Handicapping and betting on NHL hockey on a nightly basis over the course of several months and 82 regular-season games (not to mention a lengthy Stanley Cup Playoffs) can be exhausting.
Here are three things for new NHL bettors to know before the season begins:
The regular season is a grind
The 1,312-game regular season stretches across eight months and only breaks twice: Three days during the holidays and four days around the All-Star Game. Teams play every other day and frequently play on short rest. If you want an example of how that plays into the results, here it is: Over the last five seasons, home teams have won 55% of the games, but their win rate dropped to 50% in the second half of back-to-back games. The schedule can be just as taxing on bettors, so take care of yourself and your mental health.
Things aren’t always as they seem
Hockey is a chaotic sport that is heavily influenced by luck. In fact, some studies suggest that if placed on the luck-skill continuum, hockey would be somewhere in the middle. The sport doesn’t do a good job of rewarding skill. Betting on hockey will test you, and how easily you’re fooled by variance. Remember: Shots and scoring chances matter more than goals in a small sample size, so don’t be quick to judge a team until you look under the hood. More about this subject later in the guide.
Hockey is evolving
Favorites won 64% of the games last season, up a couple of percentage points from the year prior, which makes sense given the rise of analytics. Teams seem to be playing in a more optimal way than ever before, and scoring is up as a result. It’s only natural that the better teams would win more often under these circumstances. It remains to be seen whether this is the new norm or not, though. The number of favorites with an implied win probability of 70% or higher has risen a lot over the last three seasons.
In 2019-20, less than 5% of games featured a favorite that big, but that number jumped to around 10% in 2021-22 and to more than 15% last season. The games are more lopsided than they’ve ever been, so don’t be shocked to see a -500 favorite occasionally. The gap between the NHL’s best and worst teams is huge.