Live betting is quickly becoming the most popular way to bet on many sports, and hockey is no exception.
The constant flow and fast-paced action of NHL hockey makes it a thrilling sport to wager on while games are in progress. Meanwhile, those quickly-changing odds present multiple opportunities to cash in on value that wasn’t present before the puck dropped, as long as you know what to look for.
In this article, I’ll explain five keys to maximizing value on your live hockey wagers.
NHL live betting can actually be pretty dangerous if you aren’t prepared. Unlike pregame wagers, when you have as much time as you want to handicap a matchup and determine what side you want to back, live odds are only around for a minute or so before they change. In other words, you’ll have to make up your mind in a matter of seconds.
That’s why it’s important to have an idea of the bets you want to place before the game begins. After all, once the puck drops and the action gets underway, things can change quickly. A couple early goals by one team will suddenly make the odds on the other team look very appealing, and it’s only natural to want to pounce on those juicy odds immediately.
Determine live betting targets before the game begins, then look to strike when you get the number you want. For example, you may like the Over tonight but don’t quite see enough value to bet the Over 5.5 at -140 odds. But if the game is still scoreless 5 minutes in, the juice on the Over will probably drop to around -110 odds if not even. At that point, you can place your live betting wager with the confidence that it is well researched and thought out, not based on an impulse decision.
Goals in hockey can have as much to do with luck as anything else. Whether it’s a puck that goes in off a skate, a screenshot that makes its way into the net from the point or any other kind of broken play, it’s not uncommon to see the weaker team take the lead in the early going on some sort of flukey marker.
When that happens, you’re usually going to get better value on the superior team. A -200 favorite can quickly drop to the even-money range when they’re trailing 1-0, but those odds are heavily based on the sportsbook’s live betting algorithms, not necessarily on their chances of winning the game. If an elite team finds itself behind on the scoreboard early due to an unlucky bounce or a power play marker allowed, you’ll not only get more generous odds on them, you’ll also be able to back them when they’re more motivated. Even if they took the underdog a little too lightly at first, falling behind by a goal or two is often enough to wake them up and get them playing with more urgency.
If you are going to place live bets on strong teams who are trailing the score, just make sure they’ve got the firepower to come back. A high-scoring team like the Lightning or Maple Leafs won’t be as fazed by a one-goal or two-goal deficit as a team like the Kings that relies heavily on defense and could struggle a bit to dig out of its early hole.
Generally, in sports, the team that holds the lead late in a game is not a good bet to increase their lead. Football teams get conservative on offence in the dying minutes and just look to run out the clock (sometimes even opening the door for the trailing team to score a “meaningless” touchdown and backdoor the point spread), and teams with the lead in baseball and basketball will be less aggressive as well.
Even though NHL teams will also go into a defensive shell in an effort to protect their lead, hockey is different from these other sports for one main reason: the option for the trailing team to pull their goalie in order to get an extra attacker on the ice. Any team that is down by one goal will employ this tactic with a minute or two left in regulation time, often resulting in the other team simply shooting the puck down the ice and into an empty net to take a two-goal lead.
Because of this possibility, you’ll often find some strong value betting on the -1.5 puck line with the team that holds a third-period lead. They won’t always score into the empty net, and there will also be times when the team who is trailing ends up getting the late equalizer, but the bigger payoff on the -1.5 puck line usually makes it more than worth the risk.
Approximately 20% of goals scored in NHL games come on the power play, when teams have one more player on the ice than their opponent (or sometimes two) following a penalty. So whenever a penalty is called in a hockey game that results in a power play, the live betting odds will be adjusted to reflect the higher likelihood of scoring. For example, if the Capitals are -120 on the live betting odds and then go on the power play, they may suddenly become -150 favorites.
However, just because a team is on the power play doesn’t mean they’re going to score a goal. Even the best power play units in the league don’t convert at better than a 25% clip, and some have a success rate of 15% or even lower. Many times, the adjustment to the live betting odds when a team goes on the power play is greater than it should be, opening up value on the team that is shorthanded.
It takes a bit of a leap of faith to bet on a team immediately after they take a penalty, but you’ll be able to take a better price with that squad as long as they’re able to kill it off. This strategy is particularly effective when the team who is shorthanded excels at killing off penalties while their opponent isn’t that strong with the man advantage (you can find these stats on the NHL’s website.)
As I touched on earlier, goals in NHL games are heavily influenced by luck. The actual score of a game isn’t the best indication of who is playing better on a given night, so you shouldn’t be placing your live bets based on who is winning or losing. However, the scoreboard is what the betting sites’ algorithms rely on the most when generating live odds throughout an NHL game.
Watching the game itself is a way to get an advantage on the oddsmakers. Look for teams who are dominating the play but have yet to be rewarded with goals, since it’s usually a matter of time before they eventually break through. Shots on goal are a popular way to measure which team is controlling the action, but peripheral statistics such as hits, face-off winning percentage, giveaways/takeaways and shot attempts can actually be better indications of which team is more engaged and focused. And don’t underestimate the simple eye test, which can often tell you all you need to know about which is the better team on a given night.
There’s a lot of value to be found in the live hockey betting odds every night. In order to capitalize on it, you should have an idea of bets you want to make before the games begin, then look to exploit better numbers that come up throughout the course of the action.
Betting on strong teams facing early deficits, recognizing the potential for empty-net goals, properly weighting the importance of special teams and simply watching the action are all ways that you can maximize value on your NHL live bets this season.
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