NHL Puckline Strategy
The point spread in NHL betting, otherwise known as the puckline, is fundamentally the same as in sports like basketball and football in that the favorite must win by a certain amount and the underdog must win or not lose by a certain amount. However, what is unique about the NHL puckline is that the spread is always set at 1.5 goals prior to the start of the game, with the odds being the variable. The reason for this is because the margin of victory in NHL games is considerably narrower than most other sports, with the most common result being decided by 1 goal. Here is an example of what the lines on a standard NHL point spread would look like prior to the game. In this case, the Winnipeg Jets are playing the Washington Capitals. At this point in the season the Jets are moneyline favorites at (-170) and the Capitals are underdogs at (+150). Subsequently, the spread is set at Capitals +1.5 (-190), Jets -1.5 (+165).
Obviously, because the spread is fixed, the odds do fluctuate. But, they virtually always favor the +1.5 simply because it allows the underdog to either win or lose by one goal. Statistically, this gives a huge advantage not only due to the fact that underdogs fair well in the NHL relative to other sports, but also because of the commonality of the 1-goal scoring margin. There are certainly plenty of blowout games and games that are decided by 2 or more goals, but from a probability standpoint, betting on a 1-goal differential is favored. This is due to a couple things. First and foremost, overtime. Because sudden death overtime is not only a part of the NHL, but also a very common occurrence compared to other sports, this creates a plethora of opportunities for the game to be guaranteed to end with a 1 goal difference. Similarly, despite the ascent of high-powered scorers in the NHL today, the goals per game average of the league is around 2.75 compared to nearly 3.75 a decade ago. This narrower window automatically creates a smaller mean scoring margin and thus forces closer contests in which betting against the spread may be more favorable.
Unlike other sports, betting on the point spread in hockey is actually less popular than say the moneyline or O/U. This is not because it is bad, but rather because people tend to have less faith in it than taking a heavy favorite -3.0 in the NFL for example, largely because of the probability of certain outcomes. Picking certain spreads in football can play in your favor simply due to the fact that select scoring outcomes occur more often than others. This is the same in NHL spread betting except that it is actually much more simplified, in that you are essentially betting on a team to either win or lose by more than 1 goal.
Puckline Favored Odds
When it comes to the NHL spread, the odds are always going to favor the team that is +1.5 because this gives you the ability to win your bet if the team wins or loses by 1 goal. Given the nature of the NHL and its relatively even playing field, this is the statistically favorable choice.
As reflected by puckline odds, a 1-goal scoring margin is the most common outcome in the NHL followed by a 2-goal scoring margin. This is what you are betting on when placing a puckline wager. Betting on the puckline underdog is nice because it is a relative safety net. Particularly with more even matchups, betting on the team with a 1 goal cushion plays massively in your favor from a statistical standpoint. Because of this though, the odds are not great. This is when using the puckline in a parlay method is great because it can still give you solid action on wagers that have higher probabilities of hitting.
Parlaying The Puckline
There are a few ways in which you can utilize the puckline to achieve success when parlaying the NHL. For starters, let’s say that there is a game when you think the underdog has a chance to win because it is likely to be on the closer side. Instead of just betting on the moneyline underdog, you could bet them on the puckline +1.5 and give yourself some added insurance. You can use this to create a correlated parlay in which you parlay the puckline with either the over or the under.
It is possible to be highly successful just parlaying NHL pucklines as well. For example, say there are 3 games where you think the underdogs have a realistic chance to win but aren’t totally confident about betting on the moneylines. Instead, you could parlay the 3 pucklines. Even if the odds for these +1.5 teams are (-200), a 3 part parlay would still get you +240 odds on an overall wager that has a very high chance of success.
Although it may seem like it’s only worth betting on the puckline underdog, that is not the case. Despite the fact that the under is generally more likely to hit with consistency, there are plenty of instances where betting a favorite to cover the spread is a viable option that also happens to come with highly favorable odds. In the Jets vs Capitals example above, the Jets ended up winning 3-1. The Jets are one of the hottest teams as of late and it comes as no surprise that they took down a very on and off Capitals team. This kind of matchup is the perfect instance to do a correlated parlay in which you take the favorite to cover the puckline. Even though the Jets were moneyline favorites at (-170), if you parlay this with the Jets puckline -1.5 (+165), you would still get +320 odds for the parlay. The Capitals are a team that likes to pull their goalie on the earlier side, so even in a 1-goal game the Jets had plenty of time to score an empty net goal and come out on top by 2 goals.
Another benefit to betting on the favorite to cover is that you will have opportunities to squeeze or handicap your bet. If you figure a game is going to be a blowout and take the favorite -1.5 prior to the game, and then they go up by even more than 2 goals, the new line may become -3.5. Even though you expect them to win handily, you may not think they will win by more than 3 goals. You can then live bet the underdog +3.5 to squeeze your bet. This not only guarantees one of your wagers to hit, but actually gives you a realistic chance for both of them to hit as well.
While not necessarily favored by NHL bettors, the puckline does have tangible value, particularly when parlaying the NHL. If you are trying to fill out a parlay and can’t land on any moneyline or O/U bets that you have confidence in, betting on a puckline underdog can be a great insurance bet. Of course, you have to understand the matchup because it is by no means a guarantee, but if you like a contest to be close with the underdog actually having a chance to come out on top, then taking the underdog +1.5 as part of your parlay is a very smart bet. At the same time, If you really like a team to win handily, you can take the -1.5 puckline favorite and parlay it with the over for that same game. These are just examples of how to approach the puckline, but the most important thing is not to rule it out when making NHL parlay wagers.
For other NHL betting strategies read our Parlay Betting Guide.