NHL Parlay Betting Guide
Like all sports, parlay betting in the NHL can be both frustrating and lucrative. Due to the low scoring nature of hockey relative to say football and basketball, the margin for error is greater when it comes to betting O/U and the spread. However, there are certain variables unique to hockey that can play to your favor.
Scoring in hockey is extremely volatile, and on any given day even the best team can get shutout, and the following game they can put up 6 goals. Obviously, as with all betting, it’s important to not get caught up in arbitrary statistics and to focus on ones that actually represent tangible value for betting and specifically parlay wagering. Parlays are so appealing because you can generate highly favorable action where a small wager can return 2.5 fold or more. However, the play is much riskier as each condition of the parlay must happen in order to win. For example, let’s say you want to do a 3-pick parlay where you take the Rangers (+110), the Kings (-115), and the Penguins (-170) straight up in their respective games. A simple $5 wager would have a potential payout of $26, with a $100 wager earning you $523 on +523 odds for the parlay. Even if you bet chalk (say each pick is a -200 favorite) you can still cash substantially while minimizing your risk. Now while each of these individual contests is far more likely to pan out than a single moneyline wager on a team that is +523, the contingency factor of all 3 bets hitting is what makes it so difficult to consistently hit on parlays, particularly as the number of wagers increases and you involve underdogs. This is why given the inherently greater risk associated with NHL parlay betting, you want to try to maximize your potential victories.
When it comes to the NHL there are 3 major lines you can bet. These are the moneyline (S/U), point spread, and point total. Crafting your NHL parlay can involve any combination of these options.
NHL Moneyline Parlay
More so than almost any other professional sport, each NHL game is capable of going either way when it comes to winner and loser. Being that hockey is a fast-paced game with an 82-game season, momentum is crucial when looking at betting the moneyline for a particular game, and it is not uncommon for the better team on paper to be beaten by an inferior team that just happens to be “hotter”.
The innate variability of NHL matchups is reflected by the odds differential relative to other sports. Take an uneven moneyline in the NFL for example. The Chargers are playing the Raiders in Oakland in week 10 of the 2018 season. Obviously given how bad the Raiders are this year, the above average Chargers are a clear favorite, which is reflected by the moneyline at Chargers (-550) and the Raiders (+375). At the same time in the NHL, the 2nd in the West Calgary Flames are playing a low-end Anaheim Ducks team. Yet, the moneyline is Flames (-145) and Ducks (+125). This presents a sort of catch-22. Although the odds margins in the NHL make low-risk moneyline bets a bit more challenging, they also create significantly more opportunities to cash in on realistic underdogs that can substantially augment returns.
Underdogs have a winning rate of 40% in the NHL as opposed to 32% and 30% in the NFL and NBA respectively over the last 5 seasons. Only the MLB, with an underdog success rate of 42%, has a higher likelihood than the NHL. The reason for this number in the MLB is largely due to the pitching rotation, where ace pitchers can bail out their subpar teams on days they start. When it comes to strategizing, the role of the pitcher in MLB betting will coincide similarly to the role of the goaltender in NHL betting and especially NHL parlays. Just as a pitcher can be a deciding factor in a close game, understanding the goaltending of each team when making a moneyline wager can present a huge advantage especially in close contests and in the event of an overtime period.
While it can be tempting to parlay 2, 3, or even 4 short underdog moneylines, this is not advisable for a long-term strategy. But, cherry picking more favorable moneylines and generating correlated parlays with the O/U and spread can increase probability. Given the nature of the oddsmaking for NHL moneylines you are unlikely to see consistent results if you rely only on these straight up bets when doing an NHL parlay–even if you take close favorites as well.
NHL Point Spread (Puckline) Parlays
Though arguably the least popular of the 3 betting lines, the point spread is probably the most unique element of NHL betting, because in every game the spread is set at 1.5 with the dog +1.5 and the favorite -1.5. Additionally, betting on the favorite to cover the point spread virtually always comes with positive odds. The reason for this is that it is very common for NHL games to be decided by a 1-goal differential, and moreover, should a game go into overtime it is guaranteed to be settled by one score.
The one mitigating factor for these outcomes is that in the event of a 1 goal game close to the end of the 3rd period, the trailing team will often pull their goalie in order to have a 6th attacker on the ice. While this can allow the losing team to overpower and tie the game forcing an overtime period, many times the leading team will be able to dump the puck into the empty net and ride out the remainder of the game with a 2-goal victory.
NHL Over/Under Parlay Bets
The over/under (O/U) point total bet is arguably the most favorable when crafting your NHL parlay for a few reasons. For starters, the outcome of the game is effectively irrelevant. All that matters is that the final combined score of the game is either more or less than what the line was set at, usually between 4/4.5-6.5 goals. One trick, as with all sports, is to really analyze the line before you bet on it. Generally, if the pregame over/under is set at 4.0 or 4.5 goals, there is enough evidence for the bookmakers to assume that the game is going to a lower scoring affair.
Though it can be hard to go against your instincts and actually bet that there will be less than 4 total goals in the game, you realize over time that these lines are not made haphazardly, and there is sufficient statistical reasoning to assume that there will be a lower scoring margin. While this may seem tricky, it also opens an additional opportunity. Let us say that you want to create a correlated parlay within the Predators versus Avalanche game.
You like the Predators moneyline at (-150) and you also think that it will be a lower scoring affair, but are hesitant about the line being set at O/U 4.5 goals. What you can do even with parlay bets is squeeze it (handicap). Take the Predators moneyline and the over 4.5 goals in one parlay, and then create a 2nd wager in which you take the Predators moneyline again but parlay it with an alternate O/U line where you take under 5.5 goals. Your odds in the latter will be slightly diminished, but this not only guarantees a victory (provided that the Predators win) but also opens up the opportunity to win both parlays. This can get a little complicated but figuring out how to manipulate the O/U lines in this manner can truly maximize your returns.
NHL Parlay Strategy
Above is a general overview of the types of bets that will be involved in an NHL parlay, but the real question is how to confidently build a parlay with these picks. It can be very tempting to just randomly pick 2, 3, or 4 game lines in a parlay and cross your fingers, and while you will get lucky once in a while, the odds are heavily unfavorable. The simplest mathematical way to increase your odds is minimizing the number of wagers in your parlay. Try and stick to 2-3 bet parlays if efficiency is what you are after. Particularly when it comes to parlay wagering the NHL, the outcomes of these games are fundamentally unpredictable.
Underdogs have a 40% success rate in the NHL as mentioned earlier. This means that while you have a higher probability to cash in on favorable odds, it also means that you cannot just lay chalk across the board as you can when parlaying the NBA or NFL. If you were to bet a 3-wager parlay in those sports where you took the moneyline of 3 favorites, you have a solid chance for all 3 to hit. This is not the case with the NHL. It is statistically illogical to just pick favorites at random and bank on the odds indicating a win. Because of this, you have to be much more selective with picking your games on a given night. Here is an example:
Say there are 8 games tonight and you want to come up with 2 to 3 parlays that you like. Instead of trying to stretch your bets across 6 or more games, narrow it down to 2 or 3 that you have some confidence in either the moneyline, puck line, O/U, or all 3. Then employ some strategy. If you like, for example, the Lightning to beat the Islanders in a higher scoring affair, then simply do a correlated parlay with the Lightning moneyline and the over for the goal total. If you feel more confident about the game being high scoring but are less sure that the Lightning will win outright, then create a 2nd parlay where you still take the over, but this time you parlay it with a more favorable moneyline from one of the other games you singled out.
Perhaps the simplest strategy is don’t over-strategize. In the world of betting it is easy to get caught up in statistics and predictions, but there is something to be said for “when in doubt, go with your gut”. If you follow the NHL and decide to make a wager that is opposite random predictions and the opinions of online pundits, don’t automatically switch to be in line with public opinion. Of course, it is foolish to ignore certain stats, but the NHL is a game of intangibles and if you like a specific matchup don’t be afraid to bet it.
Lastly, momentum is the most significant intangible when it comes to betting on the NHL. If a team is hot, whether that be they are in the midst of a 5-game winning streak or have won their last 10 at home, etc., this creates an opportunity to bet on a statistical underdog with a degree of confidence. Similarly, if a favorite is on a recent hot streak then that can allow you to pick an easy chalk bet and then build out one or more parlays from there.
NHL Statistics To Look At
When betting on any sport you have to weed through the arbitrary statistics and try to focus on the few that matter. Is whether or not a team is 10-2 on Fridays in December the past 3 years important to keep in mind when placing your bet? The answer is no. Sure this stat clearly has a favorable numerical value for this team, but it doesn’t actually mean anything beyond coincidence. There are however select statistics that have tangible value in informing the selection of your picks for an NHL parlay. These can then be broken down to help decide which line(s) are most favorable in a given contest.
One of the more valuable stats to look at is a team’s power play percentage and penalty kill. In the NHL, when someone gets a penalty they have to go to the penalty box and their team is then a man down for the duration of that penalty. This presents a huge opportunity for the non-penalized team to score an “easy” goal. If a team is consistently converting power play opportunities into goals, this naturally creates more opportunities for them to both win and drive up the goal total in a game, especially if their opponent is often penalized and/or has an inferior penalty kill. The penalty kill is a team’s success while being down a man, at preventing the opposing team from scoring. Conversely, if a team with a meager power play is facing a stout defense with a superior penalty kill, then scoring can be minimized. In the 2018-2019 season so far, the Washington Capitals have the best power play at 34% success, but their penalty kill is closer to the bottom at 75% success (the best in the league is 90%). From this basic information, we can infer that when the Capitals play another team-particularly another team with a good power play like the Winnipeg Jets- there is a statistical likelihood that there will be an increased number of goals scored. Thus in this case, the over would be a smart play to build a parlay around.
Naturally, a team’s overall scoring propensity is huge when it comes to their success. There is a reason that the Tampa Bay Lightning are the number 1 team in the NHL right now. They have the most goals scored so far through the 2018-2019 season, but more importantly, they have the best goals per game (G/GP) at 3.6. While shots on goal is another important statistic, simply because the more often a team puts pucks on net the more likely they are to score, goals per game is an actual reflection of how efficient an offense is.
On the converse, a team’s defensive efficiency is a highly important metric as well. Not only is goal prevention vital for deciding close games, but it can also force lower goal totals thus giving value to taking the under for certain games when making your parlay. Take the Nashville Predators for example who are tied with the Lightning for the best team in the NHL. This season the Predators are atop the league in goals-against average (GAA) at 0.13, and save percentage at .932. While their offense is solid as well (ranking 6th in overall efficiency), it is their stout defense and superior goaltending that really generates victories, as they have more games with 0-1 goals allowed than any other team.
Individual Position and Player Importance in NHL
The Goalie position is equivalent to the quarterback in football or the starting pitcher in baseball in that there is a unique amount of responsibility on their shoulders. In the same way that poor goaltending can take you out of games, great goaltending can keep a team in games and even secure victories against a better all-around team. Pekka Rinne, the Predators goaltender, has had an incredible season thus far in 2018 and much of their early success can be attributed to him. Even when playing offensive juggernauts this season like the Lightning, the Predators are able to dominate because of Rinne posting a 42 save performance while allowing only 1 goal. Obviously, you can’t win games if you have no offense, but as long as you can put goals on the board and have the defensive capabilities to hinder the opposing team, the odds become increasingly in your favor. In this vein, starting goaltenders get rested during certain games particularly after a long road trip or back to back games. This can open an opportunity to bet against the backup so to speak and get a more favorable matchup against an inferior goaltender.
Just as the goalie is the backbone of the defense, certain positional players can define a team’s offense. In November of the 2018-2019 season, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs is out for a month with a shoulder injury. He is one of the most high-octane scorers in the NHL and has proven to be the deciding factor in many games. While the Leafs are still an offensive powerhouse with players like John Tavares, there is no denying that their offensive efficiency will take a hit with Matthews out of the lineup. When using information such as this to craft an NHL parlay you can logically conclude that his absence will likely diminish the scoring potential to a certain degree. Thus, if you wanted to bet either the over or the under for a Leafs game during this stretch but you were on the fence, it may be in your best interest to go under the point total unless they are playing another powerhouse offense.
Sample NHL Parlay
Out of these 6 games, narrow it down to 3 with the Rangers game, Leafs game, and Sharks game.
For the first wager, do a correlated parlay with the Rangers moneyline (-105) and the under 5.5 goals (-115). The Rangers are on a 4-game winning streak and ultimately are the better team. Given that both of these teams rank close to the bottom in offensive efficiency this season, combined with their respective goalies posting near .940 save % in past meetings, it’s unlikely that this game will be score-heavy.
For the next, a standard parlay with the over 6.0 (-105) for the Leafs game and the Sharks moneyline (-125). Both the Leafs and the Devils have a higher propensity for goal scoring so expect to see a fast-paced offensive battle. The Sharks are the better team than the struggling blues, and while it likely won’t be a blowout, expect a close Sharks victory on the back of their defense.
Lastly, a 3-wager parlay. For this, you could do the U 6.0 (-115) for the Sharks game, +1.5 spread (-290) for the Rangers game, and The Devils moneyline (+135) against the Leafs. Even though the Blues have a 30.8% power play, the Sharks have an 86.8% penalty kill. This is likely to neutralize these scoring opportunities and keep what is likely to be a close, low scoring game. The +1.5 Rangers puckline is definitely the safest bet (indicated by the -290 odds) because they should win this game, and it helps to have somewhat of a safety bet with these lengthier and inherently riskier NHL parlays. The Devils moneyline is the real dice roll with this parlay. They have been able to put up seriously impressive scoring numbers of late and while they are the inferior team, the Leafs have been bad at home and susceptible to lopsided losses.
Parlays are innately more challenging to hit on consistently, but they can be very lucrative. The biggest key is to do your research on the important statistics for each contest and then bet realistically. You can obviously make some wild NHL parlay picks that pan out once in a while, but by keeping it as logical and realistic as possible you afford yourself greater opportunities to turn these parlays into winners with some consistency.