By Phil Simon
The National Hockey League is one of the most underappreciated and undervalued betting markets at sportsbooks. There are reasons for this. The game isn’t as popular as the other major sports leagues and wagering on games can be confusing. To alleviate some of the stress we’ll walk through some of the reasons why betting on the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals can be a positive and rewarding experience. Just like the other sports there are several ways to wager.
Hockey fans can always find futures bets at their sportsbook of choice and when the Stanley Cup Finals roll around individual games with moneylines, pucklines and totals are made available.
What is the Stanley Cup?
Those familiar with the NHL and its playoff format know winning the league title and the Stanley Cup trophy that comes with it is the most grueling grind in all of sports. And just like other leagues the best team during the regular season doesn’t always win the title. In fact, just a few seasons ago the best team during the regular year was eliminated in a first-round sweep by the eighth-seeded team in the conference.
Things like that seem to happen more often in hockey than in other sports since the separation between clubs isn’t always that large. In order to win the Stanley Cup teams must first qualify for the playoffs. The NHL is made up of two conferences with each housing two divisions. There are currently 31 teams in the league with a 32nd club, the expansion Seattle Kraken, scheduled to begin play for the 2021-22 season. Eight teams in each conference will battle it out over three playoff rounds with the survivors from each side facing off in a best-of-seven series to determine the Stanley Cup Champion.
How to bet the Stanley Cup Finals
One popular way of betting on the Stanley Cup Finals is with a futures bet. We covered futures in another article but here is a brief synopsis. Before the season teams are given odds to win the Stanley Cup and you can wager at any point until the series starts. The key is catching a good price. That happens at the start of the season when teams haven’t made any advances. Over the course of the season the better clubs will see their odds fall making them less attractive. It’s also a good idea to stay away from teams that are enjoying a hot streak. Since the odds change constantly if a club strings a number of wins together the payout decreases.
Now the opposite is also true. A team that’s struggling will see their price go higher. Just a few years ago one bettor dropped $400 on the St. Louis Blues to win the Cup. At the time they were dead last in the league standings and were offered at +25000. If you remember that season like everyone in St. Louis does, the Blues got hot over the second half, qualified for the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup in seven games. The man who made the wager received $100,000 in winnings.
Individual game betting is also offered for the Stanley Cup Finals. Three wagers are similar to other sports with the moneyline, spread and total on the board for a specific encounter. The moneyline is a straight wager on which team wins the game regardless of score. Both teams are given odds with the underdog assigned a plus ( + ) number and the favorite a minus ( - ) number. Those odds tell you the risk vs. reward for the bet. For example, Montreal is +165 for its game against the Rangers ( -190). A $100 wager on the Rangers pays $190 while you’d have to throw down $165 to win $100 betting on the favorite.
The puckline, also known as the spread, is similar to what we see in MLB. The number rarely changes from the standard 1.5 goals, but the odds are greatly impacted. In the same game mentioned above the Rangers become the favorite when catching 1.5 goals.
Bettors can also wager on whether or not the final score will eclipse the posted total. Typically in a NHL game that line is around 5.5 and it’s your job to bet correctly. A final score of Montreal 4, Rangers 2 makes a winner of the OVER (4+2=6).