NHL Guide for New Bettors

Whether you are a lifelong hockey fan or just browsing through the list of sports on your favorite sports betting site, you may suddenly become inclined to bet on a hockey game. It is not a bad idea. The winter game is simple and complicated at the same time while remaining beautiful throughout.

Furthermore, the American hockey league is the premier standard for the sport all over the world. The players are skilled, the gameplay is steady and the mistakes are few. In total, there are 31 teams from both America and Canada in the NHL. 

The NHL is similar to other American sports leagues in that the league itself is fairly even. However, it is different in that the popularity in America is still lagging behind other leagues such as the NFL, NBA and the MLB.

Due to this, sportsbooks will often not spend as much time creating the odds for the games. This gives you, the bettor, a big advantage if you know what to look for. You will also be able to find lower betting limits on NHL games, suggesting that the bookmakers are not as comfortable in general with hockey as they are with football or basketball.

Here we will go through some types of hockey bets you will come across, variations of the bets and provide tips for winning these bets. 

Popular NHL Markets 

The Puck Line: this is the equivalent of the run line in baseball or the spread in football. To win this bet, the team the player bet on must win the game even after factoring in the additional or sub-tractional 1.5 goals provided by the bookmaker.

Even though the number is subject to change in other leagues like 3.5 or 7.5 in the NFL, in hockey the puck line will always remain at 1.5. If the number is positive, then that team is perceived to be the underdog, the opposite is true for a negative number.

The team will have the puck line and the odds next to it listed in the sportsbook. For example, Boston +1.5 (-110); Pittsburgh -1.5 (-110). 

Even though the number is subject to change in other leagues like 3.5 or 7.5 in the NFL, in hockey the puck line will always remain at 1.5.

In this scenario, Boston is denoted as the weaker team, and Pittsburgh as the favorite. In order for Pittsburgh to win this bet, they need to win the game by two or more goals. This necessity is often called ‘covering the spread’.

To make it easier, you could just subtract two goals from Pittsburgh’s final score. If after doing this they still come out with a win you will profit from your wager. Boston, on the other hand, simply needs to not lose by more than one goal. A win or a one-goal loss would still earn you a profit on your bet. 

There is actually a good reason that sportsbooks will add .5 to the puck line. This way, there is no possibility of the player ‘tying’ the sportsbook. If the puck line was only +1 and Boston lost by only one goal, the score would be tied and the player would receive a full refund of their stake. To avoid having to do this, the .5 will be added to just about every puck line you come across. 

Important to note that many NHL games are decided by one goal only. So although the payout will be higher it can be a major risk to bet the puck line in the NHL. The teams are often more even than the lines would suggest. So go ahead and double check your information on the game before placing one of these bets. 

NHL Moneyline

This is the least complicated bet that you can make on the NHL. Here, you are simply betting on which team will win the game. That is it! There are no other factors involved when betting on the moneyline.

If the team you bet on records a W in the win-loss column after the game has ended, then you will also record a W in your betting history. As in most games, there will be a team that is favored to win the game. Betting on the favorite without a handicap (puck line) will result in lower odds and a lower return. 

Winning a bet on the moneyline is purely based on your knowledge of the teams involved on that particular day.

Some of the most important things to note are how many penalties a team averages a game, previous matchups between the teams and each team’s injuries for that night.

Power Plays are very important in hockey not just because they give the power-play team a great chance to score, but they can completely change the momentum of the game.

Often power plays will last beyond the allotted penalty time, with the penalized team continuing to gasp for air and fight off the opponents constant attacks.

A team that has a low average of penalties given means less two-minute nightmares that you will have to endure.  

The NHL is a familiar league. What I mean by that is each of the teams along with the players know each other very well. This is especially true for divisional rivals.

If, when looking at the record between two teams, you notice that each team wins as often as they lose then that night’s game will likely be an even matchup.

Even if one team is on a current hot streak, expect both to play as equals and to witness a tight game. One single deflected shot or bad call can make one team the winner. 

Lastly, injuries are more common in hockey than in other sports. Be sure that you know who is available for the game you are betting on and who is not. The chemistry of an offensive line is sacred and an injury could immediately break it up.

With a new player being thrown in, the entire line could become ineffective if the three players are not on the same page. Other things to look at include home/away records, goalie matchups and previous league games. 

Totals Betting (over/under) 

As in other sports, this market offers the player a chance to bet on how many goals will be scored in the game.

The bookmaker will provide a standard number of goals for the game and the player needs to choose whether the actual number of goals will be more or less than the listed number.

This is a popular betting market for all sports not just hockey. A typical line for this market would look like this: Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: over 5.5/ Under 5.5. 

In other sports there are many different number variations for these two markets but with the number of goals being scored in the NHL remaining fairly constant (even declining the last 20 years), bookmakers have felt no pressure to adjust it.

The same .5 will be added to these numbers to prevent ties, however the number 5.5 will normally remain the same like the puck line. There are exceptions where you can see different numbers used here.

In other sports there are many different number variations for these two markets but with the number of goals being scored in the NHL remaining fairly constant (even declining the last 20 years), bookmakers have felt no pressure to adjust it.

To win this bet, the player will need to correctly guess whether the total number of goals in the game will be higher or lower than the number provided by the bookmaker. 

This is a bet that does not involve either of the teams but simply the number of goals scored. So after making this bet, the player has the ability to cheer for or against both of the teams playing.

This can make the game a lot more nerve-racking as there is usually not a clear favorite for over or under like in the moneyline or puck line.

You will have to do some homework to make a clearer picture. Looking at each teams’ defensemen or goalies can give you a good idea of how many goals are likely to be scored. 

There are usually a few similar bets available on sports betting sites, especially ones with an extensive hockey section. These include guessing the exact number of goals to be scored in the game.

This is usually given in a range like 1-2 goals, 3-4 goals, etc. You can also find individual over/under bets on the number of goals for each NHL game. 

Futures Betting

This is a perfect bet for players who have the keen ability of predicting the distant future. A futures bet is a market that allows the player to make long-term bets on major tournaments or different teams.

The markets differ depending on the sportsbook, but the one constant is a bet on who will win the Stanley Cup. The great thing about these bets is that there is no need to rush to make them, as they are available all season long.

This means that you can choose a team even before the first game of the season and ride your luck or you can wait for a month or two before betting. 

Predicting a single team to beat all 30 of the other teams over an entire season including playoffs is a difficult task even for the sharpest bettors. Thus, the payouts you find on each team will be very high.

Even for the best team, the odds will likely be higher than +500. Since the task is so difficult, there are a couple of things the player can do to make a more optimistic bet. 

The first, like mentioned earlier, is to wait for a little bit and watch how the teams play. A month or two into the season and the playoff picture at least will become much clearer.

You should be able to figure out which teams have a better chance to go further than others throughout the season and which groups of new players play well together.

This is especially important coming after an offseason of trades where team rosters will be changed, and are sometimes drastically different from the previous year. 

Important to note that the odds on future bets will change as the games go on. So if you are noticing a team is particularly strong, it is likely the bookmaker is also seeing this and lowering the odds for this team.

The option to wait can be a good one, but just be sure to not wait too long. However, on the opposite end future bets allow the player to “hedge out”.

This means to sell your bet slip before the wager is concluded. Basically, if the odds are lower than they were when you took them, you can make a profit (amount determined by the odds).

So if you notice something midway through your bet and aren’t as confident, you can still hedge out early and make money.

The second thing the player can do is to bet on multiple teams to win it. Since it is such a hard bet to predict, bookmakers will often allow players to place multiple wagers on the same bet with different teams.

If you want to pick five or six different teams to win the Stanley Cup, the option is there. The great thing about this is that because the payouts are so high for these bets, if you calculate it correctly you stand to make money no matter which of your selections wins the Cup. 

Some possible NHL futures bets include: Stanley Cup Winner, Conference Winners, Division Winners, Team To Make the Playoffs (Yes/No), Hart Trophy Winner. 

The Grand Salami 

This is sort of an extra bet that is actually a staple for hockey bettors. To win this bet, the player must correctly correctly choose over/under on the total number of goals every game that night. So if there are ten games one night, the over/under number given would be around 55 to 60.

The payouts will be high for this market but the challenge will be equally difficult. You are not just predicting one game but a number of games. This means that two or three games could very easily ruin your entire bet. 

Another thing to understand is that the number of goals listed for the Grand Salami is not simply a sum of each individual game’s over/under total. The bookmakers will use a formula to first get a number, and then will adjust this number as they deem necessary.

The most opportune time to take this bet would be on a day where there are only a small number of games set to be played. This way, there is a more readable spread and you can narrow your focus onto two or three games, instead of nine or ten.

The Salami, like any other large parlay bet, gives the player a small chance to win in exchange for a potentially massive payout. 


The NHL features identical bets to most other leagues in the US, and the league is just as competitive. Learning the most you can about the sport can go a long way before you start betting. Take the time to watch a few games to see how the league is played.

Write down a couple of bets you would make and see how close you were. Then try to figure out what went wrong with your bet. Although no sports game is the same, the NHL does a good job at keeping consistent. The teams on average will perform more or less with the same style every game.

The same plays, lines and goalie provide the player with a good amount of leverage when making their bets. Knowing the statistics involved, understanding the game and staying away from the Grand Salami on a day with a full lineup of games can make you a more successful NHL bettor.