How to Read NHL Betting Lines — NHL Bets
Hockey, being one of the most beloved sports globally, becomes even more thrilling when you have a stake in the game. That said, understanding how to read NHL betting lines is the first step you must take before you can even begin to place some NHL bets.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the expertise and confidence to decipher even the most intricate of betting lines. So, let’s get started and equip you with the skills to navigate and interpret how to read NHL betting lines like a seasoned pro!
The first thing to do when looking for the NHL betting lines is to go to your favourite sportsbook to see what they can offer. The sportsbooks are the place to turn to because they have the most up-to-date information about the odds offered on any given NHL game.
There are a variety of bet types that are popular for hockey games. Some of the most common include the moneyline, spread (puckline), over/under,period bets, and team props, all of which will be covered in this guide. While we will go more into each of these betting options in greater detail at a later date, you first need to understand that betting on the NHL isn’t very difficult and that after just a few minutes, you’ll be ready to go and join the millions of Canadians betting on these games. Understanding the difference between different NHL betting lines and how to compare them is a big deal when working on becoming a sharper and more seasoned gambler. Every NHL bet will have odds associated with it and it’s up to you to discern which of the many potential wagers is a smart one to make.
When you open the NHL section in your sportsbook, you’ll be greeted with a plethora of options. To start, you must understand the basics. In Canada, odds will be displayed in the American format. This means that any selection with an implied probability of more than 50% has its odds displayed as a negative number. That number represents how much you must bet to win C$100 on top of your stake. On the other hand, any bet with an implied probability of 50% or less will have its odds shown as a positive number. That number shows how much you can win with a C$100 bet.
Let’s start by taking a look at the basics of the NHL betting lines that you might encounter when placing your wagers. With just a little knowledge about how these lines work, you can gain more confidence with each wager you place. To get started, let’s look at some definitions and examples of different kinds of bets you might want to place.
The moneyline is one of the most straightforward bets that a gambler can place. You simply select which team you believe will win the match and place your wager on that team. If they win the match, then you win your bet. If they do not, then you lose. It is very simple and easy for almost anyone to understand. An important note when you make a moneyline wager is that you may not receive great odds for your bet. If you wager on a team that is a heavy favourite to win their game, then you won’t be paid out as much as if you took a riskier wager. For example: If you bet C$30 on a -300 favourite, then you would only be paid C$40 total (your C$30 bet plus C$10 profit).
Spread Bet (Puckline)
The most popular type of bet on any NHL game is a bet made “against the spread.” This is a creative way for a sportsbook to help attempt to equalize the teams as far as wagers are concerned. After all, all sportsbooks and all gamblers know that some teams are simply better than others. How, then, can a sportsbook work on attracting wagers on both sides of a game? They offer a spread bet. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example to explain what this might look like:
The Edmonton Oilers are having a great season and are squaring off against the San Jose Sharks on their home ice. Unfortunately, for the San Jose Sharks, this has not been a good season, and they are also dealing with a number of injured players. In this hypothetical scenario, the Edmonton Oilers would have a very good chance of winning the game. Thus, the moneyline offered for the Oilers might be something like -400. However, the sportsbook can also offer a spread of -1.5 goals in favour of the Oilers to attempt to draw action on both sides of the contest.
What this means is that a gambler who places a bet on the Oilers against the spread must hope that the Oilers win by 2 or more goals. The spread has caused the Oilers to start with negative 1.5 goals for this wager. Thus, they will have to win by a margin of 2 or more to overcome that spread and win the bet against the spread. Given the additional risk that one takes on with a bet against the spread, the gamblerS will be rewarded with a larger payout for their successful bet. Thus, in this scenario, the Oilers -1.5 might pay odds of -175 instead of the -400 moneyline offering.
Another very popular wager type for NHL games, as well as many other sports, is an over/under wager. This is a wager about the total number of goals that will be scored in the game. Those wagering on the over/under don’t have an active interest in which team wins the game. Instead, they are only interested in the cumulative number of goals scored. An example of an over/under line that might be offered is 6.5 goals. Those who wager on the under are wagering that the two teams in their chosen NHL contest will score 6 goals or fewer combined. Those who wager on the over are taking a shot at an outcome in which the two teams combine for 7 or more goals.
The payoff on an over/under wager is typically fairly even regardless of which side you wager on (typically -110 to -120), but those odds can differ based on the money wagered by other gamblers. Thus, check the odds on both sides of this wager before placing your bet.
Maybe you don’t want to wager on the final outcome of the game as a whole, but perhaps you have a strong feeling about what is going to happen in the game in a given period. A strong inclination about how the teams will perform in a given period of the game can be profitable for you if you want to take a chance on something like that. For example, you can sometimes find an over/under, moneyline, or spread bet on the outcome of an individual period. For example, a common over/under line for an individual period in an NHL hockey game is likely to be approximately 1.5 goals. If you think that the teams are about to unleash and start firing in lots of goals, then you bet the over, or you might think that the period is likely to be a quiet one. If that is where your mind is, then you should bet the under.
There are a lot of alternative bet types that you might consider placing in an NHL game. You should review these options as well to help better understand the full range of options that exist for you.
This bet type is a favourite of casual and experienced gamblers alike. This is a long-term bet that you tend to place at the beginning of a season (although they are offered later as well). An example of a futures bet might be a straight wager on which team will win the Stanley Cup. At the beginning of the season, there is great uncertainty about which team will ultimately be crowned champion. Therefore, you can place a futures bet on a given team to win it all at decent odds at the beginning of the season. If your team ultimately wins it all, then your bet will pay off as well. It is typical that some of the most likely teams to win it all might be offered at +300 to +500 odds, whereas some of the most unlikely teams may offer +5000 odds or greater.
Proposition or prop bets are wagers about what kind of events may take place within an NHL game outside of the final score. For example, you might make a prop bet about how many saves a particular goalie will have in the game, or they might want to wager on which team will have more shots on goal. Those are all propositions that you might have the chance to wager on. The specific prop bets that are offered in a given contest will vary depending on the particular sportsbook that you are using. Also, the more attention there is on a specific game, the more prop bets are likely to be offered. For obscure NHL contests, it might be possible that no prop bets are offered at all at some of the weaker sportsbooks.
It is possible to combine two or more wagers into a parlay bet. This is the kind of bet that requires that all elements of your wager come true for you to win. However, a parlay bet also has a bigger payout for those lucky enough to win this type of bet. Most sportsbooks will now allow you to combine multiple wagers within a single game in a parlay bet. You can typically combine wagers from across different NHL contests to create your parlay bets. For example, you could wager the Detroit Red Wings moneyline and Colorado Avalanche moneyline together if they play two separate games. If both teams win that night, you win your parlay bet. You will be paid a higher sum than if you simply bet on either or both teams on the moneyline by themselves.
Any gambler can place a wager on an NHL game by checking the lines and logging on to their favourite sportsbook to select the games that they would like to wager on. They can then look over the various odds available for different possible outcomes in each game. They can then choose a bet they like. For example, a player may wish to bet on the moneyline if they feel like they know which team will win the game outright.
Another bettor may want to bet on the over/under if they know roughly how many goals will be scored in the game. Also, they might want to place a puckline bet if they think they know what kind of margin will exist between the two teams when the game is over. To place a wager, the player simply selects the outcome or outcomes that they might want to bet on, select the amount that they want to bet, and submit the bet.
Most gamblers will place straight wagers on these different outcomes, but it is also possible to place more exotic wagers, such as parlay bets. A parlay bet is riskier as it requires all the selected wagers to receive a large payout. However, some choose to do this as a way to try to win a large amount of money off of a relatively small wager. Regardless of what they decide to wager on, all gamblers will have to go through their sportsbook to make the wager. After the bet is placed, you will have to wait until the stake settles out to claim your money if you have won.
Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that there is some magic system that allows you to read NHL lines in a manner that will be profitable every time. However, there are some tactics that you can use to make sure you are getting your money down in the way you want it. To illustrate this, we should look at an example of some NHL lines you might see at some point. Let’s take a look at the kind of line that you might see when you are looking over what a sportsbook might offer on a given NHL line:
Detroit Red Wings -1.5 (-125) or -250 moneyline vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights +1.5 (-110) or +200 moneyline. Over 6.5 goals (-120) Under 6.5 goals (-105)
If this is what you saw, would you know what to make of all of this? Let’s break it down to help understand the information being displayed here. The first piece of information you can glean from this string of information is that the Detroit Red Wings are the favourites to win the game. You can see this both based on the -250 odds on the moneyline and also given the fact that they are favoured by 1.5 goals on the puckline.
The next thing you can see is that the over/under is set at 6.5 goals, but you win slightly less money (-120) if you bet on the over and win versus if you bet on the under at -105 and win. This indicates that there is slightly more money on the over 6.5 goals for this matchup. Thus, the gambling public believes that it is somewhat more likely that the match will have a total of 7 or more goals scored than they think that there will be fewer than 7 goals. This does NOT mean that the public is absolutely correct in their assumptions, but it does indicate that there is more money coming in on the over side of this transaction.
Finally, you can see a +200 on the moneyline for the Golden Knights to win the game outright. This means that you will be paid 3 to 1 if you bet on the Golden Knights to win, and they come through for you on that. You receive these higher odds because it is not all that likely that the Golden Knights will outright win the game. If they do, you deserve to be paid off significantly for the risk that you took.
There are as many theories about how to maximize your profits while wagering on the NHL as there are people who place bets on these games. However, there are at least a few tried and true methods that can help you get more steady profits when wagering on NHL contests.
One tip to take away is that you can lock in more consistent wins if you wager on the kind of things that are most likely to happen. For example, betting on heavy favourite teams to win their matchups can assist you with getting a slew of wins in a row. This might help you from a psychological point of view because you might simply need to make sure that you are getting some wins under your belt for a period of time.
The major risk with wagering on the kind of wagers that are “supposed” to come in is that sometimes they don’t. For example, if you wager C$30 on a -300 line, you might begin to count your winnings in your head before it comes to pass. You are already thinking about what you will do with the C$10 profit that you imagine you have already won. However, you shouldn’t get too far ahead of yourself on that one. If your heavy favourite doesn’t come in as a winner, then you lose your entire C$30 bet chasing after a C$10 profit. You, therefore, need to hit these bets at a very high percentage to turn a profit.
Another strategy that many gamblers like to use is to chase down the lines with a lot of public money and interest. This is to say that they will go after certain lines that have been attracting more and more money. Sometimes, there are reasons why the money is pouring in on one side or the other. Perhaps someone has some inside information about a player’s injury or some other factor that might impact the game. If that is the case, then it may show up in the way that people wager. In fact, if you notice particularly large wagers coming down on one side or the other, you might want to follow those wagers and bet on the same side. Again, nothing is guaranteed, but some people take comfort in the idea that they are joining the crowd when placing their wager.
Other people prefer to head in the opposite direction and bet against the public. This contrarian approach is also very popular. Thus, you can see numerous strategies available and many ways to analyze NHL betting lines to make the most profit.
It is all too easy to fall victim to human error and end up wagering on an NHL line improperly. There are some common mistakes that people are prone to make all the time that you should be on the lookout for before you ever place a wager. After all, even one small mistake can be extremely costly and result in a lost bet.
Moneyline VS Puckline
One of the common mistakes that people make when looking over NHL lines is getting confused about the moneyline versus the puckline. The two numbers are often listed side-by-side, and a newer gambler might easily become baffled about which number is which and what kind of odds they are truly looking at when it comes to getting the wagers down that they need to get down. Understand that the puckline will always be represented by a spread number such as -1.5, -2.5, -3.5 or +1.5, +2.5, +3.5 etc. The negative numbers are for the favourites, and the positive numbers are for the underdog. They will always be a mirror representation of one another. In other words, if a favourite is -1.5 on the puckline, then the underdog will be +1.5 on the other side of it.
The moneyline is just a straight-up bet on which team will win. For underdogs, the odds paid on the moneyline will be higher than the spread because they have to win the game outright instead of just covering the spread. For favourites, the odds paid on the moneyline will be lower than the spread because it is easier for the favourite to simply win the game than it is for them to win the game AND cover the spread. So pay careful attention to this before you place your wager.
Period Lines VS Game Lines
Another common mistake that is often made by those who are newer to NHL gambling is getting confused about period lines compared to full game lines. The period lines are only representative of what will happen in that specific period of play. For example, the over/under in the 1st period might be 1.5 goals. You are only wagering on if there will be more or less than 1.5 goals in the 1st period alone. That wager has no bearing on what will happen in the full game. Always check if you are betting on a full game wager or just a period wager, as the lines are likely to be dramatically different from one another.
Not Double-Checking Your Bets
Finally, one of the common mistakes that some gamblers make is not to double-check their wagers before placing them. For example, some wagers are designated as applying only to the three periods of a standard hockey game and not to any overtime that might result from a given contest. Thus, you should make sure you always check to see if your bet includes a potential overtime period or not. This technicality can make a huge difference to the outcome of your bet.
NHL Expert's Conclusion
NHL Betting Expert
In short, mastering “How to read NHL betting lines” opens up a world of thrilling possibilities for hockey fans and bettors alike. From understanding the various bet types to learning how to decipher different odds formats, these are essentials that can vastly maximize your profits. Now armed with this knowledge, explore the lines, place your wagers, and let your NHL betting adventure commence!
The various sportsbooks set the betting lines to attempt to attract a roughly equal sum of money on both sides of any given wager. They are set based on the probabilistic odds that any given outcome will occur. The more likely a certain outcome is, the less that a gambler will be paid off on their wager if that outcome does pass.
Look for key information on any betting line regarding how much you will be paid off on a successful wager and so much more. Also, look at what the line says about the probability that a particular outcome will occur. When reading the lines, make sure you pay close attention to ensure you are getting the odds you believe you are getting.
The different numbers on betting lines refer to the spread between two teams, the over/under for a given contest, and the odds that you will receive for the various outcomes listed. For example, if you see a line of the Anaheim Ducks -1.5 (-120), this means that the Ducks are favoured by 1.5 goals and that you will receive odds of -120 (wager $120 to win $100) if you take the Ducks against the spread.
The betting lines in the NHL are always set to try to draw action on both sides of a wager. In other words, you will see that the sportsbooks create their lines to try to make them as reasonably attractive to both sides as possible. The sportsbooks simply want to have roughly equal money on both sides so that they can profit from their cut-off of each gambler’s wagers. So pay attention to what is offered to you and get down on the side that makes the most sense to you.
The moneyline is a straight-up bet on one team or another to win the game outright. If you are interested in simply wagering on which team will win a contest, then you should look at what the moneyline offers. This won’t pay out as much for you as gambling on the puckline if you are betting on a favourite, but your level of risk is often lower as well.
When you want to bet on a team to cover the spread, you are betting on the puckline. You might do so if you feel particularly confident in a favourite to win the game by a significant number of goals. Alternatively, you might also use the puckline to bet on an underdog team that you just happen to feel has a good chance of at least covering the spread (not losing by more than the spread). Those who bet on an underdog don’t need their team to win outright. They just need them not to lose by a certain number of goals set by the puckline.
Getting away from choosing which team is most likely to win is possible by betting on the over/under of any given NHL game. In that case, you will simply be selecting how many goals you believe are most likely to be scored in the course of the game. If you wager on the over/under, you are making a specific bet about how many goals are likely to go into the back of the net throughout the course of the game. Simply choose if you believe the number will be higher or lower than the line set by the sportsbooks and place your wager. You don’t have to know what the final score will be. You just need to know if it will be higher or lower than the number set by the sportsbook.
📚 More NHL-Related Topics, From Betting Guides to the Highest-Paid NHL Players
Rowan is a sports betting journalist with an established presence in the sports media industry through his thought-invoking coverage and commentary surrounding major leagues like the NBA, NFL, and NCAA. While Rowan specializes in NBA, NFL, and NCAA college sports coverage, he consistently follows and reports on every major sport in North America.
Facts checked by Rowan Fisher-Shotton