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The EziSports guide to betting on ice hockey and the NHL

It is fast, it is brutal and often blood and teeth are left behind in the heat of battle - this is ice hockey, and it is also a great sport for the daring punter to make money on.

There are many established leagues around the world and the most prominent is the NHL in the United States and Canada where 31 teams do battle for the Stanley Cup.

But before you dive into wagering on the NHL, there is information you need to know on the sport. Here is your guide to arm you with all the weapons you need to bash your bookie.

The basic rules of ice hockey

The goal is obviously to get the puck into the opposition goal. Score more times, win the match. Ice hockey is divided into three 20 minute periods and if a winner cannot be determined after regular time, sudden death overtime is played where the first goal scored wins. If the match is still tied after overtime a penalty shootout will take place.

The main bets in ice hockey

Money Line Bets: This is straight up betting on who will win the match. The odds will obviously vary, so look for value in the underdog. If your analysis suggests an upset there can be great odds on offer.

Puck Line Bets: Confident that your team is going to flog their opposition, or be flogged? This is your market. Exactly the same as money line except the margin is 1.5 goals, so the team will have to win/lose by two goals or more. Higher odds are on offer here if you can safely predict a hammering.

Over-Under Bets: This is simply betting on how many goals there will be in a match, over or under a predetermined metric set by the bookies.

Prop Bets: These are any bets based on circumstances in the match, for example, first goal scorer. There are two kinds of prop bet, skilled and unskilled. Skilled props are the ones you want to focus on because your knowledge can help determine results. Unskilled props are just blind luck and are better left for the casual punter.

Futures Bets: This is where you wager a bet early in the season on potential outcomes like playoff berths or the outcome of the season.

Find an expert source for advice

Wading in blind to the NHL can be a recipe for disaster. This is a major league with 31 teams and each roster boasts more than 20 players - each one fairly certain to gain time on the ice through the season.

This leads to a numbers overload and the analysis and match-ups become a laborious chore for someone with no immediate knowledge on the league, the teams, the players and the various strengths and weaknesses.

Subscribe to US and Canadian sports sites and let them do the heavy lifting for you. Read the head-to-heads, the match-ups and take the key knowledge from there to find potential imbalances.

Know the importance of a power play

Like many sports, the NHL has a power play which gives a side an attacking advantage for a certain period. In the NHL, power plays are awarded following penalties - where the penalised team will have to play a man short for a set period or until a goal is scored.

In the 2018 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs had the best power play squad in the NHL, scoring 21.7 per cent of the time. That was because they had the roster of Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly. This squad ranked fourth in the NHL for goals scored, but their power play potency increased because they spent more time on the ice together than any other attacking group in the NHL.

Learning which teams are strong in power plays and also which players need to be involved is critical. Also, it is vital to understand which teams are more likely to leak goals during this period.

Watch out for back-to-back matches

In ice hockey, the goalkeeper is one of the most important players on the ice. In most instances, they will be rested the day after a match. So if a club goes back-to-back, the reserve 'keeper will be brought into the action. This can severely handicap some teams, depending on their depth, and open up value betting opportunities.

Look for road warriors

In general, bookies will always favour home court advantage. This can play into your hands if a side has become adept at winning on the road. This could mean in a general sense (going on an away streak against different opponents) or in a head-to-head sense (team A goes on a streak when travelling away to team B). Look for these trends and you can find value with the bookies.

Looking to expand your wings?

If you are dominating the NHL and loving the sport of ice hockey, there are many other leagues you can follow as well.

In North America, the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship (college ice hockey) and American Hockey League (the equivalent of minor league baseball) are available for you to bet on.

Overseas, there are leagues that include the Kontinental Hockey League (Europe and Asia) and the Swedish Hockey League. 

About the Author Josh Alston

Josh Alston is a hack with over 12 years industry experience, covering sport across all codes for newspapers and online agencies. Known to frequent grade matches because of their cheap tinnies. Eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Masters in sitting on the hill when the local cricket side was playing. Softball premiership winner, rugby league legend in Year 10 and no stranger to Doomben Racecourse.

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