12 NHL Playoff Betting Concepts

The NHL playoffs open on Saturday, April 20th. As always, it will be an exciting time for fans and bettors alike, particularly those of you following some of the favorites heading into the proceedings. This year’s postseason looks as balanced as ever, with six different teams listed by DraftKings as having title odds of +850 or shorter. Those teams include Carolina (+650), Florida (+700), Colorado (+700), Edmonton (+750), NY Rangers (+800), and Dallas (+850). However, unlike the NBA, as we’ve seen enough in recent years, any of the 16 teams vying for the Stanley Cup Trophy can win if they get hot at the right time.

The regular season is one thing. The postseason is an entirely different animal. NHL playoff intensity 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 judgement, and thus wagering errors.


I have found over the recent years of the NHL playoffs that if you stick to a set of certain fundamentals, the postseason can be quite rewarding, and hence, more fun to partake in. 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 all this in mind, I thought this would be a great time to renew my 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 in five different areas of handicapping focus.

Key Home/Road Stats

  • Once again in 2023, road teams proved to be a far better investment over the long haul of the playoffs than home teams. In fact, after going 47-41 for +15.8 units last spring, for the last seven non-neutral playoff seasons, road teams are 291-319 for +28.55 units, an ROI of 4.7%. Hosts have lost 91.9 units for their backers in that same span (-15.1% ROI)!
  • Since 2012, the Stanley Cup round of the NHL Playoffs is the only one in which home teams have produced a profit for bettors. Perhaps not a surprise, considering the enhanced stakes. Here are the records:

First Round: 268-246 (-74.5 units, -14.5% ROI)
Second Round: 151-108 (-1.6 units, -0.6% ROI)
Conference Finals: 67-61 (-18.25 units, -14.3% ROI)
Stanley Cup: 37-26 (+1.35 units, +2.1% ROI)

  • Game 6 of an NHL Playoffs series is also the only one in which home teams have produced a profit for bettors. The negative returns for hosts in games 1, 2, 5, and 7 are particularly troubling, since those are the games hosted by the better seed, and all four are below -11.5% ROI. Here are the records by game #:

Game 1: 93-72 (-19.35 units, -11.7% ROI)
Game 2: 91-74 (-29.65 units, -18% ROI)
Game 3: 88-77 (-2.55 units, -1.5% ROI)
Game 4: 85-80 (-8.45 units, -5.1% ROI)
Game 5: 80-64 (-25.75 units, -17.9% ROI)
Game 6: 60-49 (+3.3 units, 3% ROI)
Game 7: 27-24 (-10.6 units, -20.8% 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 332-319 for +15.2 units, an ROI of +2.3% since 2012. Teams leading a series have lost -81.5 units for an ROI of -12.6% in that same span.
  • Over the last six NHL playoff seasons, teams have been reasonably successful in non-game 7 closeout opportunities, going 77-58 for -1.4 units, or a very minimal ROI loss of -1.0%. Teams facing elimination in such games have lost -14.25 units for an ROI of -10.6%.

Importance of the Moneyline -140

  • In terms of line ranges, -140 is a key betting number in the NHL playoffs over the last decade-plus. Favorites of -140 or more are 363-284 SU (56.1%) but have lost -118.65 units for bettors, an ROI of -18.3%! Favorites of -115 to -135 have gone 192-150 SU (56.1%) in that same span, a net win of +4.65 units, or an ROI of 1.3%. As you can see there are identical win percentages for 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 11 years? +50.45 units of profit, 7.8% return.

When in Doubt, Trust Under on Totals

  • In the last 12 years of the NHL playoffs, there were only three seasons in which Overs produced a profit. Two of them, however, occurred in the last two years, +3 units last spring and +1.65 units in 2022. 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” remains alive and well in the NHL playoffs over the last 12 seasons, as teams that have lost in an NHL same series game have responded by going 459-412 (52.7%) in the next game for +23.28 units, or an ROI of +2.7%. The loss associated with backing the opposite teams, or those that won the prior contest, has been -111.23 units, or -12.7%.
  • In those same 12 years, teams that lost their last game on the road bounced back at a 224-188 SU (54.4%) rate for a return of +22.2 units and ROI of 5.4%.
  • Another last game angle, teams that are coming off a win in a series as a road favorite have gone just 43-37 SU (53.8%) in the next contest, losing -21.85 units for an ROI of -27.3%!
  • Shutout losses in the NHL playoffs have had a tendency to “wake up” teams in their next game, as these teams are on a 37-22 SU (62.7%) run in the follow-up game over the last seven seasons, good for +19.2 units and an ROI of 32.5%!
  • The last three NHL playoff seasons have shown a shift in how close and blowout losses affect teams in their follow-up games. Close losses have had a heartbreaking carryover effect. Teams that lost by 1 or 2 goals have gone just 56-66 SU (45.9%) in the next contest, losing -18.2 units for bettors, an ROI of -14.9%. By contrast, teams losing by 3+ goals have been able to easily flush the result and move on, going 52-42 SU (55.3%) in the follow-up game, earning +13.9 units for backers, an ROI of +14.8%.