

Betting on the NHL playoffs is an extremely popular form of NHL futures betting. Many sportsbooks will allow you to bet on the eventual winner of the playoff round as the series progresses, in addition to the winners of specific games.

In Game NHL Bets

While this feature is not ubiquitous quite yet, the best hockey betting sites are beginning to offer live betting on the NHL. As the name suggests, this means placing bets on games that have already started. Just like betting on a game before it starts, you are given the option of betting on the moneyline, puck line, and totals. However, the puck line and odds will be modified in real-time, predicated on both the changing score of the game and the volume of bets.

Enjoy the NHL Action this Year

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re prepared to jump into the exciting world of NHL betting. If you’re looking for more helpful tips and tricks, make sure to review the rest of the hockey articles in our how to bet on sports section.

Once you’ve gotten a bit of experience with the basics of hockey betting, find more advanced strategic considerations in our sports betting strategy section to find specific ways to approach NHL playoffs betting and more.

As always, be sure to bet within your limits and enjoy this action this season!