key takeaways

  • The puck line is one of the main betting options for hockey.
  • It is similar to a point spread bet, but the actual line is typically the same for each game.
  • Puck line odds tend to have a good deal of variance.

The main betting lines for hockey are similar to what you’ll find for the other top sports. You can stick to choosing the winner on the moneyline, bet the over/under on total goals or incorporate a spread element via the puck line. While it’s essentially the hockey version of a spread, there are some differences to remember.

What is the puck line?  

The puck line is one of the main hockey betting options at online sportsbooks.

Example of a puck line

When you read the odds for an NHL game, the team with a negative puck line is the favorite, and a positive line indicates the underdog. In the above case, the Boston Bruins are 1.5-goal favorites on the puck line.

Just like a point spread wager, you can bet on the favorite to win by more than the line or on the underdog to win by any score or to lose by less than the line.

For the above game, puck line bets on the Bruins win if the team wins by two or more goals. If the final margin is only a single goal, then bets on the Carolina Hurricanes win. Carolina also covers the puck line with an outright victory.

Is the puck line always the same for NHL games?

In most instances, the standard number for the puck line won’t deviate from 1.5. This is one of the top differences between the puck line and point spreads in football and basketball. While point spread numbers can vary widely, the puck line generally remains at 1.5.

The only time you’re likely to see it change is for alternate lines, which we go over below. A goal or two can make all the difference for a lower-scoring sport like hockey. The same holds true for puck line betting.

How the odds work on the puck line

For spread betting in basketball and football, the odds will generally be right around -110 on both sides. Puck line odds have much more variance. Here’s how the numbers stack up for three sample NHL games:

How the puck line works

The team with the negative goals on the puck line is the favorite to win the game, and that will align with the moneyline odds for that game.

Since hockey is a low-scoring sport, however, a two-goal advantage is pretty significant. The odds on the puck line reflect that. Often, you’ll see positive odds on the team that has to cover the 1.5 goals, while the team with the cushion has negative odds.

Puck line betting examples

In the example below, the New York Rangers are the puck line favorite:

If you bet on New York minus the goals, then the Rangers need to win by two or more to cover. A 6-2 or 5-3 victory gets it done, but a 3-2 win does not. The Pittsburgh Penguins would cover with a one-goal loss or by winning the game outright.

At stakes of $100, a winning bet on the Rangers at puck line odds of +185 would return a profit of $185 and a payout of $285. For the Penguins at odds of -225, the profit would be $44.44. If you bet on the moneyline instead, you’d get less back with a win for the favored Rangers, and more for a victory by the underdog Penguins.

What are alternate puck lines?

An alternate puck line gives you other options beyond the standard 1.5. At most sportsbooks, you’ll find alternate lines and other bets by clicking on individual game listings.

Example of alternate puck lines

On the standard puck line, the Rangers are 1.5-goal favorites. Alternate lines give you the option to flip the script and bet on the Penguins as favorites, or add a goal in either direction for both teams.

The further you move away from the main line, the more the odds will move, as well. Alternate line odds can be very lucrative when you take on more risk, and not very appealing when there’s more of a safety net.

Sports Betting 101

Looking to learn more when it comes to betting on sports? LegalSportsReport has valuable content that explains everything when it comes to online sports betting.

What’s the better bet — moneyline or puck line?

If your preference is straight winners and losers, then the moneyline is the way to go. For those who would like to add a little more strategy into the equation, you could make a case for the puck line.

As for which is better, the answer can easily vary on a game-to-game basis. If there’s a game for which you’re really confident about how you think the scoring will shake out, then the puck line might make sense. If not, stick to the moneyline, or don’t bet at all.

Over the course of a lengthy hockey season, it’s generally best to pick your spots. While you can certainly stick to one bet that works best for you, there also are advantages to keeping your options open and adapting your approach based on what’s on tap.