Makinen: 12 ways to bet the NHL Playoffs




The NHL playoffs open on Monday, April 17th, and as always, it will be an exciting time for fans and bettors alike, particularly those of you reading in the Las Vegas area, with the Golden Knights having clinched the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Simply put, the intensity of the games in the playoffs is unrivaled. The focus of bettors in preparing for game, series, and future bets should match that. It’s easy to get a little overzealous at this time of year, and that often leads to bad judgment, and thus wagering errors.

I have found over recent years that if you stick to a set of certain fundamentals, the NHL postseason can be quite rewarding, and hence more fun to bet on. For instance, home ice doesn’t mean nearly as much as the talking heads make it out to be. Also, the intensity ramping up doesn’t equate to more goals. In fact, quite the opposite. Furthermore, teams get motivated by certain factors within individual series, and at the top of that list usually is losing games.

With this in mind, I thought this would be a great time to share a list of 12 betting concepts I’ve uncovered that could guide your NHL playoff betting over the course of the next couple of months. Assuming nothing goes haywire, following these patterns from the last decade-plus of action should lead you down the road to profits, and perhaps more importantly, avoiding obvious mistakes that can kill your bankroll.

You’ll see that I’ve displayed 12 different systems, and have grouped them into five different areas of handicapping focus.

Key home/road stats

–  Although home teams enjoyed a 54-35 record for +6.3 units last year, for the last six non-neutral playoff seasons, road teams have been the better investment, going 244-278 for +12.75 units, an R.O.I. of 2.4%. Hosts have lost 65.5 units for their backers in that same span (-12.5% ROI)

–  Since 2012, the second round of the NHL Playoffs is the only one in which home teams have produced a profit for bettors. Here are the records:

First Round: 249-215 (-49.5 units, -10.7% ROI)

Second Round: 138-98 (+0.45 units, 0% ROI)

Conference Finals: 62-56 (-16 units, -13.6% ROI)

Stanley Cup: 33-25 (-1.6 units, -2.8% ROI)

–  Game 6 in NHL Playoff series is also the only one in which home teams have produced a definitive profit for bettors. The negative returns for hosts in games 2, 5, and 7 are particularly troubling. Here are the records by game #:

Game 1: 86-63 (-9.8 units, -6.6% ROI)

Game 2: 71-70 (-31.55 units, -22.4% ROI)

Game 3: 80-70 (-2.35 units, -1.6% ROI)

Game 4: 81-69 (0.25 units, 0% ROI)

Game 5: 72-58 (-23.1 units, -17.8% ROI)

Game 6: 57-42 (+8.05 units, 8.1% ROI)

Game 7: 25-22 (-8.2 units, -17.5% ROI)

Angles based on the status of the series

–  Betting on teams trailing in an NHL playoff series has been a far better option than backing teams leading a series. The difference has been dramatic for bettors, as teams trailing in a series are 304-292 for +15.95 units, an ROI of +2.7%. Teams leading a series have lost -76.7 units for an ROI of -12.9%.

–  Over the last five NHL playoff seasons, teams have been reasonably successful in non-game 7 closeout opportunities, going 66-48 for +0.9 units, or an ROI of 0.7%. Teams facing elimination in such games have lost -14 units for an ROI of -12.3%.

Importance of the money line -140

–   In terms of line ranges, -140 is a key betting number in the NHL playoffs over the last decade. Favorites of -140 or more are 336-253 SU (57%) but have lost -91.35 units for bettors, a ROI of -15.5%. Favorites of -115 to -135 have gone 179-139 SU (56.3%) in that same span, a net win of 5.4 units, or an ROI of 1.7%. As you can see there’s only a 0.7% separation in outright success levels of teams in those two very distinct line ranges. Furthermore, how rewarding has it been to back all underdogs of +120 or higher in the NHL playoffs over the last 10 years? +30.6 units of profit, 5.2% return.

When in doubt, trust UNDER on totals

–  In the last 11 years of the NHL playoffs, the only seasons in which OVER produced a profit were in 2014, +36.1 units, and in 2022, +1.65 units. Otherwise, in the other nine seasons, there have been a total of 358 UNDERS against 311 OVERS. These 53.5% UNDER wagers have produced +20.9 units of profit, while OVER wagers have netted a loss of -143.5 units.

“Last Game” systems

–  The “Zig Zag Theory” is alive and well in the NHL playoffs over the last 11 seasons, as teams that have lost in an NHL same series game have responded by going 418-380 (52.4%) in the next game for +16.03 units, or an ROI of +2.0%. The loss associated with backing the opposite teams, or those that won the prior contest, has been -95.83 units, or -12.0%.

–  Teams that lost their last game on the road bounce back at a 204-173 SU (54.1%) rate for a return of +19.4 units and an ROI of 5.1%.

–  Another last-game angle, teams that are coming off a win in a series as a road favorite have gone just 38-32 SU (54.3%) in the next contest, losing -16.8 units for an ROI of -24%!

–  Shutout losses in the NHL playoffs have had a tendency to “wake up” teams in their next game, as these teams are on a 35-20 SU (63.6%) run in the follow-up game over the last six seasons, good for +19.35 units and an ROI of 35.2%!

–  Close games have also resulted in good bounce-back motivators for NHL playoff teams over the last 11 seasons. Teams that lost by 1 or 2 goals have gone 297-247 SU (54.6%) in the next contest, producing +29.1 units of profit and an ROI of +5.3%. By contrast, teams losing by 3+ goals have gone just 120-132 SU (47.6%) in the follow-up game, losing -12.7 units for bettors, an ROI of -5.0%.