# Betting the NHL

## Introduction

The goal of this page is to help the recreational hockey better. I carefully look at the value of the major ways to bet -- the money line, over/under, and puck line, to determine the best value. Then I list some miscellaneous hockey statistics for your entertainment.

## Data and Methodology

The following data is from every game played in the four NHL seasons starting with the 2017/18 season. The total number of games played in these four seasons is 4,875. It is worth noting that the 2020/2021 season was shortened to 1,904 games due to the Covid pandemic.

The data was purchased from Big Ball Data one season at a time. The first three seasons had very tight lines that I presume came from Pinnacle Sports. The fourth season had more normal 20-cent lines. In evaluating the expected returns below, I calculated overall returns for all the data and then used the appropriate weighting factors to get the returns to equal the 4.54% expected with a 20-cent line, which the vast majority of sports books offer for hockey.

The next three sections show my analysis of the three major ways of betting hockey -- the money line, over/under, and puck line.

## Money Line

Money Line bets are simple bets on who will win. The following table shows the expected return flat betting all underdogs, favorites, and picks (both teams have 50/50 chance of winning). As expected, based on studying other sports, the underdogs offer a better value, with a house edge 2.73% less than better on favorites.

### Money Line Bets in the NHL

Bet on Expected
Return
House
Edge
Underdog 96.82% 3.18%
Favorite 94.09% 5.91%
Pick 95.45% 4.55%
Total 95.45% 4.55%

Of the 4,875 games in the last four seasons studied, the home team won 2,627 (53.9%) and the road team was 2,248 (46.1%). The next table breaks down how money line bets went both ways.

### Money Line Bets in the NHL

Bet on Expected
Return
House
Edge
Home 96.09% 3.91%
Total 95.45% 4.55%

## Over/Under

The next table looks at bets against the total. Not surprisingly, bets on the under did bet, with a house edge 1.67% than bets on the cover. This does not come as a surprise, because bets on the under do significantly better than the over in every sport I have studied.

### Over/Under Bets in the NHL

Bet on Expected
Return
House
Edge
Over 94.62% 5.38%
Under 96.29% 3.71%
Total 95.45% 4.55%

## Puck Line

The Puck Line is like the Run Line in baseball. It is a point spread that is always 1.5. The favorite always gives up 1.5 goals and the underdog gets them. The following table shows that the house edge betting on the underdog is 1.61% lower than betting the favorite.

### Puck Line Bets in the NHL

Bet on Expected
Return
House
Edge
Underdog +1.5 96.26% 3.74%
Favorite -1.5 94.65% 5.35%
Total 95.45% 4.55%

I should mention I spent a lot of time studying puck line bets, looking to see if there was any value assuming the money line bets were fair. To make a long story short, I find the sports books do a good job in setting the puck lines properly.

## Fun Facts

The following table shows the average goals scored by period and overtime for both regular season games and the playoffs.

The reason I think they should be considered separately is there is an incentive to go to overtime in regular season games. To be specific, if a game is decided after three periods, then two points are awarded to the winner and zero to the loser. However, if the game is decided in overtime, two points are awarded to the winner and one to the loser. Overtime is always sudden death (team to score first wins). The data shows the probability of overtime in a regular season game is 22.57% and drops to 20.89% in the playoffs.

### Average Goals by Period

Period Regular
Season
Overtime Combined
1 1.7260 1.5300 1.7106
2 2.0100 1.9530 2.0055
3 2.0151 1.9008 2.0062
Overtime 0.2257 0.2089 0.2244
Total 5.9768 5.5927 5.9467

The following table shows the probability of all viable number of goals scored per period for a single team.

### Number of Goals per Team by Period

Goals Period 1 Period 2 Period 3
0 42.02% 36.04% 37.08%
1 37.01% 37.84% 35.67%
2 15.59% 17.94% 19.22%
3 4.39% 6.50% 6.22%
4 0.81% 1.41% 1.56%
5 0.17% 0.24% 0.23%
6 0.01% 0.03% 0.03%
7 0.00% 0.01% 0.00%
Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Average 0.8553 1.0028 1.0031

The following table shows the probability of all viable number of goals scored per period for both teams combined.

### Number of Goals per Team by Period

Goals Period 1 Period 2 Period 3
0 17.68% 12.80% 12.21%
1 30.75% 26.38% 26.87%
2 26.77% 28.35% 28.33%
3 15.77% 18.65% 19.43%
4 6.58% 9.39% 8.88%
5 1.78% 3.16% 2.81%
6 0.51% 0.82% 1.15%
7 0.06% 0.37% 0.29%
8 0.06% 0.08% 0.04%
9 0.02% 0.00% 0.00%
Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Average 1.7106 2.0055 2.0062

The following shows the number of goals scored by the home team across the road team for the four seasons beginning with the one that started in 2017.

### Number of Goals by Home Team across Road Team

Home
Goals
Goals
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total
0 0 40 46 88 61 20 9 0 0 0 264
1 51 0 214 129 178 70 23 10 4 1 680
2 49 227 0 334 151 130 41 18 2 0 952
3 96 168 336 0 278 96 56 18 7 0 1055
4 68 180 191 274 0 128 24 20 2 0 887
5 32 97 223 89 106 0 34 6 4 0 591
6 11 44 56 93 38 35 0 5 0 1 283
7 6 25 20 31 20 7 6 0 0 0 115
8 2 2 10 6 7 6 2 1 0 0 36
9 1 1 2 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 10
10 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Total 316 786 1098 1048 841 492 195 78 19 2 4875

The following shows the number of goals scored by the winning team across the losing team for the four seasons beginning with the one that started in 2017.

### Number of Goals per by Winning Team across Losing Team

Winning Team Losing Team
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 91 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 91
2 95 441 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 536
3 184 297 670 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1151
4 129 358 342 552 0 0 0 0 0 0 1381
5 52 167 353 185 234 0 0 0 0 0 991
6 20 67 97 149 62 69 0 0 0 0 464
7 6 35 38 49 40 13 11 0 0 0 192
8 2 6 12 13 9 10 2 1 0 0 55
9 1 2 2 4 2 0 1 0 0 0 12
10 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Total 580 1375 1514 952 347 92 14 1 0 0 4875

The following table shows the number the count for each margin of victory and the probability for the four seasons beginning with the one that started in 2017.

### Margin of Victory

Margin Count Probability
1 2,069 42.44%
2 996 20.43%
3 1,095 22.46%
4 451 9.25%
5 172 3.53%
6 71 1.46%
7 14 0.29%
8 4 0.08%
9 3 0.06%
Total 4,875 100.00%

The following table shows various statistics per game for road and home teams as well as the total between the two.

### Miscellaneous Statistics — Road vs. Home

Description Road Team Home Team Combined
Shifts 384.95 379.46 764.41
Shots on goal 30.56 31.87 62.43
Shots missed 11.36 12.16 23.52
Shots blocked 14.34 13.90 28.24
Assists 4.68 5.16 9.84
Points* 7.47 8.22 15.70
Penalties 3.58 3.34 6.92
Penalty minutes 8.47 7.92 16.40
Hits 22.37 23.29 45.66
Take aways 6.32 7.97 14.29
Give aways 7.95 10.56 18.52
Faceoffs won 28.42 29.93 58.35
Faceoffs lost 29.93 28.42 58.34

The following table shows various statistics per game for regular season and play offs games as well as the total between the two.

### Miscellaneous Statistics — Regular Season vs. Playoffs

Description Regular
Season
Playoffs Combined
Shifts 759.22 825.24 764.41
Shots on goal 62.40 62.79 62.43
Shots missed 23.48 23.95 23.52
Shots blocked 27.92 31.91 28.24
Assists 9.88 9.34 9.84
Points 15.76 14.93 15.70
Penalties 6.85 7.77 6.92
Penalty minutes 16.16 19.18 16.40
Hits 43.74 68.15 45.66
Take aways 14.28 14.39 14.29
Give aways 18.32 20.89 18.52
Faceoffs won 58.29 59.09 58.35

Notes:
*: A point is different from a goal. Points may be awarded to players assisting in a goal. The ratio of points to goals in the NHL for the four seasons starting in 2017 is 2.64.

The following table shows the ratio of goals to shots on goals cut various ways.

### Ratio of Goals to Shots

Category Ratio
Away 9.29%
Home 9.75%
Regular season 9.58%
Playoffs 8.91%
Total 9.52%