Brief NHL History
The National Hockey League (NHL) is a North American professional hockey league known as the premier league for the sport in the world. It was founded in 1917 in Montreal.
The league is currently made up of 32 teams, with seven teams based in Canada and 25 in the United States. Teams in the league compete for the Stanley Cup each season, the oldest sports trophy in North American professional sports.
Over the years, the league went through numerous changes, and in 1924, the Boston Bruins became the first American team to join the league. By the 1926 season, there were six teams from the U.S. out of 10, with the Ottawa Senators’ four Stanley Cups dominating the decade.
After the Great Depression, six teams were left in the league, known as the “Original Six.” That was until the 1967 season, when six expansion teams were added. The Montreal Canadiens continued to dominate the league, winning eight championships in a dozen seasons until 1979.
The league would expand again after the folding of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1979, adding four more teams. By the early 1990s, there were 26 teams as four more were added in 1997. In 2017, the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights, and in 2021, the Seattle Kraken, brought the total number of teams to 32.
Introduction to NHL Betting
Betting on spreads in hockey is typically referred to as the “puck line” for the purposes of this article. Betting on the puck line is a great way to get solid value on some of the better, heavily- favored teams in the league. Let’s use an example to help explain it easier.
Imagine the Chicago Blackhawks on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Lightning were -1½ goals on the puck line. If you were to wager on the Lightning, they would need to win by more than 1½ goals. So, if they won, 3-2, that’s a losing bet.
However, if you bet the Blackhawks +1½ goals on the puck line, you would win the wager as they lost by less than 1½ goals. Typically, if you wager before the game begins, the puck line will be 1½ goals, but will change during any in-game betting.
NHL Betting Odds
Puck line – When betting on hockey, the puck line is equal to the point spread in other sports betting. The puck line is always -1½ or +1½ for every game, with the underdog designated by the minus (-) sign. The favorite is always represented by the plus (+) sign in front of the odds. Here’s an example of how that would look:
Canadiens +1½ (-130)
Maple Leafs -1½ (+110)
In the example, the Maple Leafs are the favorite, and the Canadiens are the underdog. Wagering on the favorite means they have to win the game by two or more goals for the bet to win. A bet on the Canadiens means they would either have to win the game outright, or lose by no less than a goal.
Moneyline – When betting on the moneyline in hockey, the bettor wagers on the team they think will win the game. The sportsbook determines the favorite and underdog by giving odds. For example:
Maple Leafs -150
In this example, the Maple Leafs are favored over the Canadiens. Therefore, a $100 wager on the Canadiens would pay $180, since they are the underdog. For a bet on the Maple Leafs, it’s a $150 wager to win $100.
Over/Under – It’s a wager on the total goals scored by both teams. Here’s an example of how the line would look:
Penguins -1.5 O/U 5
Placing a bet on the over means the bettor believes the total goals scored by both teams combined will be more than five goals, while betting on the under is a wager that the total goals scored will be less than five.
How to Bet on NHL
Betting on NHL puck lines can be profitable, since it is always shown as 1½ , so no matter how much better one team is than another, the line’s the same. Whether the Lightning are playing a low-ranking team like the Canadiens, or a talented team like the Capitals, bettors will only need to wager whether the Lightning can cover the 1½-goal spread.
If a bet is made on the underdog, the bettor hopes the underdog will either win the game or lose by less than two goals.
Tips, Tricks And Advice For NHL Goal-Spread Betting
Do not be afraid of the underdog, as scoring a goal in the NHL is extremely difficult and most games typically end with a one-goal difference. This works well if the game is tied after the third period and heads into overtime/shootout, the underdog bettor is locked into a winning ticket as the outcome is guaranteed to be just a goal.
Another important tip is to pay attention to the team’s schedule. There’s a lot of traveling going on, with teams going from city to city (and across the border) more than other sports. Teams may play three games in four days, or have lengthy road trips due to arena issues (for example, the New York Islanders’ season-opening road trip because the new UBS Arena wasn’t ready).
It is critical to factor that into your decision, in addition to using other data and information to give yourself the greatest opportunity to cash out successfully.
Do not be afraid of losing a wager because something unforeseen happens. The best professional handicappers are only successful around 53 percent of the time on point/run/goal spreads in general. There’s a reason why it’s difficult, and some teams with solid records overall are terrible against the spread.
Trying to understand the ebbs and flows in betting the puck line while keeping a spreadsheet of each bet can be great tools in helping you understand potential wagering flaws, too. Gather as much information as possible to make the best decision possible, and have some fun.
Make sure to understand everything that’s going on before making a wager. There is typically no advantage on betting early or late with NHL puck lines, so the availability of players (including goaltenders) is one of the more important things to consider on the ice. Implementing successful betting strategies will make it better for your betting.
NHL Betting FAQ
Can you place a parlay across several NHL bets?
What's the best type of bet on NHL?
Is it legal to bet on NHL games?
What is the 60-minute line in NHL wagering?
How many periods are there in an NHL game?
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