5 NHL Playoff Betting Strategies

NHL PLayer Sidney Crosby

If you’ve never really given hockey a chance, whether as a fan or as a bettor, the playoffs are the perfect place to start.

For those who enjoy the type of betting that baseball provides, learning how to capitalize on the NHL should come naturally. If you’re the type of bettor who typically sticks to baseball and football, don’t worry, betting on hockey isn’t too difficult to learn. In fact, you just might be able to stay away from some unintended biases.

In this article, I’ll lay out what the top considerations should be when betting on the NHL playoffs that can help you have a little extra in your bankroll come June.

1 – Follow the Losing Team

Once you get to the playoffs, it’s safe to assume that all teams are a bit more equal in talent. One way to interpret this fact is that it’s less likely for teams to lose several games in a row. This particular tip involves not only this philosophy, but also has a bit of a “fade the public” angle as well.

The concept follows that when a team wins, the public gets an inherently biased opinion of the winning team. They feel as if they’ve proved they’re a better team and will bet accordingly. As nearly all sports gamblers know, when the public is leaning one way, it can be advantageous to go the other way.

This theory has some real thought and consideration behind it. For one, it’s true that good teams are less likely to lose two in a row. Additionally, the motivation factor can kick in, as there’s no substitute for fighting to stay in the playoffs.

While it’s an easy way to come to a conclusion if you’re looking to make a hasty bet, it’s probably not the best method to use. If you’re going to bet on a team simply because they lost the previous game, make sure that the odds are heavily in your favor.

If you’re the type that feels like you need some sort of actual numerical evidence in place to make a bet (never a bad philosophy), there’s one piece of data that supports betting on a team that just lost.

Although it isn’t a very common occurrence, sometimes a team will win by three or more goals in a playoff game. In the following game, the team that lost by three or more has an outstanding record of 56-38 from 2015 to 2019.

Again, the public is likely to overreact if a team gets beat badly, and this can present a great opportunity to take advantage of the value that will be presented.

2 – Look for Potential Sweeps

This tip revolves around somewhat of the same rationale as the previous one. Most notably, it takes into account how unlikely it is for one good team to completely dominate another good team, especially when a chance at the Stanley Cup is on the line.

The big difference in the sweep scenario is that there’s a little bit more hard evidence to suggest the data is on your side. For example, since 2005, if a team is down 3-0 in the series, they have gone on to win game four 55.5% of the time. The actual record of the team down 3-0 is 25-20.

NHL Player Elias Petterrson

This data gets even more convincing when you factor in the location of Game 4. Teams who are down 3-0 and are playing Game 4 at home have won at a 58.8% clip.

One attractive aspect of placing a bet on a team that is playing to avoid a sweep is that you’re likely going to get good odds on the moneyline. It stands to reason that sportsbooks will make the team that’s down 3-0 the underdog, which elevates the value of taking them on the moneyline.

3 – Goaltending

The most important position, especially in the playoffs when every goal is critical, is goaltender. To make a comparison, think of an MLB team who is able to start the same ace pitcher each game. It’s going to make a major difference. (Okay, it’s not 100% the same, but let it go for this analogy.)

Having a good goalie doesn’t just help a team on the defensive end, but it also allows them to take more risks offensively, which can lead to more scoring. In short, it’s really important for a team to feel like they can trust their goaltender.

When it comes to evaluating the goalie matchup, there are a range of factors to consider before determining which team has the edge.

Factors to Evaluating the Goaltending Matchup

  • Experience – The playoffs are high-stakes and the opponents are always good. These are two major differences from the regular season. It’s important to note that there’s no substitute for experience. If all else seems equal between the goaltenders, the one with more experience should be considered to have the edge.
  • Hot or cold – It’s hard to fully explain why, but goaltenders can go through streaks of significant better or worse play. If you’re able to find a matchup where a goalie has been extremely hot as of late, ride the streak and bet on them until they lose.

One way to really take advantage of a high-value bet is to find underdogs with a hot goalie. Any time you can spot a game with an underdog and a goalie riding a streak of good performances, jump all over the odds on the moneyline.

4 – Look at the Advanced Metrics

In today’s world of sports betting, more numbers and data are available than ever before. It can seem a bit overwhelming, and sometimes useless, but if you look at the right metrics, you can use it to your advantage.

In a lower-scoring sport like hockey, there are several numbers to look at that go beyond just goals scored or goals allowed. For example, statistics are now available that allow you to see a team’s “quality” of shots taken and shots given up. These can help you determine if a final score is reliable, or if it’s more the result of a few lucky bounces.

NHL Player Skating on the Ice

In addition, each player on a team should have numbers that are specific to their individual performance and impact they have on the outcome of a game. This can help you evaluate the importance of an injury that takes a player out of a game or series completely, or limits their effectiveness.

I won’t list out all of the advanced metrics you can use to help make sense of a matchup because the list is extensive. With that being said, if you’re serious about making money betting on hockey, I’d recommend getting familiar with the more notable pieces of data.

5 – Consider All Plays

The most common type of bet on a hockey game is the moneyline, but that isn’t the only option.

If you don’t feel like the value presented on the moneyline is up to your standards, take a look at the puck line. The puck line functions just like a spread, taking a team to win or lose by a certain margin. Obviously, there is an increased risk with this type of play, but the way the odds will shift can be extremely enticing.

The puck line isn’t the only alternative to the standard moneyline bet on the final score. Try out betting on individual periods to break the game down into smaller segments. You might be surprised to find that some teams actually perform wildly differently throughout the course of a game.

Conclusion

Regardless of your experience level in betting hockey, I can’t recommend betting on the NHL Playoffs enough. The excitement of the game has a real chance to win you over as a fan, and if you do your research and avoid mistakes, it could also win you some money.