If you’re new to NHL betting, the wide variety of odds and props at sportsbooks can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help. One of the most common bet types on the ice is the puckline, although it’s important to fully understand how it works before you decide to go that route.
What is the Puckline?
The puckline is hockey’s version of the point spread or runline. Oddsmakers give the underdog an advantage of 1.5 goals while disadvantaging the favorite by 1.5 goals, which is shown as +1.5 for the dog and -1.5 for the fave.
If you’re interested in backing the favorite, they’ll have to win the game by at least two goals in order for your bet to cash. On the flip side, the team getting the underdog tag can either win the contest outright or lose by a single goal to pay out.
How to Read Puckline Odds
Aside from the -1.5 and +1.5 numbers, it’s important to understand the juice before you place puckline bets to increase the value of your wager. Let’s say two of the top teams in the Western Conference right now — the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche — are set to do battle in Denver. Due to home-ice advantage, the Avalanche would likely get the -1.5 favorite label, with the Blues coming back as +1.5 road underdogs.
This is an instance in which it’s going to be expensive to bet the Blues on the puckline due to the increased juice. Since the Blues have a likelier shot of covering the +1.5 number, the price to bet them would be in the -200 ballpark, meaning a $100 bet would give you a profit of $50. The Avs winning by at least two goals is less likely, so their juice would be around +170.
You’re getting a significantly better price by going with Colorado, but you’re also increasing your risk — especially if they win the game by a single goal. Empty-net goals in the NHL can have incredible or disastrous results for puckline bettors and have long served as last-second swings in either favor, depending on which side you’re on.
Why Do Sportsbooks Offer the Puckline?
Similar to the moneyline, in which a team simply has to win outright to pay out, the puckline serves as another vehicle for oddsmakers to even out their action on individual hockey games. The reason sportsbooks shift their odds around so much is that the main goal is to get enough money on both sides to help the house come away with a profit regardless of the result.
The more sides, totals, and props that oddsmakers offer, the better it is for hockey bettors. In some lopsided matchups, it can be too expensive to bet on the favorite to win on the moneyline. Instead of biting the bullet and betting the increased juice, a shot on the fave to cover the puckline is much more reasonable.
Since the NHL has traditionally found itself on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the popularity of the four major North American professional sports leagues, bettors can find significant value in betting on hockey. That’s especially true during extremely busy months like March when the majority of money at books is being wagered on the NCAA Tournament. Getting the proper grasp of the puckline will help you in your quest to become a seasoned NHL bettor.
Luke Miller is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Luke, check out his archive.