Hockey is the most popular sport in a number of countries including Canada and Finland and maintains a passionate fanbase in the United States as well. It doesn’t see the same viewership as leagues such as the NFL and NBA but its popularity continues to grow year and year. A large part of the growth is due to the nature of the sport of hockey which is generally fast-paced and full of action. The NHL specifically is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and games are often very tight. This leads to some heart-racing betting action and the NHL plays a big part in the sports betting industry.
The National Hockey League is made up of 32 total teams, 25 of which are spread out among the United States while an additional 7 are based in Canadian provinces. These 32 teams are separated into the Eastern Conference and Western Conference based on their geographic location, very similar to how the NBA groups its league. In these two conferences are four total divisions: the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific which each hold eight teams. The regular season spans 82 total games from the months of October to April with the playoffs then beginning in May. Teams generally play every 2-3 days although there are occasions when a team will play on consecutive nights.
The NHL is generous in that 16 teams, or half the league, qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Eight teams from each conference get in, with the top three finishing teams in each division gaining automatic entry. The following four playoff spots are awarded to the next two highest finishing points total teams in each conference, regardless of their division. NHL scoring sees two points awarded for a win, zero points for a defeat and one point awarded for an overtime loss.
The Colorado Avalanche were crowned champions in the 2021/22 season, lifting their first Stanley Cup in more than 20 years with their last triumph coming in the 2000/01 season. The Aves, who finished with the second best record in the league with 119 points, denied the Tampa Bay Lightning a historic third consecutive Stanley Cup by defeating them four games to two. The season would ultimately play out how many bookmakers thought it would as the Avalanche and the Lightning were the consensus favorite and second betting favorite, respectively. Colorado had odds of nearly 6.5/1 to lift the cup before the season started while Tampa Bay saw their preseason title odds sitting at around 9/1.
The NHL shares some similarities with the NBA in that the structure of the playoffs, all best-of-seven series, lends a huge advantage to the stronger teams as there is much less of a chance for an underdog to overcome a stronger team and beat them four times in seven games. This is much different to a league such as the NFL whose playoffs are a one game, single-elimination structure where if you lose, you go home. Weaker teams can fluke a result against a much better team and go on a Cinderella run, much like the Cincinnati Bengals did in the 2021/22 NFL season. The NHL usually sees the cream rise to the top and the strongest teams still in contention deep into the playoffs.
NHL fans can expect the Tampa Bay Lightning to be in the running for the title yet again as their dynasty shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Tampa has been on an incredible run in recent years, winning the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 while making the finals for the past three consecutive seasons. They will now attempt to become the first team since the conference and playoff realignment in the early 1980s to make four straight finals appearances. The Lightning lost a few pieces in the offseason but return the majority of their Prince of Wales Trophy winning squad from last season. Oddsmakers have Tampa Bay at around the third to fourth favorite to lift the cup with odds of 10/1.
Another one of the league’s most popular teams to keep an eye on is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who enter the 2022/23 season with a golden opportunity to put an end to their 55 year Stanley Cup drought and nearly 20 year streak without a playoff series win. Leafs fans were once again subjected to the mockery of rival fanbases when the team lost game seven in the first round of the playoffs to the Lightning, making it five straight losses in series-deciding games. Current MVP holder Auston Matthews will be hoping to finally end Toronto’s suffering and the bookmakers think they have an excellent chance at doing just that with the Leafs coming in as the second-favorites to win the championship at 8/1.
The NHL is seeing a surge of talented young players who have taken over the league in recent years. The pick of the bunch is Connor McDavid who is widely considered to be the best player in the league at the moment. The 25-year-old is the highest scoring player since his rookie season in 2015/16 and his current career average of 1.43 points per game is currently the fourth highest mark in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers captain has hit the 100 point mark in five of his seven seasons and likely would have reached the century mark in all seven if not for an injury in his rookie season and the pandemic shortened 2021 season.
The reigning MVP Auston Matthews will be looking to become just the 20th player to win multiple Hart Memorial Trophies as he leads a talented Maple Leafs team favored to go on a deep playoff run. Matthews was in supreme goal scoring form last season when he broke the Leafs single season scoring record with 60 goals. The 25-year-old’s 259 goals since entering the league in 2016/17 is the most in the NHL in that time span and his 0.64 goals average per game ranks fifth-highest all-time.
Finally, we’ll take a look at Colorado’s star defenceman Cale Makar who could very well have an outside shot at the MVP award after a series of impressive seasons in his young three-year career. The 23-year-old has an offensive flair to his game, not seen in quite some time at the position. Makar netted 28 goals and 58 assists in the previous season while totaling 86 total points. The Canadian has already acquired a Norris Trophy, Calder Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy in just three seasons in the league and the bookmakers have his Avalanche team as the favorites to repeat as champions.
Below we will highlight some of the NHL’s must-see games of the season that will serve both as a great introduction to new fans and the marquee matchups for the seasoned NHL fans and bettors of the sport. An 82 game season means there are 1,312 games to get through so let’s get started by taking a look at five intriguing matchups. Remember, you can see all the latest NHL betting lines by following the link that will provide you with all the information you need about the world’s top online sportsbooks. Registering takes just minutes and many sites will even set you up with a welcome bonus to add an extra boost to your bankroll!
2022 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown: Philadelphia Flyers vs Pittsburgh Penguins; Tampa Bay Lightning vs St. Louis Blues
We’re going two for one in our first selection here as the NHL’s Thanksgiving matchup sees the Sydney Crosby led Pens taking on the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. The second matchup sees a heavyweight bout between two teams that have combined for three of the last four championships when the Lightning host the Blues at Amalie Arena.
The NHL Winter Classic Pittsburgh Penguins vs Boston Bruins
One of the NHL’s most well received recent traditions is the annual Winter Classic, a game played outdoors usually in frigid conditions given the time of the year in many of the hosting cities. The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild contested last season’s Winter Classic and took part in what is thought to be the coldest game ever played at temperatures of -20℃ in front of 38.617 fans. This is also an event that the players seem to get up for as many have spoken about the spectacle involved and the thrill of playing in a special atmosphere. The legendary Fenway Park is the venue for 2023’s game with the Boston Bruins taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins are playing in the Winter Classic for the first time since 2019 while the Pens are 2-1 all-time in the NHL’s annual event.
Montreal Canadiens vs Boston Bruins
Widely considered to be the NHL’s fiercest rivalry, it doesn’t matter what the records are when these two meet as the bragging rights between the fans are invaluable. This is the first matchup between the two sides nearly four months into the regular season. The Bruins will be expected to beat the Canadiens in their meetings this season given both team’s respective records last season but rivalry games often throw up unexpected results.
Colorado Avalanche vs Tampa Bay Lightning
A Stanley Cup rematch sees the Aves and the Lightning meeting for the first time since Colorado’s triumph in the 2022 Finals. Tampa Bay will be out for revenge here but it surely won’t make up for being denied a historic third consecutive Stanley Cup title. Finals rematches the following year are always drama-filled and exciting matchups and this one promises to be no different between the two current best teams in the NHL.
2023 Navy Federal Credit Union Series: Carolina Hurricanes vs Washington Capitals
Another outdoor game to enjoy sees the Carolina Hurricanes playing their first open roof game when they take on the Washington Capitals at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Canes will face stiff competition in the form of the Caps who are 3-0 all-time in outdoor games but haven’t participated in one since the 2018 season.
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It was the Florida Panthers who topped the NHL standings last season with a league best points total of 122 points on a record of 58 wins, 18 losses and 6 overtime losses. On top of that, the Panthers also finished with the league’s best goal differential at +94. Their regular season dominance wouldn’t carry over to the playoffs unfortunately, as the Panthers would suffer defeat in the second round to Tampa Bay four games to two. On the other side of the standings, it was unsurprisingly the champion Colorado Avalanche who finished with the best record after totaling 119 points with a record of 56-19-7 and a goal differential of +78. Listed below are the top three teams in each division and their points total.
The Panthers were the league’s top scoring team after bagging an impressive 340 goals on the season. The second highest scoring team were the Maple Leafs with 315, the champion Avalanche came third with 312 goals and the St. Louis Blues ranked fourth with 311 goals. Rounding out the top five was the Wild who netted 310 goals on the season to put them fifth.
On the defensive side, the Carolina Hurricanes were the NHL’s stoutest team at the back, allowing only 202 total goals in the 2021/22 season. The New York Rangers were the league’s second best defensive side, allowing only 207 goals. The rest of the top five reads as: Calgary Flames third with 208 goals allowed, Boston Bruins fourth with 220 goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins fifth with 229 goals let in.
The NHL betting markets also include a point spread line, referred to as the “puck line”. Although not as popular as the point spread markets in the NFL and the NBA, it still plays an important part in NHL handicapping. Puck lines are given as a fixed +/-1.5 goal spread meaning the favorite will have to win by a margin of at least two goals while the underdog can lose by a single goal and the bet will still cash. We’re going to take a look below at some of the best teams against the spread records in the previous season which also includes the ROI had the puck line been bet for every game of the season.
There is some interesting information that can be gleaned from the above numbers despite the records not specifying which teams were favorites and which were underdogs. The LA Kings and St. Louis Blues finishing as the top two teams with a significantly higher ROI than the rest is likely due to both teams exceeding expectations in the 2021/22 season. The Kings had preseason odds of 66/1 coming into last season with an over/under points total set at 85.5 while the Blues were roughly 35/1 to lift the Stanley Cup in the previous campaign with a points total line set at 94.5 by the books. The Kings would ultimately end the season 14 points above their predicted total with 99 points and the Blues finished on 109 points, 15 points above their betting line.
Another interesting fact to note is that the Sabres and Blue Jackets finished in the top five against the spread records despite both struggling in the regular season. This can likely be attributed to the two teams entering many games as underdogs and thus receiving +1.5 on the puck line. Betting on the puck line can often be volatile and it is a trap that many new NHL bettors fall into with laying the -1.5 goal spread on heavy favorites. Remember that you can check out the latest LA Kings and St. Louis Blues lines in the current NHL season through sportsbooks such as Bet365 and Vbet. Next up we’ll take a quick look at the bottom five against the spread teams from the previous season:
Of course, free agency and the NHL Draft means teams have the opportunity to quickly change their fortunes in the offseason and enter the new season with a much stronger team. However, it’s good to keep the above records in mind as an idea of which teams are on the stronger side and which teams are on the weaker side.
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Despite winning the MVP last season, Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews does not enter the 2022/23 season as the betting favorite to take down the award for a second consecutive time. However, the 25-year-old will certainly fancy his chances to put together another monster season with his Maple Leafs team favored by the bookmakers to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. Matthews' production will be key to their chances and another 60 goal, 46 assist, 106 point season will definitely give him an excellent chance winning the Hart Memorial Trophy yet again. The Bookmakers list Matthews as the second favorite for the award with odds of around 4.5/1.
The current favorite for the MVP award at the time of writing is Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid. The center has already won the award on two previous occasions in the 2016/17 season and the 2020/21 season, proving his credentials as to why he deserves to be such short odds for the trophy this season. The bookmakers have McDavid at odds of 2.5/1 to become just the ninth ever player to win three or more Hart Memorial Trophies.
McDavid’s teammate and the other Edmonton center Leon Draisaitl comes in as the third favorite for the MVP award according to the oddsmakers with odds of 10/1. The German won the award in the 2019/20 season and should be in a great spot to win his second with the Oilers possessing some serious firepower. Draisaitl has already won the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay award despite being only 26 years old. Draisaitl tallied 55 goals and 55 assists last season for an impressive total of 110 points.
Finally, we will mention Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon who also comes in with odds of 10/1 to win the MVP award this season. The 27-year-old is coming off a highly productive season of 32 goals and 56 assists to finish with a points total of 88 despite having only played in 65 games in the 2021/22 season. MacKinnon has shown he can reach high point totals when playing full seasons with his career best 99 points coming in the 2018/19 season which saw him play all 82 games. As one of the centerpieces in the team of the defending champions, the Avalanche having another strong season should give MacKinnon’s MVP chances a significant boost.
Most of the action in the NHL betting markets comes from moneyline bets (straight up team to win the game). As previously mentioned, sportsbooks do offer point spread betting for the NHL in the form of puck line bets. The puck line is a fixed +/-1.5 spread assigned to either the favorite, who will have to win by two goals, or the underdogs, who is afforded a one goal margin of defeat that will count as a victory. The NHL most closely resembles Major League Baseball in this sense as the MLB also implements a 1.5 spread for its games.
New NHL bettors often fall into the trap of being overly reliant on betting heavy favorites with the -1.5 goal spread. It’s certainly understandable as to why, as many will likely think that a single goal shouldn’t be too hard to come by for a team that is much better than their opponent. A team with odds of 1.50 to win a game straight up could see those odds jump as high as 2.15 on the puck making it a very difficult proposition to pass up for most punters. It would not be entirely fair to call the -1.5 line a “sucker bet” but it is one that should be used with caution and bettors should select their spots carefully when looking to play it.
The NHL sees the majority of its games decided by just one goal which can make puck line betting extremely tricky. Data from previous seasons has shown times where 50% of the games finished with a one goal margin like in the 2014/15 season when 730 games were decided by one goal. More recently, a 500 game sample taken from the 2018/19 season showed that 41.3% of the games were decided by just one goal. The fact is that the NHL is a highly competitive league and the talent difference between the teams isn’t as large as it might be in other sporting leagues such as the English Premier League.
Additionally, data taken from the 2018/19 season detailed the most common score lines from the 1,271 regular season games, the six most common can be seen below:
The three most common results highlight our previous point about the number of games that finish with just a one goal difference. Fans and neutrals will likely love this as it makes for more exciting and drama-filled games but the sports bettors could find things difficult. Based on the previous information, a better strategy would likely entail backing the underdog receiving the +1.5 spread to at least keep a game competitive instead of the alternative which involves laying the -1.5 spread and hoping the winning team can net the final goal of the match.
Last season’s Boston Bruins is a good example of the differences in records for a good team when solely betting them on the puck line. Boston finished with a total of 107 points last season while winning 51 of their games, losing 26 and losing in overtime in six of their games. Overall, the Bruins were a solid playoff team that finished with the sixth best record in the Eastern Conference. However, despite their strong regular season form, Boston would end up with the worst against the spread record in the entire league at 33-49. The other side to this coin is a team like the Buffalo Sabres, who finished the 2021/22 season with only 75 points and were nowhere near the playoffs. The Sabres finished the season with the third best against the spread record in the NHL at 47-35, indicating that they likely entered a good percentage of their games as the underdogs but were able to keep the defeats close.
Unfortunately, injuries play a part in every sport and must always be considered before locking in your bet. Teams regularly release injury reports so it would be wise to double check that all of the key players on the team you are betting are able to suit up. An injury to a star player such as Connor McDavid for the Oilers could see significant line movement, possibly moving them to underdogs after opening as favorites. Luckily, in this day and age it’s easier than ever to keep up with the latest team and injury news as all 32 teams have their own social media platforms.
Another extremely useful statistic that can be used to get a good indication of how well a team is performing is expected goals. Very popular in the football world at the moment, expected goals (or xG) has a useful place in hockey as well. Expected goals work by assigning a value to each shot based on a mathematical equation of how likely that shot is to end up as a goal. A good example would be a close range rebound shot having a much higher xG than a long range wrist shot from the blue line. Expected goals is an excellent way to gauge the overall play of a team and if they have been overachieving or underachieving.
Bettors should also be sure to consider the importance of the game that they have decided to bet on. With 82 games in the regular season, it’s natural that the players will be more amped up for certain games on the schedule more so than others. Rivalry games, the Winter Classic, games against a past season playoff opponent or against the defending champions are all games that should be taken note of for an NHL team in the season. Towards the end of the season should also be approached with caution as some teams may opt to rest players with a playoff spot locked up.
The ability to scour different sportsbooks and get the best possible odds for your bet is a valuable tool that serious sports bettors should always take advantage of. This is where having multiple accounts registered at different sportsbooks comes into play. In addition to the sign-up bonuses and reload bonuses offered by many sites, you also won’t miss out on better odds if a sportsbook has a bet you like listed at a better price. This can pay dividends in the long run and it can not be overstated how important it is as it can make the difference between a winning bettor and a losing bettor over the long run.
Betting odds: 22/1 Bet365
There’s value here in the Penguins at this number with their strong defense and excellent group of forwards to lift the cup for the sixth time and the first since winning back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017. Sydney Crosby is still performing at an elite level despite now being 35-years-old while locking up Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin’s contracts should put the Pens in a great space to start the season free of distractions. Pittsburgh finished with the fifth best defensive record in the league last season with only 229 goals conceded and should be able to carry that solidity over into the new campaign as well. Back the Pens to put together one more Stanley Cup run with Sid the Kid at the helm.
Betting odds: 13/1 Vbet
The 23-year-old defenceman has been revolutionizing the position in his short three years in the NHL. After lifting the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche last season, Makar will now attempt to lead his teammates to back-to-back titles and Colorado’s strong chances of repeating as champions should help Makar in his MVP bid. As we looked at before, Makar netted 28 goals last season while tacking on another 58 assists and there’s every reason to believe he will get even better in the 2022/23 season. If Makar can hit the 30+ goal mark while keeping up his great assist numbers and the Avalanche steam roll the regular season again, then we could be looking at the first defenceman to win the Hart since Chris Pronger in 2000.
Betting odds: 3.75 Bwin
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Detroit will bounce back after missing out on the playoffs last season by qualifying for the 2022/23 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Red Wings have talented young players in Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider who should be coming into this season more experienced and better overall. They were also able to bring in a number of experienced veterans in Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot, Ville Husso, Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maatta and David Perron. These players will add much needed depth and experience to this Red Wings side.
Sportsbooks generate their betting odds with in depth mathematical equations that utilize many of the statistics and advanced metrics that are widely available to the public across various websites. The goal of any sports bettor is to ensure that every bet they make has value. This means betting on teams that you believe will likely lose and sometimes having to pass backing a team that you think will win. The reason for this simply comes down to the prices and odds that are offered. A team coming into a game at 5/1 when they really should be around 3/1 is a bet that, as a profitable sports bettor, you should be making 100% of the time. Obviously, a 5/1 dog is going to lose a decent percentage of the time but the key is that they won’t be losing as often as the odds state they should be.
Likewise, if a team comes in at 1.50 favorites but you believe the true odds should be around 1.75 for the team to win, it’s better to pass on that game or potentially look at backing the underdog, despite feeling the favorite is going to win that game more often than not. A bettor consistently only taking huge favorites is going to struggle to show a profit come the end of the year, despite likely having a winning record overall.
Having accounts at many different online sportsbooks will give you a bigger edge and your bottom line will ultimately reap the rewards over the long run. Sportsbooks for the most part try to keep their odds consistent with the rest of the market but there absolutely do exist differences in odds for the same bet. An example might be backing the Tampa Bay Lightning to win on the moneyline with odds of 1.65 while you are always able to find the same line on another site that offers Tampa at 1.75. While the 0.10 difference in odds might not seem that significant at first glance, this would equate to being the difference between winning €750 and €850 if you were to make the same bet 100 times with a stake of €10.
Our final section will take a quick look at the most recent Stanley Cup odds from three of the most reputable sportsbooks in the industry in bet365, WilliamHill and Vbet. Remember to follow any of the links on this page to get a generous sign-up bonus and get started on a number of highly-rated sportsbooks. Below are the top 10 teams’ championship odds for the 2022/23 seaon: