It’s that time of year again when the top sixteen teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) duke it out to determine after multiple rounds of grueling “Best 4 out of 7” series, which one of the teams has earned the right that year to hoist the greatest trophy in all of hockey—the Stanley Cup. Then there’s you. Perhaps you’re a first-time bettor or maybe this is just your first-time betting on hockey. Either way, the list of basic tips below has been designed to help you.

Commit to the League (Do Your Research)

Sports betting is a serious business that some men and women spend their entire adult lives getting great at. While earning a bit of extra cash on a fantasy site with your buddies might be nice, just remember to never bet more money than you can afford to lose. The sport is entertainment. The money is real. Sure, there are bettors out there who can afford to take more calculated risks than others, but that’s just what they are – calculated or educated.

If you are betting on the finals, you don’t necessarily have to have followed every team for the entirety of the 82-game regular season, but it obviously helps to track teams’ performance before the postseason kicks off to know who stands the greatest chance to win. The nice thing about waiting until the last round (the finals) is that you A) already know which teams are the best-performing and B) have already seen those teams perform in the playoffs to have an up-to-date history to refer back to when betting.

At bare minimum, find articles with headlines like “[YEAR] Stanley Cup Finals Preview” or (even better) “[INSERT TEAM]’s Regular Season Report Card” to get you up to speed.

Learn Betting Lingo 

Stop what you’re doing right now, pack a bag, and make your way to Mexico. Just leave. Oh, you don’t know Spanish? Then visiting a foreign country without at least a novice-level understanding of a given language doesn’t sound like a smart idea, does it? The same idea applies to betting. Doc’s Sports Service has an expansive list of terms that beginners in betting need to check out and you can do so here. However, there are a few terms worth going over.

*Most terminology will still apply regardless of the sport you are betting on.

Dime Bet, Nickel Bet, Dollar/ “Buck” Bet, Half a Dollar/ “50-Cent” Bet: Bets of one thousand dollars, five- hundred dollars, one-hundred dollars, and fifty dollars respectively.

The Favorite/The Underdog: Favorites are always identified on site with a minus symbol. To bet on the -150 favorite means that you bet $150 dollars on the team most think will win but you will win $100. With a +150 underdog, for every $100 you bet, you earn $150.

The Spread: If a team in a given sport is a -3 favorite, that team needs to win by four points or more for a bettor to win their bet. If you bet on the +3 underdogs, the opposition would either have to win overall or lose by no less than two points. A push or tie will occur if the favorite wins the game by exactly three points.  

Canadian Line and Puck Line (hockey specific): Doc’s Sports defines a puck line as “giving odds of a goal spread instead of using a Canadian Line in hockey, where both a goal spread and money line are played.”

See more terms by visiting the source above.

What to Track for the NHL Playoffs/Finals

Mind the Netminder and Defensive Squads against Scorers

As mentioned earlier, doing your homework during the regular season like knowing which team has the overall best win-loss-overtime loss record and even the average number of goals they scored/beat their opponents by will help but a lot of people only pay attention to skaters rather than goaltenders. If you have a lot of goal scores but (up to two to three) goalies that consistently produce shutouts (give up no goals in a winning team effort) the chances of that team winning obviously go up.

You’ll also want to keep track of leading scorers and things like shots on goal (a team’s SOG, although individual players have an SOG as well) because while the job of goaltender may be the hardest in all of sports, there are five skaters on the ice at one time compare to one body “between the pipes” and he will get ganged up on, the opposition will eventually get a rebound shot or find a right angle and the goalie simply can’t be everywhere at once.

That’s where his helpers come in, the men standing in front of him. A high-performing defense means that the ‘tender won’t have to face shots that don’t get to him.

Check for Injury Updates throughout the Playoffs

Think of injuries like the stock market: When computer industry icon Steve Jobs passed away, Apple’s stock took a hit following his death. If a team is known for having a game plan that revolves around a single star player or face of the franchise (a bad idea) and then said player has an injury that would remove him from postseason play entirely, then the betting lines are obviously going to fluctuate.

Scoring First and Probability vs. Overtime Wins (Lean on Vegas- Favorites for a Reason)

The fact is that upsets happen and they do make for great television and send fans home happy. Statistically speaking though, going to overtime is what makes a team an underdog. Spending too much time in their own zone, not getting enough shots off (a lack of puck possession,) or simply coming up against a hot goalie during a great night means that it takes those underdogs longer to execute their game plan—not great for you, the bettor.

However, there is sufficient evidence to prove that the teams that score often win games. Scoring involves being in the right place at the right time and also factors in shot power and accuracy. Being the team that scores first probably means that the team had more speed compared to their opponents. Sure, betting on underdogs may get you more money, but with teams that score first the only gamble you are really taking is on if the leaders (the favorites) get too comfy with a single or two-goal lead a.k.a. if the defense holds up, which would be safer than hoping a team of late-blooming skaters will surprise you.

This will most likely also apply to why a team had a successful win-loss-OT loss record during the regular and are ahead in the odds. Be smart, never fully count out an underdog, but those teams ahead in the odds are ahead because someone noticed patterns. It’s all about consistency.

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