Pucks 101: Betting on NHL games

As sports betting continues to expand throughout the United States, so do sports betting options. While the “big three” of football, basketball, and baseball continue to be the primary drivers, don’t sleep on the NHL.

Betting on hockey offers many of the same in-game and full-game options of its more popular brethren, ranging from the simple of money line betting on the outcome to more advanced wagers, such as a game’s first goal-scorer. The shootout adds an underrated element of challenge with the potential to flip an over/under outcome, and like soccer, there is the high risk-high reward offer of predicting an exact score.

So without any further ado, let us dig into some of the do’s and do not’s of placing bets involving NHL games.

Still the Most Important “Do Not” of Them All

The first rule of thumb is the one that transcends the type of sport and applies to all betting: DO NOT bet beyond your means! If you bet games on a budget, stay on that budget.

Do Check Social Media for Probable Starting Goaltenders

Starting goaltenders in hockey are akin to starting pitchers in baseball. They are the central figures of the game because they control the action of the game. Almost every team has a morning skate before their scheduled game, and usually, the team’s beat reporters are able to project who the starting goaltender is from that practice session.

The clues vary — sometimes it is the first goaltender off the ice, sometimes the side of the rink the goaltender is practicing before a home game — but unless either netminder is carrying an injury or the coach has already stated he will make a game-time decision, the beat reporters’ projections carry a high degree of accuracy.

Do Realize Injury Reports Will be Vague

Because hockey is a fast-paced game and involves multiple body parts as players skate at high speeds, any sort of injury will impact a player. And because hockey is a contact sport, knowing a player’s specific injury is a competitive advantage. That is not saying a team will rough up an opposing injured player, but a player who is less than 100 percent can be exploited. Realize the terms “lower-body injury” and “upper-body injury” are standard operating procedure in the NHL.

Do Know Coaches Will Ride the Hot Hand

Call this the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. If a forward line is clicking offensively, the coach will stay with that line until it dries up offensively. The same especially holds true between the pipes, where a goaltender could make consecutive starts for a month if a schedule breaks right and he’s on point. The former, though, is the one that takes prevalence for betting purposes.

A hot line offers two and sometimes three quality any-time goal-scorer options, often with a decent return. A good line will also be kept together on a power play, providing more chances to cash in picking one or more of those players.

Do Remember the Overtime and Shootout Adds 1 to the Total Goals

While no one quibbles with overtime, the shootout is — depending on your point of view — either the best or worst way to decide a regular-season hockey game. It is also the most maddening part of betting on NHL over/unders. There are few ways worse to lose a bet than remembering the hook means little when you’re a half-goal under and the game is tied at the regulation.

Do Realize a Team’s No. 2 Goaltender Will Likely Start on the Back End of Games on Consecutive Nights

This holds true especially early in the season when coaches are loathe to overburden their starting goaltenders. There are not many instances when teams play on back-to-back nights — it ranges from 10 to 15 occasions per season — and depending on the matchup of the teams involved in addition the goaltenders involved, there are opportunities to find favorable odds on over/under plays and goal-scorers.

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(Connor McDavid photo courtesy Edmonton Oilers official Twitter account)