The National Hockey League is known as the least bet of the so called four primary sports and for the longest time I have always thought that a person that was serious about making money from sports betting would be best served by researching hockey as much as they could. Since few people bet on hockey, the oddsmakers need to put up numbers as an afterthought, know that even if they hang a bad number, the damage will be the least. If they hang a bad number in football, it is a totally different matter, as the sportsbooks could take a serious hit, however, that is not the case with the NHL.
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The most obvious advantage bettors have when it comes to wagering the NHL rests in totals, where there is a reluctance to put up a number other than 5 or 5.5. There will occasionally be a 6 here or there, and a 4.5, particularly once the playoffs starts, but 98% of the time, you will either see a 5 or 5.5 as the total.
Comparing that with the other low scoring sports, like baseball or soccer. In baseball you will see numbers varying from 6 for an expected pitcher’s duel to 11.5 or 12 for a slugfest in a hitter’s park. Since baseball totals are affected by the park and the starting pitcher’s. soccer may be a better example, even though two weak goalies who play for high scoring teams are quite similar to a pair of weak pitchers taking the mound. In soccer, two defensive minded teams will see totals of 2, whereas a pair of high scoring teams sees a total of 3.5. Does it make sense to see a 1.5-goal difference in totals for soccer, a lower scoring sport than hockey, but just a half goal difference for the huge majority of NHL games? Not really, but that may work to the advantage of knowledgeable bettors.
Naturally, if you are going to look at betting NHL totals, you must look at the goaltenders, which may be thought of as the similar to the starting pitcher in a baseball game. Some goaltenders will display solid records against certain teams, whereas others will struggle against a particular opponent. Some of this may be built into the line, however, it does not look as though the sportsbooks change totals based on the way a goalie plays against an opponent.
The general tendency of a team against the total might be taken into account when making a total, not the individual goalies. As a team, the New Jersey Devils have shown a rather good under tendency, as after Thursday’s 1-0 victory over the Dallas Stars, the Devils are 14-22-9, or 61.1% under. But if you took a closer look at the Devils, you would see that New Jersey is 11-9 with Martin Brodeur in goal excluding ties, but 3-13 with Cory Schneider in between the pipes. That is quite a difference.
The Devils are not the only team to show a dramatic difference, yet are likely the most pronounced. Vancouver is 6-5 with Eddie Lack playing, but 8-18 when Roberto Luongo; the L.A. Kings are 1-9 in total with Ben Scrivens and 11-12 with anyone else in net; and the Phoenix Coyotes are 21-12 with Mike Smith playing, but 3-5 with Thomas Greiss.
Highly related to the goalies are the individual goalies at home or away. Just as baseball pitchers will usually do better or worse at home, goalies can show the same tendencies. Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier is 10-5 in totals at home, but 4-7 on the road, while Brodeur is 4-7 at home, but 7-3 on the road. There are many others which fall into one of these patterns.
Don’t be shy about betting on hockey. It is quite possible that it may turn out to be your best bet.