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How to Handicap NHL Hockey Games

Learn how to handicap NHL hockey games.

Key Points

– There are several statistics that can help you handicap NHL hockey games.

– Bettors have an advantage when they handicap NHL hockey games.

How to Handicap NHL Hockey Games

The best part about betting on hockey is that the market is softer than it is for other sports such as the NFL, college football or the NBA. Not as many people bet on the NHL, so the market is not as efficient as it is for the more popular sports.

This doesn’t mean betting on the NHL is easy. It is not, but it is something to keep in mind as you handicap NHL hockey games. There are other tips we can learn from professional sports bettors too. Here is how you can get started.

Beating the Closing Line

If you could do one thing and one thing only, beating the closing line as you handicap NHL hockey games would be it. The best way to judge yourself as a bettor is to grade yourself against the closing line.

For example, if you bet the Penguins -115 against the Rangers and the game closes with the Penguins -120, you were on the right side of the bet. You were on the wrong side if it closed at -110.

Beating the closing number on a consistent basis means you’ll have more long-term success. If you are not finding value in NHL betting odds, you need to re-evaluate how you handicap NHL hockey games. You need to find an edge somewhere.


Understand Implied Probability

If you want to be successful betting on the NHL, you must be familiar with implied probability. Every betting line correlates with an implied probability.

For example, let’s say you are considering this line: Bruins are -130 against the Canadiens +110. At -130, the Bruins have an implied probability of 54.3 percent to win. This also factors in the sportsbook’s juice. On the other end of the bets, Montreal has a 45.7% chance to win based on their +110 odds. You can find online calculators to help you with implied probability.

If you think your numbers tell you Boston has better than a 54.3% chance of winning, you have an edge on the Bruins at -130. Using implied probability can help as you handicap NHL hockey games. It will also help you win more often.

How to Handicap NHL Hockey Games - Advanced Metrics

There are plenty of stats in hockey. Some are garbage. Others can be quite predictive and can help you get a better idea of how good or bad a team truly is.

In addition to advanced metrics, bettors might consider a sports betting pick service to help them as they handicap NHL hockey games.

As far as metrics go, each of the following possession-based statistics can give great insight into how good a team performs.

       Corsi: Corsi is just the hockey vernacular term for a shot attempt at 5-on-5. If you shoot the puck toward the goal, it’s a Corsi For. If the other team does it, well that’s a Corsi Against. What Corsi does is give us a picture of possession in a game. Hockey is so fluid, and there are so many “events” in a game that it’s hard to keep track.CF% or “Corsi For Percentage” is just the difference between Corsi events for and against represented as a percentage. If your team has a CF% above 50%, then it has been controlling the action more often than not.One problem with Corsi is that it doesn’t give you a good idea of how many good scoring chances a team is creating or allowing. A soft wrist shot from the point has very little chance of going in but will go down as a Corsi For. Recently, teams, analysts and bettors have started to shift toward Expected Goals, High-Danger Scoring Chances and scoring chances.Corsi isn’t the be all and end all that some people make it out to be, but it gives you a decent foundation with which to work.

       Fenwick: Fenwick is the same thing as Corsi except it doesn’t count blocked shots. Usually a team’s CF% and FF% are pretty close.

       Adjusting for Score: When you’re looking at Corsi, expected goals or any advanced stat, it is really important to adjust for score. A team that is trailing 3-0 will naturally push the pace. A team that is up by multiple goals will not play as hard. Adjusting for score gives us a better idea of the true talent level of a team.

       Expected Goals (xG): If you’re a soccer bettor, there’s a good chance you use xG already. Expected goals is defined as the sum of goal fractions expected from observed unblocked shots. Not all shot attempts are created equal. A rebound opportunity from in front of the net has a much higher chance of going in the net than a wrist shot from the blue line. Once again, the best way to use xG is at 5v5, but if you’re looking to break down how good a team’s power play or penalty kill is, you can use xG there as well.

       High-Danger Scoring Chances: High-Danger Scoring Chances (HDSC) is a stat tracked by Natural Stat Trick. It’s pretty self-explanatory. A scoring chance that meets certain criteria goes down as a HDSC.

Each of these stats can be used to help bettors handicap NHL hockey games. So can a quality professional sportsbook.


Goaltending is incredibly volatile and hard to project. Most hockey bettors  agree that goaltending makes it hard to handicap NHL hockey games. The best way to get an idea of how good a goaltender is to use a few different statistics. Piece these together and you get a betting understanding of the big picture.

       5v5 Save Percentage (SV%): Save percentage is a good place to start when grading goaltenders. However, it is better to use a goalie’s 5v5 SV% because there are fewer variables in play at even strength.

       Expected (xSV%) and Delta Save Percentage (dSV%): Expected Save Percentage provides us with what a goaltender’s Save Percentage should be after weighing the quality of shots he’s faced. Delta Save Percentage is the difference between a goalie’s xSV% and SV%. For example, if John Gibson has a .920 xSV% and a .925 SV%, his dSV% would be +0.05.

       Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA): A relatively new statistic, GSAA is pretty similar to WAR. In basic terms, it tells you how many goals a particular goalie has saved or allowed compared to what a league average netminder has done.

       Stats to Avoid: You’ll notice that I’ve left Wins and Goals Against Average (GAA) off this list. Both of those stats don’t really give us any idea of how good a goaltender is. They are more of an indication of the team in front of him.

Get all of your stats, news, scores, and more at the Bettor’s Hub online betting portal.

After the Game

The nature of sports betting is that sometimes you win bets you should lose and lose bets you should win. After a game, it's good practice to dig into the box scores and see what happened.

For example, let’s say you bet the Capitals against the Penguins and the Pens win, 4-2. Pittsburgh scored an empty-net goal, was outshot by 10, and created fewer xGs than the Capitals. Sure, you lost the bet but you were a bit unlucky. That’s a common occurrence in hockey. The sport is driven by luck and randomness.

Here’s another example that will pop up a lot. Let’s say you have an edge on the Hurricanes at +210 against the Lightning. The game goes to overtime and you lose after a shootout. You still made a good bet. Overtime and shootouts are basically coin flips, so you got a +210 underdog in a 50/50 scenario, giving you great +EV.

Before you go, remember that it is still football season. You can score big on NFL player props for value.

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