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2021 NHL Betting Guide Part II

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2021 NHL Betting Guide Part II
Andre Burakovsky #95 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated by his teammates. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

Yesterday’s article explored some of the foundational topics to betting on the NHL. If you have not read that one yet, you can find it here. Logically it would make sense to at least skim it over for a bit of context first. This article will cover additional hockey markets, which ones should be avoided and why, types of information to use, and volume.

Additional Markets

As hockey’s popularity has significantly grown over the past decade, so has the range of betting opportunities. Like casinos, sportsbooks specialize in offering a maximum amount of games and lines wherever they think bettors won’t truly hold a long-term edge. Which, as a general concept, is mostly everywhere.

Additionally, like casinos, the books don’t want you leaving with your winnings every single time, so if they can get you to put a portion of what you’ve won on some longshot prop or the Lightning to complete a third-period comeback, then you can be sure they’re looking to do that too. So here are some of the popular markets that we didn’t previously cover:

1st Period Moneyline, Total, and Puckline

  • The exact same win conditions as the full game market, except, it ends at the end of the first period [similar to a 1st quarter/half market in other sports].
  • 1p o1.5 is incredibly popular for a stretch each season on a handful of teams. Around the time we get a sample of a dozen games or so, and then can say ‘look at that team that is 10-2 scoring in the first-period blah blah’…it’s public knowledge and the price is already -200.
  • It is certainly worth looking into, but remember that sports outliers regress to the mean. Eventually, the price will not be worth it.

Anytime Goal Scorer

  • This is an individual player market.
  • You may wish to explore information that would lead you to find an edge on a particular player or several to score against a certain team or over a period of several games with this year’s format.
  • This market comes in two forms goals and points [points includes goals and assists].

Reverse Puckline

  • The same win condition as a regular puckline. However, this time you’re betting on the underdog to win by two goals or more.
  • This one has considerable juicy odds, given how difficult it is to come by a two-goal game, let alone by the team that ‘isn’t meant to win’.

Both Teams To Score

  • Exactly as it sounds, very common in soccer.
  • In hockey, roughly less than 10% of games feature a shutout so the odds on BTTS are very low.
  • However, the market you might enjoy looking at is ‘both teams to score 2 or more’; every team averages between 2.5-3.5 goals/game. There is no certainty they will BOTH score two in that game, but there are some reasonable prices in many cases.

Team Totals

  • The number of goals scored by just one team in a game; usually set at 2, 2.5, 3, or 3.5.
  • These can be excellent, as they only rely on the offensive & defensive results of one team.

There are some others that colleagues and friends will venture into. However, these are the most sound and stable of the ‘extras’. There are some specific statistics that I would recommend looking at in each market. Here, the goal is to find the correlation between the data you are provided and the outcome of future events, so get creative!

So, which markets should you avoid? Trick question, there’s no limit to what you can bet but probably shouldn’t. For starters, any exact score market, highest-scoring period, or overtime bets are likely a waste of money. I don’t mean that you can’t ever win betting these, or that it isn’t fun to play some of these. I am saying that finding an edge on them is incredibly difficult.

The first team to score is another popular one. Most often, when I see people tipping this or interested in taking it, it is due to what they believe are momentum-based criteria, such as revenge games, rebound spots, a division rival, being well-rested, or being ‘hungry’. I could go on, as there really is no limit to the number of cliche angles to bring up. That is not to say hockey players do not describe themselves in this way. I’m only saying be careful about the literal process of ‘buying the hype’. Goals are very much a random occurrence, so you don’t really want to put too many limitations on yourself.

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Types of Information

There is no one source that fits all approaches to betting hockey, whether it is a moneyline wager, or total, or any other market really. Instead, I am going to talk generally about this. A few things that I find hockey bettors emphasize too much on are injuries, goalies, and home-ice.

First the matter of home-ice advantage. The short of it is, don’t focus on it…it is truly a marginal advantage in hockey. What is more important is fatigue on a long road trip for the away team, back to back game potentially, an officiating bias (if you follow the rabbit hole), or not having the momentum of the crowd behind you. I have several suggestions for pricing home-ice advantage, and I guarantee you it makes less difference than the chalky prices people walk into because a team is ‘at home’.

Goaltending is without a doubt the single most important position in hockey. That said, it isn’t THAT important…for us. Over the duration of an entire season, the best goalies will of course put up some impressive numbers in specific categories, such as goals-against average, save percentage, and shutouts. However, game-by-game, the best and worst live in that 2-4 goal range I mentioned earlier.

Every day you will see bettors say they aren’t going with X team because so and so or his backup is in the net. It pains me to see, it really does. Why? Cause most often the back-up is built into the price you’re paying at the online sportsbook. So, while you think you might have an edge, it doesn’t work out that way (unless you placed the bet before the news OR anticipated news). A goalie is not like a starting quarterback or ace pitcher, that’s probably the key thing to take away. If you’re coming from other sports try not to think of them like that. Is it good to know the associated price if your #1 guy is in or out against certain teams? Certainly, but try to work out the value behind him being in or out against the other teams’ starter/backup, instead of writing off any team who has their backup or third-string going.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is considered the best goalie
Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images/AFP

The Athletic released an article this week entitled ‘NHL Goalie Rankings’. Just as a note, I think they do a quality job as far as hockey insight goes…in fact, probably the best-written content on the interwebs. HOWEVER, that does not mean it is good information for hockey betting, nor that they are trying to be that, of course. Alright back to the article. The only Tier 1 goalie, based on some NHL management polling was Tampa’s Vasilevskiy, unsurprising. His save percentage last year was a quality 0.917.

Well, guess who else had this exact save percentage – Mikko Koskinen of the Oilers. Mikko was given the bottom end of a Tier 3 rank. However, if you were to place him on a team that was not in the bottom third of the league in shots against he might not be the fifth lowest-ranked starter coming into this season? Did I get that correct? Additionally, 7 different goalies had a greater save percentage than Vasy, some even hold career numbers better than him.

Here is another interesting point worth mentioning – Martin Jones, who has been berated constantly for most of the past year and a half for his drop in numbers allowed an average of 3.0 goals per game in 19/20…Vasilevskiy? 2.5. Truly what everyone remembers and cares about are wins and the Sharks dropped from the Conference finals in 2018/2019 to a bottom-feeding 29th the next year. That is why Jones gets the flack he does.

Injuries are a final piece of misinformation. The injuries themselves are not, it is the effect it has on hockey bettors. I always check the status of a roster as a whole; how banged up are they, are the big penalty-killers out, is there a flu bug going around. However, as I mentioned last week, in a league in which the best and worst still are only separated by 20 wins, don’t make your focus ‘Malkin is out, I can’t bet on the Penguins’.

This year more than most entire portions of a locker room may be sidelined. Look at what happened when all of the quarterbacks went down for the Broncos this season or when 50% of the star power on the 76ers was out of commission this past week. Hockey is an incredibly physical sport and teams have depth charts for a reason. Look to see who is stepping up for a club before assuming they won’t be able to function without a particular star.

Volume

In terms of how many games to get involved with, and how many wagers you should make on those games, to take on a night is a very personal decision based on experience, familiarity, risk management, and estimated edge. Greater exposure can mean more markets/game, or more games/season, or a combination of both. Hockey might be the only sport you trade, and therefore you need to maximize the portion of the calendar that you are granted opportunities. Alternatively, you may be looking for something to try your hand at after the Super Bowl but before spring training, and you’ve always thought hockey looked fun. Perhaps for these bettors ‘high volume’ might be one moneyline position per night.

This all comes back to your method for pricing a line. If you think every game in a particular card should be -125, when it is actually +100, but you don’t want your volume to include every game, you need to filter it down further. The point of this is not who wins the most predictions, it is who is the most profitable…or more importantly – ‘can you be profitable’!

Connor McDavid is the favorite for Hart Trophy
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers. Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images/AFP

Every season I see people say ‘the value is on the Islanders, but I don’t think they will win’, so they bet the Penguins. We are not in the prediction game, we are in the probability game. Please understand the distinction. We will all happily mock those who go to see fortune-tellers or psychics, but then ask our Twitter capper who they think will win and by how many points.

I could drone on about this, but my point is volume is whatever you make of it, but have a standard for assessing it. Talk to others, compare notes. Read and listen to what pundits say, and assess whether the market is reflecting this obvious and overrated position. I have many ideas you can implement to be strategic around your schedule, time commitment, and information available. While this series of articles probably deserves a third, fourth, and fifth entry, we will end it here. I am available at any time to discuss games or betting philosophy, so long as others are genuinely interested in setting things up for themselves the right way. Thanks for reading!