It’s easy to understand why the casual sports fan might be overwhelmed by the idea of betting on hockey. There are soon to be 32 teams in the NHL, and each has 23 players on the roster.
How can you possibly analyze every team and learn enough about the players to make strong bets on anything from daily NHL game lines to NHL player props the winner of the Art Ross Trophy?
Well, certain factors vastly outweigh others. Through this NHL betting strategy guide, you should be able to figure out what really matters when analyzing an NHL game for betting.
Dig deep in the NHL stats
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “well, that’s an obvious suggestion,” and it is. However, not all statistics are created equal. Some stats are common knowledge and are already baked into the sportsbook’s betting lines. Other stats are noise with minimal impact on the game. However, there are some stats that can really highlight how teams are playing.
A team’s current form is crucially important to understand. Look at the standings and see which teams are performing well. You’ll also like to see how teams are performing over the past few games. Of course, just blindly betting the team that is higher in the standings isn’t a profitable solution.
One great team statistic to analyze is goal differential. It’s a simple stat that shows whether a team is scoring more goals than they give up or vice versa. If a team is winning games but its goal differential isn’t impressive, maybe most of those wins are close calls. You can argue that being able to win close games is a skill, but the closer a game is, the more luck and variance played a part. If a team is consistently winning one-goal games, you know that squad is one bad bounce away from losing those same games.
On the flip side, if a team is winning games comfortably, then it’s thoroughly outplaying opponents and deserves to win those games. It’s a lot tougher to argue for a fluky win when the victor prevailed 4-1.
However, the best statistics to look at are those measuring factors like puck possession and shot quality. Oftentimes, these stats are referred to as “advanced analytics,” but they really aren’t too advanced. They can be found at sites like NaturalStatTrick.com.
For example, expected goals is a very useful stat. It takes into account factors such as number of shot attempts and quality of scoring chances. The premise is simple. If you take a lot of shot attempts, you should expect to score more goals. If those shot attempts are from high-danger areas, the expectation is that those will lead to goals at a more frequent rate.
On that note, high-danger chances are another way to measure how well a team is performing. If teams consistently generate more high-danger chances than opponents, over time, they should outscore those opponents. Putting more pucks on net than your opponent is a good thing. Plus, having the puck in the offensive zone more than your opponent should theoretically give you an advantage. The other team can’t score if your squad is generating chances on its end of the ice.
By looking at these advanced analytics, you’re able to pinpoint which teams are actually driving play. You can then decide whether their current standings position is earned.
Analyze the NHL schedule
Unlike in football or baseball, there’s nuance to the hockey schedule. Not every game is created equal. Teams play anywhere from two to five times a week on different days. This inherently gives teams advantages in certain spots.
The most important factor when looking at the schedule is back-to-back games. If both teams played the night before, you can ignore that factor for the most part. Still, it would be wise to look at how the two teams play in the second half of back-to-backs to see if an exploitable edge exists.
However, the true advantage comes in situations where one team played the night before and now must travel to play against a rested team. This situation is known (potentially) as a “schedule loss.”
It’s true that rested teams win against tired teams at a much higher rate. There are many factors at play, but the most important one is simple: hockey is a physical game, and these players put their bodies through the wringer on a night-to-night basis. One team battling the night before while the other rested at home is definitely an advantage.
Back-Up Goalies, Travel Also Big Factors
Another factor at play is the goaltending situation. For the most part, goaltenders will not play both legs of a back-to-back set. Therefore, the backup goaltender often gets the call in the second game. For some teams, this might not make a huge difference. However, many teams in this league suffer a dramatic quality drop from starting goalie to backup. Make sure to check out the goaltending matchup for any game before you place bets.
Back-to-back games aren’t the only schedule factor to consider. Watch out for teams on long road trips. Due to travel, these teams will often have a game where they appear sapped of energy and practically mailing it in. This is common in the last game of an extended road trip.
In addition, fatigue isn’t just an issue in back-to-back games. Watch out for teams playing three games in four nights or five in seven nights. These might not be as obvious when looking at the schedule, but the players can certainly feel it.
Goalies, Injuries & Streaks
You don’t need to be a hockey expert who knows the fourth line centre of every team in the league. However, you should keep up with the NHL in general.
The first step before betting online in Canada on any NHL game is to check out the goaltending matchup. This isn’t football, where a team can go a whole season and never play its backup quarterback. With the grind of an NHL season, backup goaltenders play every night across the league.
It’s worth taking the few seconds to make sure you’re not betting on a team playing its subpar backup goaltender. In short, bad goaltending is the easiest way to lose games (and bets) in this league.
In addition, take a look at the injury report. If a team has key injuries, bet against them or avoid them. Oftentimes, NHL betting lines are set based on a team’s reputation and body of work as a whole. However, if key players are out, you’re not getting that team at its best, and you don’t want to pay a premium in that situation.
Also, in a long season, teams will hit streaks and funks. It’s hard to time when these will end, so check out the recent performance of teams you’re betting on. If a team has lost five straight games, you might want to stay clear for a few more games until they can rebound and get back on track. Contrarily, if a team has won five in a row, it’s probably best not to bet against them. Momentum is a real thing.
Hockey betting might seem overwhelming, but it really isn’t. If you’re willing to put in a few minutes of basic sports betting research, you should be able to easily identify some edges that casual bettors won’t.
Look at the less obvious statistics to try and find teams that might be over-performing or under-achieving. Bet on NHL teams in good scheduling spots, and avoid those teams that might be getting the raw end of the stick from the schedule makers. Confirm which goaltender is starting that night. Avoid teams that might be dealing with a rash of injuries. Be mindful of hot streaks and cold spells.
Oh, and check the sportsbook rules for hockey betting, too. It never hurts to know exactly when and how your NHL bets will pay out.