How to Read NHL Lines
NHL betting odds are very easy to understand once you get the hang of it. It’s not about finding value in point spreads. It’s about finding value on the odds and inherent risk/reward from a money management standpoint. Here’s a look at the three most popular NHL bets you can make.
The NHL puck line is like a point spread. But the point spread is always the same. The NHL puck line is always -1.5 goals for the favorite and +1.5 goals for the underdog. If you bet the favorite on a puck line, you’re betting they will win by two goals or more. If you bet the underdog on a puck line, you’re betting they won’t lose by two goals or more. It’s also known as the “reverse puck line.”
Let’s say the Buffalo Sabres are playing the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Let’s say they’re almost dead even, with the Devils given a slight home ice advantage. Here’s how a puck line would look for this NHL matchup.
- Buffalo Sabres +1.5 (-295)
- New Jersey Devils -1.5 (+230)
The number in parenthesis is important. The Devils puck line of +230 means a $100 bet would win $230 if the Devils win by two or more goals. The Sabres puck line of -295 means bettors need to risk $295 to win $100 if the Sabres don’t lose by two goals or more.
Keep in mind the Devils are slightly favored to win the game, but they aren’t favored to hit the puck line. That’s because hockey is relatively low scoring and roughly 50% of all games are decided by one goal. Betting the Devils puck line here means a win isn’t necessarily good enough. They need to win in decisive fashion and beat the Sabres by at least two goals to hit the puck line bet. But, at +230, the profit is great should that happen.
Sabres puck line bettors are risking more money to win less. That’s because the puck line bet hits if the Sabres win the game, but also with a final score of Devils 4, Sabres 3 or Devils 1, Sabres 0. The odds are in Buffalo’s favor. And the bet automatically hits if the game goes to overtime, because the Devils can’t win by more than one goal after regulation.
Just remember the key numbers above are +230 and -295. Those are the numbers that move before a game, while the puck line spread will always be 1.5 goals. Once you have a solid grasp of puck line betting, you’ll start to find value in those odds on a daily basis.
This one should be more familiar. Placing an NHL moneyline bet on a team means you’re betting on them to win the game outright. It doesn’t matter if it wins by three goals or one. Doesn’t matter if it wins in overtime or a shootout. Let’s say the Minnesota Wild are hosting the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Wild are a significant favorite. Here’s how a typical NHL moneyline might look.
- Carolina Hurricanes +200
- Minnesota Wild -250
We know the Carolina Hurricanes are underdogs because they’re listed +200. That means a $100 bet would win $200 if the Hurricanes win the game. The Minnesota Wild are a big favorite at -250, meaning bettors need to risk $250 to win $100. The final score doesn’t matter. All that matters is they win the game outright.
The Wild are favored here because they’re at home, and presumably the better team. But let’s say the San Jose Sharks are on the road playing the St. Louis Blues, and the Sharks have the better record. St Louis has home-ice advantage to even things out, meaning the moneyline odds could look like this.
- San Jose Sharks -110
- St. Louis Blues -110
This means the NHL oddsmakers have deemed this game a toss-up. You can risk $110 to win $100 on San Jose or St Louis, whichever team you think is going to win the game outright. This is where you need to weigh how important home ice is in this particular situation, and whether or not the Sharks are good enough to overcome it as the road team.
Hockey odds for total betting work exactly like NFL and NBA totals. The only difference is the total number is much smaller. NHL oddsmakers set a total number for every game. You can then bet that the number of combined goals scored in the game will be more or less than the total. This is also known as the over/under.
Let’s say the Tampa Bay Lightning are playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s how the NHL total odds might look in this game.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins
- Over 5.5 (-110)
- Under 5.5 (-110)
Bettors can risk $110 to win $100 on either side. Betting the over means the Lightning and Penguins need to score six or more combined goals. It doesn’t matter who wins the game. These NHL lines are just about the goal tally.
Same goes for the under. You might think both goalies are really good and offense will be limited. If the final score adds up to five or less, you win the under bet. Pretty simple, especially for savvy NHL bettors who stay on top of backup goalies. Very few starting goalies play all 82 games of the season, and there’s often value in total betting on backup goalies who may be overrated, underrated, or unknown.
How Are NHL Lines Generated?
NHL oddsmakers and handicappers have a unique challenge compared to other sports. Instead of handicapping uneven teams with point spreads, they do it by adjusting the risk/reward on moneyline and puck line betting odds.
Moneyline NHL odds are set based on countless factors. These include the teams’ records, their travel schedules, overall team health, recent trends, home ice advantage, public perception – the list goes on and on.
Let’s say the Washington Capitals are playing the Vegas Golden Knights, but Alexander Ovechkin is out with an injury. The Capitals are a much better team with Ovechkin on the ice. Oddsmakers take this into account on puck line, moneyline and total line. Or, Ovechkin could come in on a crazy hot streak. Maybe he’s scored six goals over the last four games. NHL oddsmakers could factor that in the other way and make the Capitals an even more significant favorite over the Golden Knights.
It’s not a simple formula. NHL handicappers have to weigh all the data and combine it with their experience to consistently set strong lines.
How Often Do NHL Odds Change?
NHL odds can change often from the day before and in the hours leading up to a game. NHL betting lines are often available for less than 24 hours with teams playing on consecutive nights. Whereas NFL betting lines have a week to evolve and shift, NHL odds swing in short bursts.
That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of NHL betting odds throughout the day. If you see a lot of value on an opening line, chances are it won’t be there for long. Our NHL odds page automatically updates when lines change and includes only the best lines from legal recommended NHL betting sites. Bookmark this page so you can better monitor line movement and pounce on the latest NHL odds as soon as you see betting value.
When are NHL Odds Released?
NHL odds are usually released the day before a game, or the morning of. If the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing the Buffalo Sabres on a Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, sportsbooks won’t post odds for Penguins-Lightning until the Penguins-Sabres game is over.
Simply keep an eye on the NHL schedule and bookmark this page so you can jump on the latest NHL odds the second they go up at our recommended online betting sites.