What is the puck line? How do you bet it?

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Puck line betting

Hockey is one of the most exciting sports to have action on throughout the betting world. The pace that the NHL is played at leads to it being one of the most eventful viewing experiences in all of sports. Sportsbooks will offer a number of different wagering types for bettors to place and one of the most popular is what is known as the “puck line.”

What is the puck line

The puck line is a type of wager specific to hockey. It combines the idea of a moneyline and a point spread. Traditionally, most sports rely on the moneyline for matchup based wagering. An example of this is below:

  • Detroit Red Wings -175
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +130

For this matchup, the Red Wings are the favorite to win. A bettor would need to place a $175 wager in order to profit $100. If betting on the underdog, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the same bettor can place a $100 wager in order to payout a profit of $130. 

Sportsbooks will also offer what is known as a point spread. A point spread is the margin of victory that a sportsbook thinks a team will win by. An example of this for the NFL could look as follows:

Favorite                           Point Spread              Underdog

Green Bay Packers            -3.5                         New England Patriots

If a bettor is wanting to place a point spread wager on the Packers to win this game, they would need to have Green Bay win by more than 3.5 points. 

The NHL is able to combine these two betting styles into one which is referred to as the puck line. It is essentially a point spread of +/- 1.5 goals but also has a moneyline associated with it. For visual, a puck line could look something like the following:

  • Pittsburgh Penguins -1.5 (+125)
  • St. Louis Blues +1.5 (-130)

In this matchup, the Penguins are the favored team to win and the Blues are the underdog. A puck line wager works as an advantage for the underdog as it levels the playing field and gives them a 1.5 goal handicap prior to the hockey game beginning. Although the Penguins are the favorite to win the game outright, they become the underdog in terms of payout on the puck line. 

Differences between puck line and moneyline

Even though the word “line” is in both wagering types, there are big differences between the puck line and moneyline when it comes to betting on hockey games. The moneyline requires a wager to be placed on which team will win the game. The puck line is based on goals scored and not wins and losses. With the spread being placed at 1.5 goals, a favorite would need to not only win, but win by at least 2 goals for a bettor to win the wager. And in return, an underdog can lose by one goal but still payout a winning bet.

The difficulty with betting on the puck line is that the majority of NHL games are decided by only one goal. According to NHL.com, the most common final score for a hockey game is 3-2. This would mean that in most cases, the underdog is who will come out victorious when placing money on a puck line wager. 

Overtime

Most sportsbooks offer two different moneyline type bets. The first is regulation time wagering. In order to win this bet the chosen team must win in regulation time (60 minutes). If the game goes to overtime, this bet is considered a losing wager. The other betting option for a moneyline wager is OT Included, also known as a “two-way moneyline.” This, just as it sounds, is determined by the end result of the game. Even if the game extends past the 60 minutes and goes to overtime, the bettor can still win by picking the correct team. 

Regulation time wagering will also come in what is known as “three-way moneyline.” Odds for this betting style can look as follows:

  • Nashville Predators -130
  • San Jose Sharks +180
  • Draw +280

This type of moneyline bet introduces the tie aspect, which is very common in the NHL. According to the Chicago Tribune, since 2005, over 23% of all NHL games go into overtime. Placing a moneyline bet on either team to win this game would need them to win in regulation to be redeemed a winner. A bettor can also place a wager on both teams to be tied at the end of the 60 minutes. 

What happens in overtime for puck line bets

Overtime also has an interesting impact when betting on the puck line. This once again is a way to give the underdog an additional advantage. If an NHL game goes to overtime, the first team to score wins which means the final result will be determined by one goal regardless of which team wins. When referring to the above examples of a puck line, you can see that they are given in the fashion of +/- 1.5 goals. The underdog with the odds of +1.5 will always come out victorious in a game decided by one goal. Which means the underdog will win the puck line wager in an overtime game even if they don’t win straight-up. 

Mar 5, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings left wing Nikolai Prokhorkin (74) takes the puck down ice in the second period of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Three-way puck line

A three-way puck line is similar to a three-way moneyline except for the fact that with the puck line, there is a handicap, or spread, attached to one of the teams to give them an advantage to start out. As with three-way moneyline betting, a three-way puck line only takes into account regulation time. 

Sportsbooks will offer a few different options when it comes to this type of wager. The most common is giving the home team a one goal deficit to start. Let’s say for this example that the Detroit Red Wings are playing in San Jose against the Sharks. Detroit would essentially start the game up 1-0. If you bet on Detroit you would win that bet if they either win the game or lose by only one goal. If you bet on San Jose, they must win the game by two goals since they are starting down by one due to the handicap. If you bet on the draw, it is considered a +1 goal differential, so Detroit winning by one goal would cash this bet. 

Three-way puck lines also come in the form of a 2-0 deficit. This is the same idea but if you bet on Detroit in this style, you will just need them to not lose by three or more goals for this bet to win. 

Puck line betting strategies

With all the different types of wagering (three-way moneylines, overtime betting, starting the game down 2-0, etc.), it can lead to a lot of confusion when it comes to just wanting to enjoy an NHL game with some money invested on the outcome. There are certain times that betting on the puck line makes more sense than betting the moneyline. If there is a heavy favorite and little to no value to be had on the underdog, then the payout may not be very high when placing a moneyline wager. However, if picking a favorite to win by two or more goals, you’re likely to get them at a far reduced price and get a much better payout.

What to look for when placing puck line bets

As with most sports, there is so much data and numbers available that it can often become overwhelming when trying to get an edge before placing a wager. Below are a notes to consider prior to placing puck line bets:

  • Travel Schedule
    • Is one of the teams playing back-to-back games or three games in four nights? Oftentimes NHL teams will rest their main goaltender in this type of situation. If we can catch this news prior to oddsmakers adjusting the lines, there will be a lot of value on the puck line. 
  • Important stats
    • Corsi – Corsi is just an advanced hockey term for a shot attempt in 5v5 play. If a team shoots the puck at the net it is considered “corsi for.” And if the other team gets a shot, it’s called “corsi against.” The difference between these two actions is what gives us the corsi percentage. A team over 50%, in theory, would have more scoring chances than they are allowing. This may be a good team to target based on the odds that are given.
    • Fenwick – This is the exact same stat as “corsi” it just doesn’t take into account blocked shots. Typically speaking, a team will have similar numbers when it comes to “corsi”and “fenwick.” My personal preference is to use “corsi” when handicapping NHL lines. 
  • Home and Road Splits 
    • Certain teams in the NHL will perform much better on their home ice than they do on the road. For example, during the 2019 season the St. Louis Blues were one of the best teams in all of hockey. Below was their home/road splits for that year:

Home                Away

23-12-5             19-17-5

According to these results, the Blues may be a much smarter betting option     when on their home ice. 

There are  a number of different things to consider when betting on hockey. Find a simplified approach that works for you and stick with it. There is no need to over complicate things when it comes to betting. The majority of the public is betting for entertainment purposes and to be more invested in the sporting event they are watching. Hockey is no different. NHL puck line betting allows the gambler to find great odds by giving the underdog a better shot at cashing a winning ticket. Find a strategy, place some bets, and enjoy some great hockey.

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