Key NHL betting strategies you should know
There are many of stats and strategies you should be aware of before you place an NHL bet. Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press.

Betting on the NHL can be tricky for someone who doesn't have experience wagering on the sport. There are 32 teams, hundreds of players and an endless amount of possible betting combinations any day there's action.

A look at the NHL odds board on a busy Saturday night may feel overwhelming to those new to the space. And you could miss out on some important pieces of information if you're unaware of the best NHL betting strategies.

That's why we're here to help you avoid making rookie mistakes before placing your next hockey bet.

NHL betting strategies

There are several elements to consider before handing over your money for an NHL wager. And the market you intend to bet on will affect what type of research you should conduct.

We'll review the most popular betting markets and share some important tips so you're more prepared when considering what event to spend your money on.

Moneyline and puck line strategies

Who's the goalie?

We can't stress this point enough, but a good — or hot — goaltender can make all the difference. Goalies steal games all the time, as every hockey fan can attest. Monitoring roster announcements and viewing recent goalie matchups is vitally important to a bet.

Despite every bettor wishing NHL teams disclosed starting goalie information hours in advance, most teams often don't. Instead, head coaches keep this decision confidential until shortly before puck drop to create a competitive advantage.

Beat reporters typically tweet info gathered throughout the day, such as which goalie exited the morning skate first or who's practicing in the starter's net. This is often the best way to scope out the info.

The New York Rangers are a significantly better team with Igor Shesterkin between the pipes. Photo by Frank Franklin II/AP.

Knowing who the starting goalies are is must-know information. The difference in quality between a starting goalie and a third-stringer can be the difference in a team being labelled as a favourite or underdog by the oddsmaker.

Who's playing?

Injuries impact the odds of all hockey games. When one or more top players are missing from a team, its chance of winning is negatively impacted, at least in theory.

For example, the Edmonton Oilers are 18-22-9 all-time (.367 win percentage), according to StatMuse, as of March 2022 without Connor McDavid in the lineup. With McDavid, the Oilers are 236-192-38 (.506).

If McDavid is slated to miss an upcoming game, betting against the Oilers could be a smart play.

What have you done for me lately?

The NHL schedule is compact, and teams don't have much time between games to resolve issues. If a flaw is exposed or a team is struggling on special teams, those issues may persist for a string of games.

The Philadelphia Flyers recently provided an extreme example of this. During a horrific 13-game losing streak that lasted nearly all of January 2022, Philly was the only team to rank bottom-five in both power play and penalty kill percentage.

On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a top-10 power play and penalty kill during a 10-game winning streak that same season.

Recent overall results are important to look at, but reviewing a club's performance on special teams helps take things a step further. A particularly hot or cold power play or penalty kill could create an edge.

How to attack back-to-backs?

The schedule creates competitive advantages and disadvantages for NHL teams. In some cases, a team will play two games in as many nights, or three contests in four days. Fatigue may become a factor, which is usually incorporated in the odds.

A resource like the one provided by More Hockey Stats helps quantify the true disadvantage a team has playing in a back-to-back game.

Naturally, some teams handle the challenge better than others. Using this tool, you can determine when there's a good opportunity to attack a team playing a game in consecutive nights.

NHL totals

Show me the goals

Totals don't have to be complicated. Teams that typically score a lot of goals tend to go over, while teams that don't allow or score a lot of goals tend to go under.

For example, the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild are three of the highest-scoring teams in the league as of March 2022. It's no coincidence that all three squads are among the top overs teams in the NHL, according to Scores and Odds.

The Florida Panthers possess one of the most lethal offences in the NHL. Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP.

When looking at under bets, it's wise to target teams that don't allow many goals.

The New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Carolina Hurricanes own some of the lowest goals-against rates this season. Unsurprisingly, they're among the top under teams in the NHL.

NHL betting strategies for props

The streakier the better

Outside of the top goalscorers in the NHL, it's hard to truly rely on anyone to score goals routinely. Sure, Auston Matthews and Alexander Ovechkin are going to score goals by the boatload, but how do you hit on players who have longer odds?

One thing to know about NHL players is that they tend to score in bunches. Take Minnesota Wild forward Kevin Fiala, for example. Of the winger's first 20 goals in the 2021-22 season, eight came in a 10-game span from late December to the end of January.

What makes Fiala a great example to follow is his shooting percentage. Prior to that scoring outburst, the Swiss star had potted just four goals on an unsustainably low 4.3 shooting percentage, according to Hockey Reference.

Kevin Fiala has been a streaky scorer this season, which is a good thing for prop betting. Photo by Tony Avelar/AP

When Fiala scored two goals against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 20, the games following that performance would've been the best time to start betting Fiala's goal props.

Shooting percentages tend to hold fairly steady on a year-to-year basis, and a quick look at his career rate would've suggested a correction was coming. Entering this season, Fiala owned an 11.0 shooting percentage, which tells us that his 4.3% mark wasn't destined to last much longer.

Knowing that goal scoring can be streaky and that shooting percentages don't normally undergo mass fluctuations, it would've been wise to jump on Fiala's goal props at the first sign of a breakthrough.

The Fiala example is applicable to other steady shooters who possess uncharacteristically low shooting percentages.

Who are you playing with?

When looking at assist or point props, target players who play alongside elite talents. One such example is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting.

Although Bunting isn't a bad player in his own right, he undoubtedly benefits from playing alongside Matthews and Mitch Marner. Knowing that he skates next to two of the best players in the league, Bunting becomes a much more attractive bet on all his player props.

The best market to take advantage of Bunting's position in the lineup is his points prop.

Bunting, and bettors, benefit from him playing alongside Matthews. Photo by Jay LaPrete/AP.

Matthews and Marner are usually listed with a line of 1.5 points, while Bunting is typically listed at 0.5 points. If you think Matthews or Marner will reach the stat sheet at least once, there's a decent possibility their linemate will, too.

With this in mind, it may be wiser to take Bunting at his prop than Matthews or Marner, considering the correlation between the pair's production.

NHL live betting

Underdogs and overs

If you made a story of my life regarding NHL betting strategies, a good title would be, "Underdogs and Overs." Aside from being the name of my biopic that'll never be made, it's a good mantra for live betting totals.

When betting overs, typically you want to back teams that feature high-powered offences. The issue that sometimes arises in their games, however, is their opponent can't keep up. In these instances, sometimes you lose your bet because the final score is 4-1 or 5-1 when the total is 5.5 or 6.5 goals.

Live betting allows you to see how the game plays out and react to it in real time. For example, the Panthers and their highly skilled offence played the San Jose Sharks earlier this season. The Sharks scored the game's only goal through the first 15 minutes, which bumped the total down from 6.5 to 5.5 goals.

Once this happened, bettors should've looked to back the over for two reasons.

A 5.5 goal line for a team like Florida, which has averaged more than four goals per game for most of the season, is great value. Additionally, San Jose's early marker was a positive indicator to suggest it could score enough to push this game over.

The Panthers' slow start shouldn't have deterred bettors because they score a lot of goals. The Sharks are the less reliable side, but an early goal from them as an underdog was a great development for an over bet.

Florida ended up winning the contest, 5-4 in overtime, as the teams combined to clear the 5.5-goal total with ease.

NHL futures betting strategy

Think about divisions

Playoff seeding for the NHL is based on divisional ranking. The top seed in each division plays a wild card team, while the second and third seeds square off in the quarterfinals.

This setup can be advantageous when placing a Stanley Cup futures bet.

The Pacific Division was billed as the weakest at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. It's lived up to that title, with the Calgary Flames emerging as runaway favourites from the bunch. The lack of elite competition in the Pacific actually makes Calgary a value pick to win the Stanley Cup.

There is value to be had on a Flames futures bet to win the Stanley Cup. Photo by Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press.

Most sportsbooks give shorter Stanley Cup odds to the Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Maple Leafs.

All three teams play in the Atlantic Division and are on pace to clinch a divisional playoff berth, which means one of those three squads is on track to lose in the quarterfinals (based on playoff format).

Therefore, Calgary's chances of advancing beyond the quarterfinals should be viewed as greater than any of the Atlantic teams.

Despite the Flames' lower implied probability of winning the Stanley Cup, they possess much more value on futures markets than the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Panthers.

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