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Top 3 NHL Teams to Bet on This Year

They say that value is the name of the game in sports betting, but that’s only part of the story.

At the end of the day, teams you bet on need to win games in order to get you paid — especially in a moneyline sport like hockey. With puck lines never higher than +1.5 goals, you won’t get much consolation from betting on a near-winner the same way you can from betting on a big football or basketball underdog that keeps things within a lofty spread.

Now that we’re three-quarters of the way through the NHL season, here’s a look at the three teams that have been the best of both worlds so far in 2018-19: delivering bettors plenty of winning tickets while still offering enough value to be a profitable wager. And remember you can check our best NHL betting sites and learn more about how to bet on hockey, here!

(Moneyline totals are based on what a bettor would have earned by betting $100 on that team in every game they played this season. All stats are current as of February 26, 2019.)

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (48-15, +$1516)

It’s rare to see the team with the NHL’s best record also being the most profitable team to bet on. Usually, oddsmakers jack up the betting lines on the league’s top squads to the point that it’s hard to make money betting them on a consistent basis. Case in points this year are the Maple Leafs, Jets, Bruins and Sharks, who are all 10+ games over .500 but have combined to earn just $680 for their backers.

But the bookies seemingly can’t set the lines high enough to suck the value out of the Lightning, and Tampa Bay’s pure dominance is the reason why. How much better is Tampa Bay than the rest of the league? Consider this:

  • The Bolts are 15 points ahead of any other team in the NHL
  • They lead the league in goals per game (3.84), power-play percentage (29.67) and penalty-kill percentage (85.71) while ranking tied for fourth in the league in goals allowed per game (2.62)
  • Their goal differential (+77) is nearly double that of the next-highest team (Calgary at +49)
  • Nearly half of Tampa’s wins (22 of 48) have come by three goals or more
  • They’ve lost in regulation time just seven times in their first 63 games
  • They’re nearly as good on the road (22-6-2) as they are at home (26-5-1-1)

Beyond those stats, a big key to Tampa Bay’s success this season has been its ability to avoid the injury bug. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos have both yet to miss a game this year (an extreme rarity for the injury-plagued Stamkos) while no other major skater has missed more than eight games. And even when star netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy went down for a month from Nov. 10 to Dec. 13, backup Louis Domingue handled the workload beautifully as part of a sensational 19-4 season thus far.

If there’s anything to knock about Tampa Bay’s playoff chances, it’s that the Lightning is so reliant on its top line (Kucherov, Stamkos and Brayden Point all have 75 points or more, while the next-highest scorer on the team has 38) and on its power play (there’s usually less penalties called in the playoffs). But until the end of the regular season, at least, I don’t see any reason not to continue betting on the Lightning with confidence that they’ll continue to line our pockets with cash.

2. New York Islanders (36-25, +$1407)

Who needs John Tavares? Certainly not the Islanders, based on their unexpected success in the wake of their former superstar ripping their hearts out by leaving to sign a lucrative deal in Toronto. After making the playoffs just three times in nine years with Tavares — and never finishing higher than second in their division — the Isles lead the tough Metropolitan Division going into the final quarter of the campaign.

By the way, if you don’t think the Isles and their fans are still bitter about being spurned by Tavares, think again:

Was Tavares’ departure all that the Islanders needed to turn things around? Of course not. The bigger reason for New York’s renaissance this season is a huge improvement in defensive play, which is no coincidence with first-year head coach Barry Trotz behind the bench. Trotz’s calling card throughout his career has been keeping the puck out of the net, and he’s brought that mentality to Long Island after leading the Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship last season. After allowing a league-worst 296 goals last year, New York incredibly now leads the league in fewest goals allowed per game, and it’s not even close. The Islanders’ 2.31 goals-against average is 0.21 better than Boston, helping New York flourish despite having a middle-of-the-pack offense.

Unfortunately for bettors, the secret is more than out about New York’s drastic improvement. The best time to make money on the Isles was at the start of the season, when they were routinely sizable underdogs following the loss of Tavares. But even though they’re now laying a price most nights, you can still make money backing them — especially on the road. New York’s made nearly 10 units of profit for bettors on the road alone.

3. Calgary Flames (39-23, +$796)

Despite failing to get the Carolina Hurricanes into the playoffs during his four years in Raleigh, Bill Peters was considered a hot coaching commodity across the league. Now we’re starting to see why.

Peters, whose Hurricanes teams were often at or near the top of the NHL in Corsi rating (a measurement of a team’s shot attempts and shots allowed, giving you a sense of how well they’re controlling possession), has the Flames challenging for first place in the Western Conference as the calendar turns to March.

Calgary’s dominating territorially the same way that Peters’ Hurricanes once did, but the big difference is that the Flames have actually been putting the puck in the net.

Led by diminutive forward Johnny Gaudreau and a solid complementary cast that includes Sean Monahan, James Neal, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames are averaging 3.73 goals per game this season — the second-highest average in the league. Even with a mediocre defense, Calgary boasts the second-best goal differential in the league as well (+49).

The best way to bet on the Flames this year has been when they’re on the road. Calgary’s 19 road wins are tied for second-most in the NHL, and the $526 profit they’ve racked up for bettors on the highway is nearly three-quarters of their overall moneyline earnings on the campaign.


Betting blindly on any NHL team in every game they play is not a strategy I’d ever recommend to anyone. Throughout a long season, there will be ups and downs, high-focus spots and emotional letdowns, injuries, and fatigue.

However, when you do find those times in the season when the value looks good on the Lightning, Islanders, and Flames, you can rest at ease knowing that these squads have excelled at delivering on their promise. And don’t forget that a great time to bet on these teams is when they’re on the road at a discounted price.

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