Betting NHL Totals
When it comes to betting totals, NHL bettors have one primary advantage over those who play totals in the other sports. That is a fairly stable number that seldom changes between 5 and 6.5, with the vast majority of the totals 5.5.
In baseball we see numbers from 5.5 to 11.5, the NFL will typically range between 34 and 54, while the NBA will generally be from the low 170s to the 220s, but hockey is pretty consistent with very little fluctuation.
That is a fairly big advantage for bettors, especially given that teams vary in their approach. Two high-scoring football teams will see a total closer to 54 than 44, but two high-scoring hockey teams are most likely to see the total climb from the typical 5.5 to 6.
Several things bettors should be on the lookout for are goalies who historically perform well against certain teams, scheduling factors and the ability to read between the lines of coach’s comments.
The Goalie Factor
Certain goalies tend to fare well, or poorly, against certain teams.
Henrik Lundqvist, of the New York Rangers, historically does well against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils, while Brodeur does well against the Montreal Canadians, especially when playing in his hometown of Montreal. Naturally, Lundqvist has struggled against the Canadians and those games have tended to be high-scoring affairs.
After a while, the goalie tends to get in the head of the opposition and the streak continues.
The opposite also occurs, where goalies like Tomas Vokoun, who has been one of the best over the past eight seasons, struggles against Ottawa, going just 3-10 and allowing 3.5 goals per game.
Goalie tendencies aren’t the sole reason for making a wager, but is something that should be considered.
Over the course of a season, NHL teams play many back-to-back games, along with three in four nights, which will usually involve traveling, making it a grueling few days. When teams are tired, something usually gives and that’s either offense or defense.
Many tired teams will be a bit more lax on defense and save their energy for scoring chances, while others will play a more defensive game and try to get a slower pace. Looking at team tendencies each year can sometimes give you a good ideal of how each team is playing.
Many times coaches will give bettors and ideal of how the team is going to approach a particular game. Naturally, some coaches’ comments carry more weight than others.
After losing to Colorado 6-5 on Oct. 28 and getting blown out by Washington 7-2 on Oct. 30, Calgary coach Brent Suter said his team needed to pay more attention to defense. While they still lost their next game, it was by a 2-1 score, making the under 5.5 an easy win.
Shopping For Odds
One of the most important things NHL bettors can do is to shop for the best odds. This holds true for any sport, but the NHL will have bigger differences than most.
Many times one sportsbook will have a total at 5.5 (under-140), while another will have it 5.5 (under -130). Over the course of a season shopping for the better odds can often be the difference between winning and losing.
Not only do you find differences in prices, such as the total listed above, you can often find numerical differences, where one sportsbook will have the game at 5.5 (under -140) and another will have it a 5 (over -120). Here a bettor liking the total needs to decide how much that half goal is worth to them.
I’ll use my general rule of taking the better odds with a push, but not a potential loss, meaning I would take even money to play under 5 at the second book instead of laying -140 to play under 5.5 because if the game lands on 5 I still push my bet, as opposed to losing.
I would also lay -120 to play over 5 instead of taking +120 to play over 5.5 since if the game ends up falling on 5, I would again push my bet, but would lose if I bet over 5.5
My simple rule is to play the even numbers instead of the half-puck line on totals when you have the opportunity to do so.
The final factor that hockey bettors have in their favor is that it isn’t bet nearly as much as the other sports, meaning the lines are often softer than they are in the mainstream sports. Just as most bettors will say it’s easier to win when following a small college basketball conference than it is to win by following the ACC, the same often holds true in betting the sports that attract less money than the bigger sports.