Tips & Strategies to Win NHL Puck Line Bets

NHL puck lines are like point spreads for hockey and even the betting odds between two teams.

Oct 4, 2022 • 08:02 ET
Dallas Stars defenseman Esa Lindell (23) and defenseman Miro Heiskanen (4) and left wing Michael Raffl (18) and center Luke Glendening (11) and right wing Denis Gurianov (34) celebrate a goal by Raffl against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period
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Sometimes betting a big NHL favorite to win doesn’t make much sense given the odds. Good thing nearly every NHL sportsbook offers puck line betting markets that resemble a point spread in football or a baseball run line. 

It’s a great market with better odds. A team has to win by more than one goal (-1.5) or not lose by two or more goals (+1.5).

What is a puck line?

Puck line betting is wagering on a team to win by more than one goal or not lose by more than one goal. Favorites are listed with a negative value before their line (-1.5), while underdogs are listed with a positive value (+1.5). It’s a two-way market, meaning there are only two betting options on a puck line bet: -1.5 or +1.5. 

Let’s say the favorite will win easily. Puck line betting will always have better odds than the moneyline and is a great way to turn our wagers into more money. However, if we pick a team to win at -1.5 and it wins by a single goal, our -1.5 will lose (it won’t cover the spread) as it didn’t win by more than 1.5 goals.

How does puck line betting work

It may seem a little complicated so let’s use this example below to help further explain puck line betting. In this game between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks, the Rangers are the favorite with a -1.5 puck line (spread). That means if New York wins by more than one goal, a bet on the Rangers' puck line would be graded as a winner. However, if the Rangrs won by a single goal or lost the game, bettors who took the Canucks with their +1.5 puck line would win. If the game goes into overtime, the +1.5 puck line bet will win as it’s impossible to win an NHL OT game by more than a goal. 

The value in NHL puck line betting carries a little more weight in hockey than spread bets in other sports due to empty-net goals late in games. 

Team Puck line
Rangers  New York Rangers -1.5 (+180)
Canucks  Vancouver Canucks +1.5 (-225)

Vig or juice: The cost of placing a bet

The odds beside the puck line are the cost of placing a bet, also known as the vig or juice.  In the example above, we have the underdog Canucks with a vig of -225, which means to win $100, a bettor would have to stake $225. Conversely, the favorite Rangers have a vig of +180, meaning for every $100 wagered, a bettor stands to win $180. 

Sportsbooks calculate the costs depending on the matchup. If one team was a heavy favorite, their puck-line vig might move into negative odds. Still, just one or two goals decide many NHL games, so vigs are often opposed to their favorite or underdog status on the puck line.

Three-way puck line betting

Three-way puck line betting is a non-traditional NHL market that more resembles soccer three-way handicap betting. There are three possible wagers in an NHL three-way, puck line bet, and overtime does not count: The favorite at -1, the underdog at +1, or a tie at +1. 

The underdog can win or tie for the +1 to win. The favorite needs to win by two or more goals for the -1 to win. 

Three-way lines are not one of the more popular NHL betting markets, and remember: it doesn’t include overtime.  

When to bet the puck line

Puck line betting can be decided in the final seconds of a game and is one of the most exciting bets to win. There is plenty of value in taking teams to win by more than a goal in the NHL. 

How and when to bet the puck line depends a lot on the bettor. Some bettors like to play puck lines of heavy favorites whose moneyline price is too low, but the puck line odds are closer to +100 or even money. 

Other bettors have no problem hitting the -1.5 puck line on an evenly matched game which can pay out much higher odds if the -1.5 team can win by two or more goals. Live betting on puck lines is also a common practice for hockey bettors.

Live betting NHL puck lines

A widespread puck line betting strategy is to bet on a team with a one or two-goal lead late in the game — around the 15-minute mark or five minutes left. NHL teams will pull their goalies if they are trailing by one or two goals (not usually by three). 

Tailing teams often pull goalies in the game’s final two minutes, which gives the leading team a chance to score in an empty net and cover live -1.5 and -2.5 puck lines. 

Bettors need to be proactive to take advantage of this, as the sportsbook will take down all bets with around three minutes remaining in the game.

Differences between puck line and moneyline

Because so many NHL games are decided by one goal, the odds associated with puck lines can seen a little counterintuitive. In the example below, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the clear moneyline favorite at -235, but their odds of beating the Montreal Canadiens by more than 1.5 goals (more than a goal) are actually offered at even money (+100), and Montreal's odds of losing by more than a goal is minus money at -120.

Team Moneyline Puck line
Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs -235 -1.5 (+100)
Canadiens Montreal Canadiens +195 +1.5 (-120)

Puck line betting tips and strategies

There are a handful of ways to bet NHL puck lines, with some being more conventional than others. Let’s take a look at how to bet on hockey puck lines

Odds Shopping Odds Shopping

Much like any other bet, we should always shop around and find the best price. Sometimes, while doing this, we will encounter significant price discrepancies that we should take advantage of; these include puck line bets. 

Hit the NHL odds page to quickly look at puck line prices and how they compare across the board to find the most valuable odds for your bet, or maybe find a book that is late to move a line.

Line-ups and injuries Line-ups and injuries

Like in any other sport, making intelligent bets is the most critical thing a bettor can do. Knowing which players are in a line-up or which goalie is starting gives us an edge when handicapping hockey. 

If we check out the Covers matchup page and find out a team is sitting its best offensive player, we might think twice about hitting that team on the puck line. Also, if we know a goalie has been struggling and is getting the start, perhaps we’d want to take his opponent on the -1.5 puck line. The more information we have, the better.

Trends Trends

Some teams are better at covering the puck line, while others, although heavy favorites have a knack for winning one-goal games. Empty net goals (ENGs) are a big part of this, and knowing which teams score and give up ENGs is a vital tool for puck line bettors.

Also, knowing the rate at which teams have been covering — or their ATS (against the spread) record — is valuable knowledge and can be found on the Covers’ trends page.

NHL betting tips and strategies

Make smarter NHL bets with Covers. These guides dive into other ways you can bet on NHL action:

Puck line FAQs

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