What is the puck line? And how can you win from puck line betting? We reveal all for the NHL sports bettors out there.
One of sports’ most thrilling events is a Stanley Cup Playoff game that goes into overtime.
Sure, overtime is exciting anywhere, but only in ice hockey can the ending come seemingly out of nowhere. A game goes 20, 30, or more minutes into overtime, and suddenly a fortunate bounce or unlucky turnover leads to an ending.
But not every game can go to overtime. Probably best for the blood pressure of diehard fans. Sometimes, one team simply overmatches the other. And for bettors, these games can be risky propositions with money lines well into the -200s or even -300.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative – Puck Line Betting. Hockey’s answer to the point spread allows bettors to bet on more than just wins and losses.
Now that the NHL season is underway once again, bettors are curious as to what the puck line actually is. Oh, and how they can bet on it. That’s where we come in.
What is the Puck Line?
A puck line is a spread, or proposed difference, between the two teams in an ice hockey game. It can also be referred to as a handicap (like in soccer and tennis), or a point spread (like in NFL).
In the NHL, the puck line is almost always 1.5. This means that the favored team must win by more than one goal to cover, while the underdog can ‘cover’ the spread even with a one-goal loss.
Puck Line Betting: An Example
Let’s look at the most recent NHL game: Game 6 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals, when the Colorado Avalanche went for the Stanley Cup title against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The pregame line was:
- Colorado Avalanche -115
- Tampa Bay Lightning -105
However, the puck line was:
- Colorado Avalanche -1.5 (+205)
- Tampa Bay Lightning +1.5 (-250)
This is what makes puck line wagering so interesting. With a money line as tight as -115/-105, obviously the puck line needs weighted odds such as +205/-250. After all, the Lightning are only slight underdogs, and now bettors can win their wager even if the Lightning lose the game by a single goal. That’s why bettors have to wager $250 to win $100 on a +1.5-puck line with Tampa Bay.
Conversely, a bettor confident in the Avalanche’s chances to run away with the game can more than double the payout he’d receive by taking Colorado -1.5, wagering $100 for the chance to win $205. But an Avalanche victory won’t be enough – Colorado has to win the game by two goals or more for bettors to score the big payout.
(If you know hockey, you know how the story ends. The Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup in 21 years, upending the Lightning by a final score of 2-1. A gut-wrenching loss for Tampa Bay was a profitable victory for bettors – and a great example of why some hockey fans prefer wagering on the puck line.)
What Is a Three-Way Puck Line?
Obviously, an added benefit to betting the underdog on the puck line is if the game goes to overtime, the bet is an automatic winner. This is because it guarantees the game will be decided by exactly one goal.
Some younger fans may be surprised to learn there was a time when NHL games could end in ties. If you reached the end of the five-minute overtime with no goal, there was no shootout. Both teams received one point, and everyone went home. This inspired ‘three-way’ money line wagering: you could bet the home team, the road team, or you could bet on a tie.
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Three Way Puck Line Betting
Three-way money line wagering still exists, but once the shootout came into effect, sportsbooks added three-way puck line wagering. If the Philadelphia Flyers are in Pittsburgh to play the Penguins, chances are the Penguins would be one-goal ‘favorites’.
For the purposes of your wager, the Flyers are starting the game with a one-goal lead. So, if you bet the +1 line, you’re essentially betting on a tie game. A wager on the Penguins means they must win the game by two goals or more, while the Flyers must take the game into overtime or win outright. A one-goal Penguins win, for this purpose, is a ‘draw.’
Confusing, right? Let’s get back to customary puck line wagering.
Puck Line Betting Strategies
Here are our top tips when it comes to betting the puck line in ice hockey.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons for betting FAVORITES on the puck line:
1. You’re expecting a blowout
Maybe a -150 favorite is on a hot streak, or the opponent is nearing the end of a long road trip, and you’re looking at a one-sided game. In exchange for the risk of a one-goal game, you can turn that -150 favorite into a (roughly) +140 underdog by playing the puck line. Again, you need them to win by at least two goals, but your upside just doubled!
2. To reduce the juice
Let’s face it, NHL games can produce some mismatches on paper. And oddsmakers reduce their risk with some money lines that can run up to -300 for the most lopsided games. A typical puck line knocks anywhere from 75-95 cents off a money line, so that -200 favorite might be available at -110 or so if you’re playing the puck line.
Again, the price is a one-goal game will be graded a loser.
PointsBet SECOND CHANCE
Some reasons for betting UNDERDOGS on the puck line:
Insurance against the ‘almost but not quite’ upset:
All day long, you’re thinking that +200 underdog can hang with the big favorite. Then, your heart breaks as the favorite prevails on a last-minute goal. Or worse, in overtime.
With a +1.5-puck line bet, you’re covered against this outcome. It reduces your payout to the +110/+120 range, but it sure beats taking an L.
You LIKE the underdog… but you don’t LOVE ‘em:
In sports like football and basketball, underdogs give you two ways to win – an outright victory, or a loss that’s simply more competitive than the oddsmakers predicted.
Puck lines give you a chance at the latter option in hockey as well. When scoring is down in the league, one-goal games are more common.
Forty years ago, NHL teams averaged 4.01 goals per game. This past season saw a figure of 3.14 goals per team per game – the highest figure since 1995-1996. It stands to reason if the average team is right around three goals per game, there will be plenty of 3-2 or 4-3 final scores, and that +1.5 puck line will cash for bettors.
Hockey is considered a ‘low-event’ sport by statisticians. Even a high-scoring game might have only 9 or 10 goals worth one ‘point’ each, while basketball games, for example, see each team put the ball in the hoop dozens of times, earning anywhere from one to three points each time. Low-event sports are more challenging for oddsmakers in terms of creating ways for bettors to wager. The puck line gives NHL bettors one more option. And a potentially profitable option at that.