nhl betting
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Betting Guide: Contenders, Odds and Betting Strategies

There’s no question that the NHL is beloved more in Canada than it is in the United States, but the sport is rapidly growing in popularity everywhere across North America. The games are fast-paced, high-scoring and entertaining. NHL betting can be a popular choice for those who know what they’re doing nnd is a great choice for those looking for some action after football season.

If you’re new to the sport of hockey, we’ve compiled a comprehensive page to introduce you to how it works, how to bet on the sport and how to bet on the futures. Let’s take a closer look:

How To Bet On The NHL

If you’re new to betting on the sport of hockey, it’s important to have a basic grasp of the odds before you start laying your bets. When you first see the betting lines, you’re going to have something that looks like the following:

New York Rangers +135

Washington Capitals -155

The first thing that you want to notice are the plus and minus signs. The plus sign denotes the underdog while the minus sign denotes the favorite. The next thing you’ll want to take note of is the odds following the sign. If it’s a plus sign, that means that’s the amount you’ll win if you bet $100. In this case, if you bet $100 on the Rangers, you’d win back $135 in profit if they won the game. On the other hand, the minus sign indicates the amount of money you’d have to bet to win $100. In this case, a $155 bet on the Capitals would return you $100 in profit if they in fact won the game.

Of course, you aren’t tied to betting in $100 increments but that gives you an idea of how much you’ll win betting on each side.

NHL Conferences

Like most major North American sports, the NHL is split up into two conferences. There are two divisions in each conference, which means there is usually eight teams per division. The Central Division is the lone division in hockey that has seven teams, while the other three — the Pacific, Metropolitan and Atlantic — have eight teams. Although there are 82 games in the regular season, the teams usually stick to their division first and foremost and conference second. That means if they play in a weak division, they’ll have an easier strength of schedule that given year.

Eastern Conference Divisions

Atlantic Division

Toronto Maple Leafs

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Detroit Red Wings

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes

Washington Capitals

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

Philadelphia Flyers

Columbus Blue Jackets

Pittsburgh Penguins

New York Rangers

Western Conference Divisions

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Dallas Stars

Colorado Avalanche

Nashville Predators

Winnipeg Jets

Minnesota Wild

St. Louis Blues

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

Los Angeles Kings

Calgary Flames

Vancouver Canucks

San Jose Sharks

Vegas Golden Knights

Edmonton Oilers

Arizona Coyotes

How The Playoffs Work

In general, the playoff format is straightforward in the sense that eight teams from each conference make the playoffs. Each of those eight teams then engage in a tournament on each side and the winners of each conference square off in the Stanley Cup final. However, there are a few intricacies here to keep in mind.

For starters, how the seeding works is a little bit tricky. It doesn’t simply go by who are the top eight teams in each conference. How it works now is that the top three teams in each division make the playoffs as the first 12 teams in. The remaining four spots — two in each conference — are filled by the next best teams based on points. It doesn’t matter what division those teams are from.  

From there, the first-round matchups are as follows: the division winner with the best record plays the wild card team with the worse record. The second-best division winner plays the other wild card team. The teams finishing second and third meet in the other two first round matchups.

Why that’s important to note is that this format is different than what you might see in the NFL or NBA where the top team plays the worst team, etc. The division winners are the top two seeds but they might not actually be the best two teams. That could potentially set up for some very difficult first-round matchups for some teams whereas in the NBA or NFL, those matchups would come later in the playoffs.

All postseason series are a best-of-seven with the 2-2-2-1 format.

NHL Betting: Futures

Regular Season Point Totals — Regular season point totals are hockey’s version of regular season win totals. This popular prop allows you to bet on how you think a team will perform in the regular season. If you think they’ll overachieve, you’d be the over. If you think they’ll underachieve based on expectations, you’d bet the under. The reason it’s point total and not just wins is because in the NHL, teams earn two points for a win. They also earn one point for an overtime loss. That’s why point totals determine where teams sit in the standings and not just wins and losses.

Odds To Win Stanley Cup — One of the most popular futures in hockey betting are Stanley Cup futures. These are betting lines that allow you to predict who will win the Stanley Cup. You can bet these throughout the season — either early or late — and you’ll often get a big payday if you’re right. The challenge is that a lot can go wrong (injuries, changes, etc.), so it’s not easy to predict who’ll win the Stanley Cup early in the season.

Odds To Win Division, Conference — One of the best areas to find value in terms of NHL futures is the odds to win the division or conference. While it’s sometimes challenging to pick the Stanley Cup winner early, you can sometimes find value in a smaller pool of teams to win the division or conference. Obviously, the payout is not as lucrative but you’re more likely to win your bet — especially if you do your homework.

NHL Betting Guide: Contenders, Odds and Betting Strategies
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NHL Betting Guide: Contenders, Odds and Betting Strategies
There’s no question that the NHL is beloved more in Canada than it is in the United States, but the sport is rapidly growing in popularity everywhere across North America. With that in mind, here's your NHL betting guide.

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