NHL Betting - Regulation and OT
by Trevor Whenham - 01/24/2008
If you're not betting on the NHL you are missing out on a big opportunity, but more on that in a second. If you are betting on hockey there are two different full game bets that are available, and some books offer both. You can make the 60 minute bet, which includes only the regulation time play, or you can bet on the whole game including any overtime that is played, and the shootout if it's necessary. Each choice has its individual strengths and weaknesses, and the smart bettor has to decide which play makes sense in each case.
Before we look at how to bet the NHL, let's take a quick look at why you should bet on hockey. The NHL is by far the league with the lowest betting volume of the major sports. That means that there are more opportunities for value than the more popular leagues. You can assume that any mistakes have been bet out of the lines in the NFL or MLB, but that isn't always the case in the NHL. You can also often find teams consistently undervalued during streaks if you pay attention. The season is long and games are played almost every night, so the opportunities for action are plentiful.
When you are deciding whether to play regulation or to include overtime, here are six things you need to consider when handicapping NHL odds:
What kind of overtime record does a team have? - My hometown team is the Calgary Flames. They are leading their division as I write this, yet they have the worst playoff record in the league. They have lost five times in overtime, and three more times in a shootout. If you were going to bet on them it would make sense to take them in regulation in most cases. On the other extreme, the Los Angeles Kings have the worst record in the league, but they have the best overtime record, with just two losses by shootout and none in overtime. If you felt that they have an edge in a game then it may make sense that betting on overtime would increase that edge.
Style of play - Overtime is a different game than regulation. The teams play four-on-four in the extra period, so the advantage goes to fast, creative teams because they have more room to move. Teams that play a tough, physical style are at a disadvantage because it is harder to catch your opponents in overtime, and the style of play is generally less physical. It's important, then, to look at the styles of play of the two teams to see if one has an advantage in overtime given the style of play. Obviously, you would want to bet on overtime if your team has an edge and avoid it if your team doesn't.
Is your team the favorite? - The spread in regulation play is always 0.5, so a tie in regulation pays out for the underdog. With all other things being equal, then, it would make more sense to bet overtime if you are betting on the favorite. That way you have another shot at winning the bet. On the other hand, if you like the underdog and you don't think that they have a huge edge in overtime then you would want to bet on regulation because the tie is in your favor.
Mismatches in depth - Overtime is a big drain on teams, and it can be a real challenge for teams that have shortened benches because of injury. This is especially true if a team is missing an important defenseman who usually plays significant minutes. Without that player in the lineup other players have to play more than they are used to, and they will be more tired and less effective by the time overtime rolls around. If you are betting against the team with the hole in their lineup you would likely want to bet on overtime. On the other hand, you won't want to risk overtime if your team is short on help.
Does one team need the extra point more? - By the time teams get to overtime they have both secured a point. For teams that are way ahead in the standings or teams that are out of contention that might be enough. On the other hand, teams that are in a tight race could be playing especially hard because every point is so important to their chances. Mismatches in motivation can create opportunities one way or the other in bet selection.
Where's the best price? - Successful betting is all about finding the best price for every bet. Having two different ways to bet gives you more places to shop for the best price. If all other things are equal then price should determine which type of bet to choose.