The beauty of betting on the NHL is that not everyone is an NHL bettor. Football, basketball and to a lesser extent baseball are all more popular bets than hockey. In fact, estimates are that wagering on the NHL accounts for about 1% of action taken in by online sportsbooks in New Jersey.
So why is that a good thing? Well, since it isn’t a major revenue driver for the sports betting sites, their oddsmakers aren’t devoting significant portions of the day to handicapping that night’s NHL slate of games. That means just as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews can find seams to beat a defense, a savvy hockey bettor can locate soft betting lines on NHL games and pounce when opportunity knocks.
Let’s look at some hockey handicapping aspects to keep in mind when wagering on NHL games.
No slate of games in pro sports is more complicated or demanding than the 82-game NHL schedule. Three games in four nights, back-to-back games in different cities, afternoon games following night games, again often in different cities. All of these factors must be weighted when handicapping NHL betting.
Which teams are on winning streaks? Which teams are slumping or skidding along in a losing slump? Be aware of trends like this. Other factors to watch include whether a team historically struggles to win in certain cities, or on the flip side, seems to hold a magical spell of continued success over another club. Teams nearing the end of long road trips are likely to be road-weary and susceptible to a beating. They also may be more likely to play their backup goalie.
Injuries Are Of Vital Importance
Nothing can prove more impactful to a team’s chances of success than a key injury or a rash of ailments. It’s not always wise to bat against a team in the first game if they are missing a top talent. Adrenaline can overcome the loss in the short term. But in the long run, they won’t be able to continue to play above their station.
Take A Contrarian Approach
Also known as fading the public, playing bets against the form charts can prove a productive way to wager. It’s basically a betting system that is following the law of averages. A team on a long winning streak must eventually lose. Likewise, even struggling teams will win their share of games. A team scoring a bunch of goals in one game is likely to level out to their normal amount of productivity, so betting the under in the following game might make sense.
How To Figure NHL Goalie Betting
Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour once described goaltending as hockey’s greatest uncontrollable factor. He felt this was a twofold condition. Teams couldn’t control how their own goaltender played and they also had no control how the other team’s goalie would perform.
It’s no different when it comes to betting on the NHL. On its own, goaltending can win a wager for you, or it can cost you a bet just as easily. Veteran NHL goalie coach Jim Corsi was asked what percentage of on-ice success was owed to goaltending. Corsi admitted that he didn’t know that answer but allowed that bad goaltending resulted in 100 percent of on-ice failure.
Goaltending Stats To Consider
Perhaps the most important of the standard goaltending stats available to bettors is save percentage. A mediocre goaler can be boosted to plenty of wins and a lower goals-against average playing behind a star-studded team. But it’s ultimately about stopping the shots. Look for goalies with save percentages of .910 or better. These are the NHL’s elite puckstoppers.
Analytics are also a bettor’s friend when it comes to studying netminders. Fancy stats such as expected goals against and high danger save percentage will reveal which goaltenders are the best of the best.
Know Your Goalies
Which goaltenders bounce back strongly from an off-night? This is good to know and isn’t difficult to decipher. Websites such as NHL.com and hockeyreference.com supply game logs covering every appearance by each NHL netminder.
Often, bettors will wager against a team starting their backup goalie. On the surface, this seems a logical play. But with many teams, there isn’t a significant difference between the No. 1 goalie and the backup. In these instances, it can also pay dividends to take a contrarian approach and bet the team starting its backup. It’s likely that the odds will increase somewhat in your favor in terms of a payout when a backup goalie is known to be playing.