Learn How to Bet on Hockey
NHL Betting Guide: Tips, Terms, and Sportsbooks
How to Bet On Hockey Guide
The NHL had its inaugural season in 1917 and hasn't looked back since, becoming the standout professional hockey league in the world and the host of the best players in the world. From the. "Original Six" to now 32 teams as of 2021, the NHL has grown exponentially over the last century, both on the ice and in people's hearts.
Unlike the other top sports in the world, there's no ball to follow in hockey. The unique use of a puck on ice in hockey gives the game a different betting edge. But that also makes it even more important to understand the game. Learn how to bet on hockey, responsibly, here.
NHL Betting 101: The Hockey Betting Basics
There are three different answers you may want when trying to figure out how to bet on hockey:
- “I see Avalanche -180 and Blues +160. What on earth does that mean?
- “I know how to bet and what all those numbers mean, but I don’t know where to bet.”
- “I know how to bet, but I want to sharpen my handicapping skills and become a more profitable hockey bettor.”
Let’s start with the basics.
How Do Moneyline Odds Work?
The most popular bet in hockey is the moneyline, which requires you to pick the winner of the game. But it’s not a 50-50 proposition in most cases – you won’t get paid the same for taking the Lightning to beat the Devils in Tampa as you would for taking the Lightning to beat the Avalanche in Colorado, given the ability of each team.
So each team is assigned moneyline odds by the sportsbook based on their ability, and bettors have to pay a corresponding price. Here’s how they work:
- Lightning -300
- Devils +250
American odds like these are centered around $100. So if you bet $300 on the Lightning at -300, you’d win $100 if Tampa wins. If you bet $100 on the Devils at +250 and they win, you’d win $250.
You don’t have to bet $100, of course. If you bet $3 on Tampa, you’d win $1. Bet $1 on the Devils, win $2.50.
Are There Point Spreads in Hockey?
In football and basketball, the most popular betting option is the point spread – it’s a bet on the margin of victory in that game. Because hockey is lower-scoring, the spread (called the puck line) is almost always -1.5 and +1.5 goals, with corresponding odds depending on team ability. So the favorite needs to win by 2 goals to win a -1.5 bet, and the underdog can lose by 1 or win the game to cash a +1.5 bet.
Let’s use that same example from above.
- Lightning -1.5 (-110)
- Devils +1.5 (-110)
Because Tampa is so much better than New Jersey, sportsbooks are saying it’s about a 50-50 chance that they win by 2 goals or more.
For more evenly-matched teams, you can get big prices on the -1.5 side, and you’ll have to pay up to bet the +1.5 side.
- Panthers -1.5 (+200)
- Bruins +1.5 (-240)
Remember, at +200, you’re risking $1 and winning $2. That means it’s less likely to happen, because these two teams are closer in ability.
What About Over/Unders?
The second most popular betting option in hockey is wagering on the total (aka the over/under).
You’re betting on the total goals scored by both teams going over or under the number set by sportsbooks.
Most NHL totals in 2022 are set at 6 or 6.5, with some at 7 (particularly in Panthers games) and some at 5 and 5.5 for lower-scoring teams like the Islanders.
The Oilers-Penguins total on April 27, 2022 was 6.5. Edmonton won 5-1. That means anyone who took the under cashed their bet because only 6 goals were scored. If the total was 6, it would be a push and all bets get refunded.
But depending on the teams and situation, you may have to risk a different amount on the over or under.
Oilers vs. Penguins
- Total: 6.5
- Over odds: -125
- Under odds: +105
Like the moneyline example above, you have to pay more for betting the over than the under. Sportsbooks and bettors have determined the game going over 6.5 is more likely than it going under.
For every $1.25 risked, you’d win $1. For every $1 risked on the under, you’d win $1.05.
Rangers vs. Canadiens
- Total: 6.5
- Over odds: -105
- Under odds: -115
Sportsbooks believe it’s more likely the game goes under than over, so you have to pay a bit more to take the under.
Totals are not just limited to the full game. You can bet the first period over/under (set at 1.5 or 2), alternate totals, and more.
Tips for Betting on Playoff Hockey
For additional explanation, you can explore the articles below.
Best Sportsbooks for Hockey Betting
Different sportsbooks provide different odds when it comes to games lines, player props, futures and more. Take a look at our options and picks on where to go for your different NHL bets to find those best odds, so you can make the most profit.
NHL Futures Betting Odds
Futures betting lets you select champions, awards and more across different parts of the NHL ahead of time, meaning you'll get huge odds and the potential to win big at a smaller risk margin. Futures can be bet on at nearly any point in a season, but you'll find the best odds during the preseason -- which also makes predicting things like who will raise the Stanley Cup or be named MVP even more fun when you make the call before the season's even started.
NHL Betting Odds
It's no secret that the NHL has fallen down the ranks among American sports fans and is barely considered a part of the "Top 4" leagues anymore. But hockey continues to be one of the most competitive and physical sports out there, and the NHL is the top league in the world to see it on display. The Stanley Cup is the oldest existing trophy to be awarded in a professional sports franchise in North America and to win it is every hockey player's dream.
Now a jam-packed league now with 32 teams in the running, the NHL is set to make a comeback and provide us with arguably the most electric set of playoff bouts in all of sports.
NHL Pacific Division Betting
The Pacific Division has been a competitive one, to say the least in the last decade or so, with the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, the San Jose Sharks representing the West in the Cup in 2016, and the Vegas Golden Knights doing the same in 2018 -- their inaugural season. The Vancouver Canucks made it to the Cup the year prior as well.
Now with another new team in the mix in the Seattle Kraken, the Pacific looks to return with teams making deep playoff runs and once again hoisting the trophy.
|Pacific Division Teams|
Seattle Kraken Odds
NHL Central Division Betting
Like the Pacific, the Central Division has also seen a number of successful runs to the Stanley Cup in recent years. Since 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks have raised Lord Stanley's Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015), while the St. Louis Blues won it all in 2019. Even looking back 15 years ago, the Anaheim Ducks won the Cup in 2007. The Nashville Predators came up short in the final playoff round of 2017, while the Dallas Stars fell short in 2020.
Who will be the next one out of this group to represent the Central Division and even claim the Stanley Cup as theirs?
|Central Division Teams
NHL Metropolitan Division Betting
A division run by arguably two of the most well-known veterans in the league in Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin, their teams have been in control, for the most, as well. In addition to a Stanley Cup win back in 2009, the Penguins won back-to-back championships from 2016-17, followed by the Capitals winning their first-ever title a year later. The Philadelphia Flyers (2010), New York Rangers (2012) and New Jersey Devils (2014) lost championships two years apart from each other, but have otherwise been quiet.
The Metropolitan Division has some big names and even bigger franchises, but do they have enough to compete for the Stanley Cup in the near future?
|Metropolitan Division Teams|
NHL Atlantic Division Betting
Looking at the outside of the Metropolitan Division is the Atlantic Division, home to the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. For one year only, we were able to see teams from the same division compete against each other in the Cup when we saw the Montreal Canadiens fall to Tampa last season. You can expect the Boston Bruins to compete at any moment, winning it all in 2011 and falling just short in 2013 and 2019. The rest of the division has some catching up to do outside the Lightning and Bruins.
|Atlantic Division Teams
NHL Betting Tools & Utility
Figuring out the correct wager you want to place on a straight bet can be tough based on the odds, and gets even harder when you want to create one of your favorite 10-leg parlays. The Action Network's got you covered with out betting odds calculator that will do the math for you!
Hockey's version of a spread bet in the "puck line" or how many goals scored separate the winning team and losing team. With hockey such a competitive game that often finish in just one goal separating the two sides, lines are most often -1.5 (favorite)/+1.5 (underdog).
It's always a good idea to check out what the public consensus is on a particular game you're thinking of betting on. The Action Network has you covered here as well. Side with the public or fade them to get an edge. Win or lose, make your choice.
Sometimes, having experts share their insights on a game can help you take a side in a game you're undecided on. The Action Network has a panel of experts that share their takes and hockey picks on every game being played on the ice each day. Take a look at their records and history, and see who you'd like to follow or fade as the season moves forward.
You want to get the best bang for your buck when betting on a game, but it's tough to tap through each sportsbook on your phone to find the best line. The Action Network's NHL Odds comparison tool will show you all the lines available for the biggest sportsbooks out there, as well as the two best options on each side of a game.
Injuries are a part of any sport, and besides for the implications they have on the ice, they can also effect betting lines and how you should wager on a game. Keeping track of injuries every day can be tough, so check out The Action Network's NHL Injury Report each day to make sure you don't suffer a bad beat that could've been avoided.