Of all the sports available to bet on in the United States, the NHL ranks somewhere around sixth in popularity. The NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA football, and NCAA basketball are all more popular, and soccer might be more popular than the NHL. The reason why I point this out is because most gamblers I know who bet on the NHL are action junkies.
If you want to be a winning NHL bettor, you need to become a student of the game and not just an action junkie looking for your next bet. One of the best ways to get started is to learn the most common mistakes you need to avoid.
Here’s a list of seven mistakes NHL bettors make that you should avoid.
1 – Overvaluing the First Lines
NHL teams use more than one line during each game. The starting line usually has the best center and wings on the team, but there are also second and third lines, as well as penalty killing lines that teams use. While it’s important to evaluate the starting line for each team, you also need to evaluate the other lines that are going to see action during each game.
The first line is the most valuable, but you also need to know how good the penalty killing line is and how the second and third lines match up in each game. When you only look at the first lines, you’re missing a large part of the game that you need in order to properly handicap games.
2 – Ignoring Goalies
The first thing I look at when I’m evaluating NHL games is goalie play. I want to know which goalie is starting for each team and how good they’ve been performing. Have they faced the opposing team earlier in the season, and how did they do? Has anything changed since the earlier meeting and how are the goalies playing recently in comparison to earlier in the season?
I also take a close look at the defense in front of the goalie. The defenders that spend the most time on the ice have a great deal to do with how effective each goalie is. The best defensive players make the goalie’s job easier by helping him keep a good line of sight and reducing the number of shots on goal.
On the other hand, the best goalie in the world can struggle when the defense allows too many shots on goal and allows opponents in the crease. A goalie that can’t see a shot on goal has a hard time blocking it.
You also need to have a good idea of how good or bad the backup goalies are. If you don’t track backup goalies you should avoid betting on games when the starting goalie isn’t playing. But you can find an edge in some games with a backup goalie if you know the abilities of the backup.
3 – Missing Puck Line Opportunities
Most of the NHL bettors I know bet on the moneyline at their online sportsbooks because most of them are confused by puck lines. Instead of learning how to use puck lines when they look for value, they just ignore them and focus on the moneyline.
The most common puck line has one team getting 1 ½ goals and the other team giving 1 ½ goals. This can be valuable, especially when two teams are closely matched. Many close games end with a one goal differential, so when you can make a bet and receive 1 ½ goals, you can get an edge.
Of course, you pay a price to receive goals so you have to weigh the advantage of getting goals against the higher price you have to pay to decide if there’s any value or not. But if you ignore the puck line you’re not doing everything you can to identify value when handicapping NHL games.
4 – Ignoring Defensive Abilities of Centers and Wings
Most NHL bettors look at the goalie and defensive players when evaluating games for defense, but they ignore how well or bad the center and wings play defense. When the puck is on the defensive side of the ice, all six players on defense are working to stop the other team from scoring.
The most popular centers and wings are the ones that score the most goals and have the most assists, but sometimes, a game is won or lost based on the ability to stop the other team from scoring.
In addition to some centers and wings not being good at defense, some of them are simply lazy on the defensive end. All they seem to care about is scoring, so they don’t try as hard as they can on the defensive side. You need to know which centers and wings are good defenders and how they influence the game. And you definitely need to know which ones are lazy, because they can cost their team several goals over the course of a season.
5 – Missing Minor Injuries
It’s easy to see the injuries that keep hockey players out of a game, but hockey is a violent sport and most players deal with minor injuries throughout the season. You need to learn how to identify minor injuries and use them when you evaluate games.
The days of getting all or your information from the newspaper and on Sports Center are long gone if you want to be a winning hockey gambler. Start following the beat writers that cover each NHL team so you can find out about minor injuries that don’t keep a player out of a game but are severe enough to alter his performance.
Twitter is a good place to find out about minor injuries, but you also need to read the game reports by the beat reporters from previous games. You can also pick up on minor injuries as you watch games.
6 – Betting the Under With a Backup Goalie
Starting goalies are in that position because they give the team the best chance to win. No NHL coach can afford to sit a goalie that’s better unless he’s hurt or needs a night off. This means that when the backup goalie is starting, the odds are good that it’s going to influence the game.
I don’t bet the over/under line much in the NHL, but one hard and fast rule that I follow is to never bet the under when a backup goalie is in the net. The sportsbooks usually adjust the over/under up when a backup is starting, but I still have a hard time finding any value on the under.
It doesn’t happen in every game, but in some games, the offense jumps out to a lead and they’re like sharks smelling blood in the water. They hit goal after goal and win by a large margin. This is much more likely to happen when a backup goalie is starting than when the starter is in the game.
7 – Failing to Value Goals Over Assists
Assists are good, and the best players tend to have the best assist totals. But the way to win games is to score goals. Not every assist is created equally. I always look at the goals scored first when I’m evaluating NHL games.
I still consider assists when looking at the offenses in a game, but they aren’t as important to me as identifying the players who score the most goals. This helps me identify the opposing players most likely to be on the scorer and determine his chances of limiting the goals and shots on goal.
If you’re just looking for more action when you bet on NHL games, you might as well flip a coin to make your selections. But if you’re interested in learning how to handicap games and have a realistic chance of turning a profit, the tips on this page are a great place to start.
You can understand how most NHL bettors make mistakes and learn how to avoid them by learning from the seven common mistakes on this page. Keep working on your handicapping skills by recognizing mistakes you’re making and correcting them. This is how winning NHL gamblers handicap games and gain a long-term profit.