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Hockey Betting 101 - What the puck is a Puckline?

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, PuckLuck.com 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 the importance of daily NHL lineups.


We'll also get into some of the commonalities you'll come across in NHL betting day-to-day, but first we'll discuss how to take advantage of the moneyline, puckline, and game totals in the NHL.


Is the moneyline really that simple?

If you're familiar with sports betting, you know that betting the moneyline is simply picking the winner for the game. You know in the NFL and NBA it's not really a great return if the game is expected to be tilted heavily in one team's favor.


Well, the same applies to hockey. What's the difference? In the NHL, as previously discussed, the actual value of players missing can be misconstrued in the public betting realm and the randomness of the sport can provide plenty of opportunity for some upsets.


How can PuckLuck help you bet the moneyline?

The simple answer is to refer back to the win probabilities listed on the Today's Games page. If you see any teams listed with + odds on your sportsbook that has a greater than 50% chance of winning according to our probabilities, then you know that's a good bet to exploit.


Option two is to refer to our PuckLuck Picks page. There, we list our top moneyline picks each day, as long as they reach the value threshold set by our standards.


PuckLine? What is a Puckline?

The puckline is just a slang term for the spread in hockey betting. What sets the NHL spread apart from the spreads you may see in the NFL and NBA is that NHL spreads are almost always set at a goal and a half. So the favored team will have a puckline of -1.5 and the underdog will have a spread of +1.5.


If you bet the favored team on puckline, you essentially are betting a team to win by two goals or more. If you bet the underdog on the puckline, you want them to either win the game outright or lose by only one goal. Because of the parity in the NHL, +1.5 pucklines will generally carry very low payouts and -1.5 pucklines can be very rewarding.


In my experience, you'll find that pulled goalie situations at the end of the game will make or break your puckline bet quite often. Since a lot of teams pull the goalie when down a goal at the end of the game, the winning team's attempt to score in the vacant net can be crucial to your success in these situations.


PuckLuck and the puckline

Our success on the puckline this season may mirror what you may have guessed. We're picking the puckline winner with good success (over 59%) but the return on the investment has been minimal.


Our best plays are usually betting a heavy underdog +1.5, which can return close to your full investment. We usually find these plays to have over a 50% success rate.


Game totals in hockey

Everyone likes a good over/under bet, right? In hockey it's no different. Since NHL teams average a hair below three goals a game, you'll find that sportsbooks set most game totals at either 5.5, 6, or 6.5 total goals in a game (2 teams x 3 goals = 6 goals per game). You either choose over (more goals) or under (less goals) that total. This of course is based on the projected offensive and defensive output of both teams.


Betting hockey game totals can be tricky at first glance, since it's basically a 50-50 shot. Also, because the best skaters only play 30%-40% of the game. Also, powerplays are higher event situations, and the amount of powerplays in a game may seem impossible to predict. Let alone the success of teams in those situations.


Never fear, PuckLuck is here

We've found success in game total wagers due to the granular player-based nature of our model. Since each player is assigned a goals-for and goals-against value, we can predict the amount of goals scored based on projected ice-time in each game situation (even-strength, powerplay, and shorthanded) for each player. Add in the projected goaltenders' performance to lower or raise that total, as well as the tendancy of each player to draw or take a penalty to account for more or less ice-time in each game situation.


You'll see an example of our PuckLuck Picks page below:

This suggests a mild (decent) bet can be placed on the over in the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche game, given that these are two high scoring teams. Further research (from our Starting Goalies page) will show that projected starter Kaapo Kahkonen for the Wild is performing below expected, which helps the chances of the over hitting given that the Avalanche are one of the NHL's highest scoring teams.


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 jmoser@PuckLuck.com.

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