Hockey Betting Explained — How To Bet On NHL Games

Betting on hockey

Hockey betting makes one of the most exciting games on the planet that much more exhilarating. The physical fast-paced play on the NHL ice presents a massive menu of hockey odds and action every night plus the added excitement of betting on the playoffs and the Stanley Cup Final, giving you plenty of opportunities to make some bucks off the pucks.

How hockey betting works

Like most team sports, hockey betting allows fans to pick which side they think will win the game. On top of that, bettors can wager on the total number of goals scored as well as numerous alternative odds markets for each game.

How to read hockey odds

The most common hockey betting lines are the moneyline, puck line, and Over/Under goal total.

Moneyline

Betting the moneyline is the most straightforward way to wager on hockey, with oddsmakers simply asking bettors to pick which side they think will win the game. Because not all matchups are equal, each team will be assigned a moneyline which reflects the implied probability of winning the game.

Moneylines are most often displayed in American odds (hundreds). The moneyline favorite will be indicated by a negative (-) value before its moneyline while the underdog will have a positive value attached to its moneyline odds.

Hockey Odds  Moneyline

For example, the favorite to win the game — in this case the Boston Bruins — has a moneyline of -175 which means for every $1 you wish to win you need to risk $1.75 (bet $175 to win $100). The underdog — here, the Dallas Stars — has a moneyline of +155 which means for every $1 risked you could win $1.55 (bet $100 to win $155).

Find out how much money you could win betting NHL moneylines using our easy odds converter and moneyline calculator.

Puck Line

The puck line is hockey’s version of the point spread, in which a certain number of goals are designated as a handicap between the two teams. Due to the low-scoring and routinely close contests in the NHL, the most common puck line is 1.5 goals, with the puck line favorite set at -1.5 and the puck line underdog at +1.5. However, you will find larger puck lines in more one-sided contests.

If a team is designated as the puck line favorite (-1.5) it must win the game by two or more goals to cover the puck line. If a team is a puck line underdog (+1.5) it must win the game outright or lose by less than two goals to cover and win the puck line bet. Attached to each team’s puck line is a set of odds known as the vig or juice, which is the cost of placing that bet.

Hockey Odds   Puck Line

For example, the Bruins are the puck line favorite of -1.5 (+110) in this game, which means for every $1 risked on that puck line you could win $1.10 (bet $100 to win $110) if Boston wins by two or more. The Stars are the puck line underdog at +1.5 (-130), which means for every $1 to want to win you need to risk $1.30 (bet $130 to win $100). The Stars would win the puck line bet if they win outright or lose by one goal.

Over/Under

Over/Under betting in hockey is just like wagering on totals for any other sport. Oddsmakers set an expected total number of goals to be scored by both sides and bettors can wager on whether the final score will go Over or Under that total.

Most NHL Over/Under totals will be set between 5 and 6.5 goals depending on the offenses and defenses involved in the game. Due to the lower-scoring nature of hockey, goal totals don’t move as much as basketball or football Over/Unders but rather see the juice or vig attached to both the Over and Under adjust.

Hockey Odds   Spread (1)

For example, this game has an Over/Under of 5.5 goals set with the Over favored slightly by oddsmakers. That opinion is reflected in the juice, with the Over 5.5 priced at -125 (bet $125 to win $100) and the Under 5.5 set at +105 (bet $100 to win $105).

More popular hockey bets

The growth of NHL betting in North America and around the world has created a bigger demand for hockey odds and sportsbooks have met that with these alternative popular hockey bets.

1

Parlays

NHL parlays allow you to wager a single amount across multiple hockey bets for a larger possible payout. However, all bets included in the parlay must win for the entire parlay to pay out. Even if four of the five bets in the parlay are correct, that single incorrect bet grades the parlay as a loss.

2

Prop bets

NHL prop bets allow you to wager on certain aspects of a game, away from the final score. Hockey prop bets can include odds on an individual team or player performance as well as events and happenings throughout a game.

3

Futures

NHL futures odds are long-running markets that allow you to bet on overall results like odds to win the Stanley Cup, winner of the Eastern or Western Conference, teams’ final points totals, and individual player honors like league-leading scorer or MVP (Hart Trophy).

4

Derivatives

NHL derivative odds allow hockey bettors to wager on certain segments of a game, such as first-period goal totals and moneylines as well as which team will lead after two periods.

Hockey betting tips and strategies

NHL odds are on the board every night during the hockey season. With so many options, make sure you’re using the best NHL betting strategies with these valuable tips:

Matchups Matchups

You’ll want to start by measuring each team’s strengths and weaknesses and how those compare to their opponents.

For example, if a team plays physically but often finds itself in the penalty box, a matchup against one of the best power-play attacks could be damning. Or, a team with a thin blue line could get into trouble versus an opponent with deep forward rotations.

Starting goalies are also key when measuring NHL matchups. Goaltenders will get hot and cold during the schedule, so make sure to weigh in on recent results more heavily than their season-long stats.

Covers Global Two Color Bandage Injuries

Injuries play a massive role when betting on NHL odds. The grueling nature of the game as well as the wear and tear of a demanding schedule will see players in and out for short and long periods of time.

Hockey bettors will want to take a close examination of how an injured player will change the dynamic of a team and how much of its success depends on that missing piece.

For example, an injured offensive-minded defenseman could be key to the special teams and take away a club’s edge with the man advantage. Or, losing a second-line winger could force a coach to juggle his forward corps and break up any chemistry with his regular scoring lines. 

Line Movement Line movement

Like betting on any sport, getting the best of the odds is as important as which team you’re betting on. NHL odds are fluid and will react to results, injuries and action, with betting lines moving from their opening to the second before the puck drops. 

Tracking NHL line movement and knowing when to get the best number for your opinion is one of the most important hockey betting strategies, especially if you’re wagering on NHL action every night.

Covers Global Two Color Whistle Referees

Handicapping referees is an undervalued method of discovering an edge in the odds. NHL referees and linesmen all have their unique tendencies, especially when it comes to calling penalties.

Some refs will allow for more physical play, which gives an advantage to bigger, stronger teams that rely on the forecheck and dump-and-chase styles of play. Other officials are quicker on the whistle and promote a more wide-open brand of hockey, which suits quicker and more finesse teams and could produce higher-scoring finishes.

Recognizing the referees’ tendencies and monitoring the nightly officiating assignments is a sharp way to get the edge over the NHL oddsmakers.

Hockey Stick Trends

NHL betting trends can help point you in the direction of value. Long-standing trends can sometimes be misleading, as teams, players and coaches change season to season. But season-focused trends and recent trending results – especially those with a narrative or clear explanation – can be very profitable.

Hockey has a busier schedule, with teams in action three or four times a week, which means those trends will carry over from game to game more often, compared to trends for football which sees a week between contests.

Free Picks Free picks

If you’re just learning how to bet on hockey or need some help with your NHL bets, you can also find informed Free Picks at Covers Experts.

There are a number of smart and savvy hockey betting experts that share their insights and strategies for each day’s biggest NHL betting matchups. You can use the write-ups behind the Free Picks to get inside the thought process of professional handicappers.

Covers Global Two Color Money Situational spot bets

Home and away splits, as well as recent schedule demands, will impact results too. Be mindful of how differently a team can play depending on the venue or if it is currently in a daunting stretch of schedule, such as long road trips or coming off an extended break in the action.

Hockey teams can sometimes fall into “lookahead” and “letdown” spots during the season, either suffering a letdown in the game immediately following a notable victory or looking past a weaker opponent and focusing more on an upcoming marquee matchup.

Today's NHL odds

Here are the latest NHL odds for the biggest upcoming matchups:

Ready to bet on hockey?

If you think you’re ready to start betting on hockey, you can try your luck at one of Covers’ free-to-play contests for the chance to win cash and prizes or you can start placing real-money NHL bets at trusted sportsbooks.

Free NHL betting contest

Want to try before you buy? Our King of Covers NHL contest lets you make free hockey bets without depositing your money at a sportsbook. Bet the moneyline and Over/Unders throughout the 2021 NHL season for the chance to win cash and prizes.

NHL betting forum

Want to learn more about NHL betting and meet a large, knowledgeable community? Check out Covers’ NHL betting forum to get picks, ask questions, and learn from experienced sports bettors.

Instant replay: Hockey betting

If you’re learning how to bet on hockey, remember these key points:

  • Moneylines, puck lines, and Over/Under totals are the most common hockey bets.
  • You can bet on which team will win the Stanley Cup with NHL futures odds.
  • Starting goalies and hot/cold streaks are vital to handicapping the nightly NHL odds.
  • Knowing referee assignments and tendencies can uncover hidden betting value.
  • Scout the schedule for home/away splits and situational spot bet angles.

Hockey betting FAQs

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