Understanding the the basic focus and style (either offensive or defensive) that each team plays is an important starting point when handicapping hockey, but it is only one piece to the handicapping puzzle. Adding more in-depth hockey betting strategies to what you already know about the teams will help you become even more efficient at picking winners before placing hockey bets and going to your favorite hockey sportsbooks. Here is a helpful list of free hockey betting tips that you can use while handicapping.
Handicapping Home and Road Splits
A well-known basic rule across all sports is that the home team has an advantage. It makes perfect sense in theory; the road team must deal with going into a hostile environment, while the home team can feed off of the energy and support of thousands of adoring fans. Because of this rule, lines are always skewed against the road team.
But not all home ice advantages and road ice disadvantages are created equal. Some teams even play better on the road than they do at home; while at home they try too hard to impress their fans and make mistakes, while on the road they play more relaxed. Consider making plays against teams that play poorly at home and for teams that play well on the road. With the built-in road handicap, you will often find good value on road teams with a fighting chance.
Know Who’s in Goal
One important free hockey betting tip is to be sure you know who is starting in goal for both teams in the game you are betting on. Unlike baseball in which starting pitchers are listed right on the board, the responsibility is on the bettor to research who will be in goal. Not many things are more frustrating to a hockey bettor than sitting down to watch a game and seeing that the star goalie they were counting on to have a big game has the night off.
The most obvious instance in which a backup goaltender is used is when a team is playing on back-to-back nights, so be sure to check which night the backup goaltender is playing. But these aren’t the only times backups are used, as coaches may elect to give their starter a night off against a bad team, or at the end of a long road trip, or if the backup has had success against this opponent in the past. Make sure you confirm who is between the pipes before placing your wager.
Keep Up With Injuries
Another hockey wagering strategy that may sound obvious to some but is important to emphasize is keeping up with injuries. This goes beyond just checking to see who the scratches for the game are; big injuries are made clear when a player is unable to play. But hockey is a tough sport where players are constantly playing through injuries, and digging deeper to find out who is playing injured can pay big dividends.
Fortunately, this is made a bit easier today now that local newspapers and beat writers can be found online. Try keeping up with each team’s blog or beat writer for injury updates. Nagging ailments like shoulder, knee, back, and groin injuries should raise red flags; even if a player is playing through them, you shouldn’t expect that player to be as effective as they are when 100%. Observe how the injury is affecting the player’s ice time and productivity, and adjust your betting strategy accordingly.
Considering Overtime and Shootout Stats During the Regular Season
When the NHL returned from its lockout of the 2004-05 season, it instituted a new set of rules, including doing away with ties and the introduction of the shootout. With the league’s point system rewarding teams just for reaching overtime with a point, many teams play conservatively when tied near the end of a game to secure a point and then go for the win in overtime.
Since overtime is played 4-on-4 instead of 5-on-5, there is a lot more open ice, and some teams fare much better or worse under this structure. And in the shootout, some teams have shooters and goaltenders that thrive, while others are consistent losers. Don’t make the mistake of only handicapping the 60 minutes of regulation, especially in a game you expect to be close; know how the teams you are betting for and against fare in overtime and the shootout, and factor this information into your decision.