Professional bettors examine a laundry list of factors when breaking down a matchup. First and foremost, wise guys lean on their power ratings and internal numbers to give them a general feel for a game. The goal is to look for discrepancies in the market where the books are posting a line that is way off from what the pros are predicting. Next, pros spend countless hours analyzing statistical categories, head-to-head matchups, positional matchups, coaching tendencies, home/road splits, recent performance, injuries and even the weather.
When it comes to betting on hockey, one critically important and overlooked edge is scheduling, specifically “spot” situations when one team is tired and another is rested.
Why is rest so important in hockey? Because hockey is one of the most physically taxing professional sports, with players skating hard and pounding each other for 60 minutes each night — maybe more with overtime. This goes on for a grueling 82-game regular season spanning six-plus months.
As a result, when one team is lucky enough to enjoy extra rest to nurse injuries and get its legs back while the other is tired, this sets up for a massive advantage for the rested team.
The numbers don’t lie.
When a favorite is coming off two to four days of rest and the opponent is on the second night of a back-to-back, the rested favorite has gone 1,834-1,133 (62%) since 2005, according to Bet Labs Sports. A $100 bettor would be up $1,127 betting each of these rested-vs.-tired spots. This may not seem like a massive money-maker, but it’s the baseline you want to look for.
Remember, hockey is unique because it’s a favorite-dominated sport. Since 2005, favorites have cashed at a 58.8% clip. They have lost -247.37 units as a result of laying the minus number, but in comparison dogs have lost nearly twice as many units (-451.58). So when you tack on rest to these favorites against tired teams, they win at an even higher rate ( 3.2%).
The next key is to look for rested-vs.-tired motivational spots.
This means the rested team is coming off a loss and the tired team is coming off a win. The rested team has had to sit and stew on its loss for multiple days, which provides added motivation to get back into the win column. On the flip side, the tired team just won the previous night and isn’t as hungry, knowing even if it loses it still split the back-to-back, which is in some ways a moral victory. Also, that tired team off a win is likely to start its backup goaltender, which provides
an additional edge to the rested, motivated favorite because it will be going up against a second-stringer. When the rested favorite (2-4 days between games) is coming off a loss and tired dog (played the previous night) is coming off a win, that rested favorite has gone 412-227 (65%), winning 39.89 units since 2005.
Just for clarification so readers can spot these situations, here is a perfect real-life example that happened just this week.
Monday, Oct. 28
Florida ( 124) at Vancouver (-135)
Florida played the night before and won 6-2.
Vancouver hadn’t played since Oct. 25 (3 days between games).
Vancouver lost 6-5 on Oct. 25.
The Canucks ended up winning 7-2. This rest off loss vs. tired off win spot is 7-0 this season. Over the last five seasons, it’s 139-59 (70.2%).
Another edge is looking at a conference game in which the rested team has had exactly two days between games, the tired team is on the second night of a back-to-back and the rested team is off a loss:
611-427 (58.9%), 70.41 units since 2005. The rested team off a loss can be either or dog or a favorite; both are equally profitable.
Bettors should also keep in mind that hockey isn’t very popular with casual fans. As a result, the ticket counts are much lower compared with football and basketball. This means the market is made up mostly of sharps or diehard hockey bettors who know the game and have an edge. Because it’s a “smart market,” it’s easier to spot line moves. So it’s always a good thing if the line is moving toward one of these rested vs. tired teams (think -120 to -130) because it’s a sign of smart money in their favor as well, which is a great cherry on top.
Also, because hockey is a money-line sport, it’s critically important to have access to a live odds page and have accounts at multiple sportsbooks so you can shop for the best line.
If one book has a rested team against a tired team at -130 but a different book is showing -125, you want to bet that -125 and save yourself 5 cents. Having multiple “outs” might not seem like a big deal, but
it can make a huge difference over the course of a season in terms of maximizing your returns.
Long story short: Keep a close eye on scheduling when betting the NHL. Do your homework and find out when each team played last. If that favorite is rested off a loss and that tired team is off a win, that’s an edge worth getting down on.