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Hockey Betting 101 - Different team, different day?

Mobile sports betting is now legal in New York State, and, since we have a large New York following, I think it's a good time to introduce betting hockey to those who may not be as familiar with it.

If you're new to betting and looking for clarification on some common betting terms, does have a glossary to help you out. There, you'll also find some helpful definitions to other terms you may come across on the site that you do not recognize.

Defining terms are great, but it's really the strategy and mindset that differentiates betting on the NHL from any of the other major pro North American sports (NFL, NBA, MLB).

We started with an introduction to our standard Today's Game page, and we'll also focus on some of the commonalities you'll come across in NHL betting day-to-day and how to take advantage of the moneyline, puckline, and game totals in the NHL.

But how important is it to know a team's lineup each day? What if there is a player out with an injury or in COVID protocol? We tackle the variances of a team next:

Does today's lineup matter?

Hockey is a unique sport in that the player's on the ice change constantly. This makes hockey much more of a cumulative team sport compared to the NFL and NBA - where certain players are much more responsible for their team's success.

So which players have the biggest affect on the game? Do minor lineup changes matter? We'll navigate through the important aspects of a team's lineup.


There's only one player on the ice for the full 60 minutes of the game (most of the time). So it should come as no surprise that an NHL team's starting goaltender is the player most responsible for the team's success.

Measuring this success analytically really boils down to one important stat, in my opinion. That stat is GSAx, or goals saved above expected. This is used to see exactly how many goals a goalie is letting in compared to the expected goals faced.

This stat is preferred to save percentage or goals against average, because those don't take into account shot quality faced and therefore can be skewed if the team gives up more poor quality shots or less high danger chances.

Because of this importance, we have a page dedicated to the projected starting goalies alone, listing each goalie's GSAx/60 (goals saved above expected per game) and projected goals against for that game.

Here you'll see Alex Nedeljkovic is performing above expected and Aaron Dell, with a negative GSAx, is performing below projected. This helps tip the game in favor of the Detroit Red Wings, despite similar talent levels in other positions and the Buffalo Sabres being the home team.

Forwards vs. Defense

There are usually 12 forwards that rotate throughout the game and six defensemen, so players on defense usually log more ice-time than any other skater. Does this mean defensemen have the second-biggest affect on the outcome of an NHL game?

Not necessarily.

The top forwards on a team can log around 30% of even-strength minutes and 70% of powerplay minutes. Some of those forwards also log 40% of shorthanded minutes. This is usually only three or four fowards.

The top defensemen on the team play about 37% of even-strength minutes and either 55% of shorthanded minutes or 70% of powerplay minutes, depending on skillset. This is really only one offensive defenseman and one defensive defenseman on each team.

Again, we boil each player down to a goals-for value and goals-against value in each situation. Their importance is defined by how much better their values are in comparison to a replacement player.

So, deeper teams may not miss a top forward or defenseman as much. Also, injuries or scratches of bottom line forwards and bottom pair defensemen don't affect the outcome of the game much, considering those players receive less ice-time. Especially if those players aren't involved on special teams units.

Using lineups to help with betting

I recommend checking out our Starting Goalies page daily before placing any bet. Familiarizing yourself with the difference between each team's goalies is important as well. There are situations where a team's preferred goaltender may be very good, while the second option may be performing well below expected.

In some cases, it's actually the opposite. For example Ville Husso of the St. Louis Blues is actually outperforming Jordan Binnington so far this season. As always, make sure to account for sample size. Our projections assume any goalie projected to start that has not reached our minimum shots faced over the past three seasons to have an average game.

As far as star players missing games, we also factor the current projected lineup into each and every projection. So this is caked into the numbers, doing all of the work for you. Rest assured, you can bet with confidence.

Stay tuned as we continue our Hockey Betting 101 series throughout the day! I will also be available to answer any questions you may have so comment below, message @PuckLuckdotcom on Twitter, or email

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