A good frame of reference for NHL betting is to think about MLB betting. Much like betting on baseball, betting on hockey primarily consists of money line wagering and totals action. Spreads, like what we see in basketball and football, are limited to +1.5 and -1.5 on most odds screens. Sportsbooks offer “alternate spreads”, but those are not widely published.
The reason why it seems easiest to compare NHL to MLB is that people are likely more familiar with the baseball betting markets. Baseball takes place in the summer when there is a lot less going on. During hockey season, football and basketball are happening and those usually take center stage, but NHL betting has steadily grown in popularity and it is important to know the bet types and how to read the odds before you dive in.
One of the most important considerations for NHL bettors is to look at how the lines are structured. You can bet the Puck Line at +1.5 or -1.5, but most NHL betting is done with money lines and those can have big discrepancies across the betting markets. Most sportsbooks will have “20-cent lines” for the NHL, so something like -125 on a favorite and +105 on that underdog. There will be a 20-cent difference between the two sides.
Some sportsbooks have 15-cent lines. Some have 10-cent lines. Some are bigger than that. You want to look at the odds and use those to determine the best sportsbooks for NHL betting. Some suggestions to look at would be BetMGM, DraftKings, PointsBet, BetRivers, and William Hill.
The most common bet type for hockey leagues around the world, including the NHL, is the money line. That will be the default setting for most odds screens. The concept behind the money line is simple. All you have to do is pick the winner of the game.
However, it is more complex than that. The favorite, denoted by a minus (-) sign, and the underdog, denoted by a plus (+) sign, will have odds based on the likelihood of the favorite beating the underdog. For example, the Tampa Bay Lightning would be a big favorite over the Detroit Red Wings, but they would be a smaller favorite against the Boston Bruins.
Against the Red Wings, the Lightning might be -275. Against the Bruins, the Lightning might be -120. It all depends on the implied win probability of the teams in the game.
The bigger the favorite, the lower the risk, but also the lower the reward. The bigger the underdog, the higher the risk and the higher the reward.
For example, you could bet $275 “To Win” $100 on the Lighting. You could also bet “To Risk” $100 to win about $36 and change on the Lightning. To Win and To Risk are important concepts with money line wagering.
If you wanted to bet the Red Wings at +235, you could bet “To Risk” $100 and win $235 or bet $42.55 “To Win” $100.
Because there are no spreads, the money line odds, also known as the “vigorish” or “vig” will move based on betting action, injury news, and other factors.
Puck Lines are the NHL equivalent of Run Lines in MLB. They are “spread betting” for the NHL. The favorite will be -1.5 and the underdog will be +1.5. The vigorish on the +1.5 or the -1.5 will be related to how big of a favorite or how big of an underdog the team in.
If the Red Wings are playing the Lightning, their +1.5 line will be at plus odds. The Lightning’s -1.5 would be at minus odds. If the Lightning were playing the Bruins, though, then the -1.5 would be at a high plus price and the +1.5 on the Bruins would be at a very high minus price.
In order to win a Puck Line with a favorite, that team needs to win by two or more goals. The underdog would have to lose by one or win the game outright.
NHL totals are a way to bet the combined score between the two teams. In the NHL, this usually ranges from an absolute low of 4.5 to an absolute high of 7.5. Like all forms of betting, vig is included. The industry standard is -110, but the vig will move around a lot on totals.
If the total is 6.5 and the game ends 4-3, that game goes “over the total”. If the game ends 4-2, that game goes “under the total”.
If the vig moves to -115 on the over, there will be a corresponding move on the under to -105. If the vig moves on one side, it will move on the other side as well.
Futures betting for the NHL is the same as you would expect in any other sport. You can bet on teams to win the Stanley Cup. You can bet on teams to win their conferences or their divisions. When it comes to the Stanley Cup, the favorite(s) odds will usually be somewhere around +400 and the longest of the long shots will be as high as +50000 or so.
Prop betting in the NHL has increased in popularity as well, including stuff like will Alexander Ovechkin score a goal or over/under saves for Carey Price.
Another form of betting is called “derivative betting”, in which you can bet things like the first period money line or over/under.