Betting on the NHL Puck Line
Betting on the puck line is hockey’s version of betting on the point spread. Betting the puck line is just like betting on the spread in football or betting on the run line in baseball.
Puck line betting the most popular form of betting on NHL regular season games or NHL playoff series. Read on to learn more about how to beat the books betting on the puck line!
Puck Line Basics
The puck line in hockey is set a +1.5, or -1.5. The puck line will never be more or less than 1 and a half goals at any time.
Hockey games, especially in today’s NHL, are often very tight affairs, and the rigidity of the puck line reflects this. As we’ve noted, the + indicates the underdog, and the – indicates the favorite. In all puck line situations, you are betting on the favorite (-1.5) to win by 2 goals, or the underdog (+1.5) to lose by one goal or win outright. Later on, we’ll go through an example for clarity’s sake.
It is important to recognize that the 0.5, on either outcome, is to avoid the possibility of a push, or a tie. Clearly, sportsbooks want to avoid this as much as they can, and the 0.5 hook ensures that every bet on the puck line will have either a winner or a loser. There are no funky rules in the NHL; a half goal is impossible, under any circumstance.
One way to look at this is to add 1.5 goals to the underdog’s goal total and subtract 1.5 goals from the favorite’s goal total. If after the respective addition or subtraction, a team would win the game, you’ll know you’ve covered the puck line!
Why Bet on the Puck Line
So, what’s the point of the puck line? The puck lines act to level the advantage between two competing teams, and the odds on them are often superior to those offered on the moneyline. Sportsbooks want to encourage equitable betting.
If a team is heavily favored to win, for example, a bettor may wish to bet on them to win, but not at such a disadvantageous price as the moneyline is offering. So, they can get better odds betting on the puck line, but they have to believe that the favored team is going to win the game by at least two goals. Further, in the case of the moneyline, they might not see excellent value on the underdog in this same scenario.
Besides, if you think the game is going to be close, or that the favorite might not churn out a dominant victory, you can always bet the puck line. This way, you have a one-goal margin of error.
Dropping the Puck on the Puck Line
Above, we’ve presented what a sample puck line would look like at your sports betting site of choice. The Vancouver Canucks, in this classic western conference matchup, heading to the Scottrade Center in St. Lous, and are listed as the underdog. St. Louis is listed as the favorite.
If you were to place a bet on the Canucks, you would need them to either lose by a single goal or beat the St. Blues outright. Important to note is that if this game went to the overtime period or the shootout, the Vancouver Canucks would automatically cover the spread. St. Louis winning either in overtime or the shootout would guarantee their margin of victory only being one goal, hence Vancouver covering the spread. The Canucks could lose 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, or 5-4, and they’d still garner you some sweet cash!
If your bet was successful, it would pay out the odds listed, which in this case are +160. If you placed a bet of $100 on the puck line for the Canucks to cover, you would get receive $260, or your $100 stake plus $160 profit. If you were to bet $10, you would receive $26, with $16 of that being profit.
If you were to bet on the St. Louis Blues, they would need to beat the Vancouver Canucks by a minimum of two goals. If St. Louis eeks out a close victory in a one-goal game, or if they win in overtime in the shootout, your bet would be unsuccessful. A score of 2-0, 3-0, 3-1, 4-1, 5-1, etc., would be St. Louis successfully covering the spread.
Since the payout for St. Louis is -150, you would have to bet $150 in order to receive $250. $150 would be your stake, in addition to $100 in profit. If you were to bet $15, you would receive $25, with $10 in profit.
Expert Puck Line Strategy
When placing your bets on the puck line, you should consider many of the same strategies that we outline in our article on NHL playoff betting. However, the one factor that isn’t included in that article, and should be factored into any bet on the NHL’s regular season, is travel schedules.
Obviously, a rested home team will be the favorite against a road team playing their 6th game in 9 nights, in the second half of back to back. However, the more research you do, the more you can analyze a team’s travel schedule and the implications it has for a team’s chances of victory.
If a team is deep in the throes of a 12 game road trip, there’s a good chance their play is going to lag in the second half of it, especially if it crosses time zones. If an eastern team has a road swing in Western Canada (Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver), or California (Kings, Sharks, Ducks, and now the Golden Knights), the chances of them coming out unscathed are next to nothing. Both of these sojourns are notoriously difficult and grueling for too many reasons to list, but performance in the midst of an intense travel schedule should always be factored into any bet you place.
Also of note is that certain teams tend to have better records when they’re on national television. No matter how bad the Leafs were in their down years throughout the mid-2000s and early 2010s, they always put on a show on Hockey Night in Canada; the same can be said for celebrated Original Six teams, like Boston, New York, and Chicago.