Say you’ve signed in to the sportsbook at BetAmerica and called up the NHL games on tap for the night. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes are set to play and next to each team, you see similar numbers.
Directly to the right of the Coyotes, it reads +1.5 (-120). To the right of the Lightning are the digits -1.5 (+100). This is the puck line on the game. The puck line is hockey’s version of the point spread that is so popular in football betting.
The purpose of the puck line is the same as the point spread. It is designed by the sportsbook as a method of balancing the wagers on the game between the favorite and the underdog. The difference with the puck line is that it is a much more restrictive wagering governor than a football point spread, which can be massive in lopsided match-ups.
In almost every instance, the puck line will be either -1.5 or +1.5. It takes a truly lopsided match for it to exceed those numbers, and in today’s parity-driven NHL, that just doesn’t happen very often. The reality is that a vast number of NHL games will be concluded with a one-goal verdict.
For instance, in 2017-18, the Lightning saw 34 of their 82 games end in one-goal decisions. In the case of the Coyotes, 38 of 82 games ended in a one-goal win or a one-goal loss.
So it’s easy to see why the puck line is almost always 1.5. Should it be -1.5 as it is in this line for Tampa Bay, it means the Lightning must win by two goals if you were to bet on them. The +100 is the return on investment from a $100 wager on the Lightning.
By contrast, the Coyotes are +1.5, meaning if you bet them they could lose by a goal and you’d still win your wager. But because you are getting a handicap, the odds are negative, so you’ll have to bet $120 to earn a profit of $100.