- Betting the puck line is like betting the NHL point spread, but the format is different from other spread betting
- Puck line bets often have better odds than moneylines on the same game
- There are unique strategic considerations to make when wagering the puck line
Puck line betting is the most popular form of hockey betting for both regular season NHL games and during the NHL playoffs.
As the closest thing to an NHL point spread, wagering on the puck line is just like betting against the spread in football or taking on the run line in baseball.
Read on to learn how to beat the books betting on the puck line!
NHL Point Spread Betting, Sort Of…
Hockey games, especially in the NHL, are often very tight affairs. The rigidity of the puck line reflects this fact, and the puck line is always set at +1.5 or -1.5.
As always, the + indicates the underdog, and the – indicates the favorite. Whenever you wager on the puck line, you are betting on the favorite (-1.5) to win by 2 goals, or the underdog (+1.5) to lose by one goal or win outright.
The inclusion of half points on the line eliminates the possibility of a push, or a tie. Clearly, NHL betting sites want to avoid this scenario however possible, and the 0.5 hook ensures that every bet on the puck line will be either a winner or a loser. There are no funky rules in the NHL; a half goal is impossible, under any circumstance.
Whenever you wager on the puck line, you are betting on the favorite to win by two goals or the underdog to lose by one goal or outright. It’s hockey’s version of the point spread, but the spread never changes.
One way to look at this is to take the final score and add 1.5 goals to the underdog’s goal total and subtract 1.5 goals from the favorite’s goal total. If your team wins the game after the score has been adjusted like this, you’ve covered the puck line and won the bet!
Why Bet on the Puck Line
So, what’s the point of the puck line? Why should you choose to bet on hockey’s point spread, rather than simply picking the winner of a game outright?
The puck line levels the playing field between two competing teams, as sportsbooks want to encourage equal action on both sides of the line.
In terms of value for bettors, the puck line often offers far better odds with a higher potential payout than does the moneyline, or picking a winner straight-up.
The puck line often offers far better odds and a higher payout than picking a winner straight-up.
For example, you may wish to wager on a team that is heavily favored to win, only to find the moneyline odds to be heavily skewed to attract action on the underdog. You’ll undoubtedly find better odds betting on the puck line, but you must be confident that the favored team is going to win the game by at least two goals.
If you think the game is going to be close, or that the favorite might not churn out a dominant victory, you can always bet the underdog the puck line. This way, you have a one-goal margin of error to reduce your risk.
Dropping the Puck on the Puck Line
Let’s take a closer look at the hypothetical puck line provided above. The Vancouver Canucks are listed as the underdog in this classic Western Conference matchup, heading to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis to take on a theoretically stronger squad in the Blues.
If you were to place a bet on the Canucks, you would need them to either lose by a single goal or beat the Blues outright. It’s worth noting that if the game goes to overtime or ends in a shootout, the Vancouver Canucks would automatically cover the spread, as a St. Louis victory in overtime or the shootout would guarantee the margin of victory to be just one goal.
Payouts are indicated by the odds, which are listed at +160 for the Canucks to cover. If you placed a bet of $100 and the Canucks do cover, you would get $260 in return, including your $100 stake plus $160 profit. If you were to bet $10, you would receive $26, with $16 of that being profit.
On the other hand, the St. Louis Blues need to beat the Vancouver Canucks by a minimum of two goals in order to cover the spread. If St. Louis eeks out a close victory in a one-goal game, or if they win in overtime or the shootout, a bet on them would be unsuccessful.
Since the odds for St. Louis are listed at -150, you would need to bet $150 in order to profit $100. In the end, you’d see a return of $250 ($150 stake, in addition to $100 in profit). If you were to bet $15, you would receive $25, with $10 in profit.
Puck Line Strategy from the Experts
When betting on the puck line, you should consider many of the same strategies for success in NHL playoff betting. Coaching, goaltending, injuries, and statistics such as possession, quality of chance, and shot totals can all be helpful metrics.
However, there’s one factor that is often overlooked but can make all the difference in how an NHL team performs on game night: travel schedules.
Pay Attention to Travel Schedules
Obviously, a rested home team will be the favorite against a road team playing their 6th game in 9 nights, in the second half of back to back. The more research you do, the more accurately you can analyze a team’s travel schedule and the implications it has for their chances of victory.
Hockey is a very physical sport with a very busy schedule: performance in the midst of an intense travel schedule should always be factored into any bet you place.
Hockey is an extremely physical, full-contact sport with a busy schedule that sees each team playing multiple games per week. As such, travel schedules are far more significant in hockey than they are in less physical sports, like baseball, or in those with only a small number of games on the schedule, such as football.
If a team is deep in the throes of a 12 game road trip, there’s a good chance their play is going to lag towards the end of it, especially if players cross time zones throughout the course of the trip. Eastern teams often endure road swings in Western Canada (Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver) or California (Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, and now Las Vegas).
The chances of even the best teams making it through such a trip unscathed are next to nothing, and you should bet accordingly. Both of these journeys are notoriously difficult and grueling for too many reasons to list, but performance in the midst of an intense travel schedule should always be factored into any bet you place.
The Camera Adds a Few Points
Certain teams historically have better records when they’re on national television. No matter how bad the Toronto Maple Leafs were in their down years throughout the mid-2000s and early 2010s, they always put on a show for Hockey Night in Canada. The same holds true for celebrated Original Six teams like the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Ready to Start Betting on Hockey?
If you’re ready to dive into the exciting world of betting hockey online, you’ve come to the right place. Before putting your money on the table, make sure you’ve also taken a peek at our NHL Betting Basics Guide.
Those wanting to expand their horizons by wagering on a wide range of sports will be well served by exploring the depth of articles available in our comprehensive how to bet on sports series.