What’s Going On With NHL Scoring Surge? Is There A Betting Strategy?

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on January 10, 2022
nhl bets

One of the narratives around recent NHL bets that has been floating around since the post-holiday break restart of the season is that scoring is up, often ascribed to rust after being off for nearly two weeks, for some teams.

Whether that’s the cause or not, this narrative does have some truth to it – and could be actionable for NHL bets.

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Is NHL Scoring Up?

From December 11th to until the early start of the holiday break on December 21st, a total of 59 NHL games were played, and 30 of those 59 games (51%) saw six or more goals scored, and 23 of the 59 (39%) saw seven or more goals scored. With the traditional 5.5 Total for most NHL games, these numbers were right in line with what would be expected.

Most NHL games in normal times have had 5.5 goal totals, unless one of two things happened. Either a combination of anemic offenses and elite goaltenders would be playing, in which the total would fall to 5, or elite offenses and/or backup goalies would push the total up to 6.

Through Sunday’s games, 47 of the 72 games (65%) since the holiday break have had six or more goals, and 37 of 72 games (51%) have had seven or more. In other words, more games since the break have had seven goals or more than pre-break games with six or more goals.

What’s Causing The Scoring Binge?

The common answer for the increase in goals was rust and goaltender weakness, which would make some sense, if the numbers were showing any signs of abating any time soon, but they’re not.

New Year’s Day saw nine NHL games, and eight of the nine had six or more goals scored, and seven had seven or more goals scored. Tuesday’s slate of eight games had five games go over seven goals, and Thursday’s slate had six of 10 games go hit six goals or more, and three more games landed on five goals exactly, which given the randomness of single night hockey betting, is still a sign of an offensive explosion in the league.

If it’s just goaltenders being rusty, then you would expect that in their second and third games after the break, elite goalies like Jacob Markstrom wouldn’t be getting hit for six goals in their third start back from the restart.

How Are The Books Responding?

Because of the unknown nature of why scoring is up, sportsbook are having to make decisions on the fly, without a lot of answers on what is causing the scoring binge or whether it might end soon. 

On Thursday, two of the 10 games had Totals of 5.5, with the other eight totals either at 6 or 6.5 goals. Markets are reacting to the increase in scoring, but even then, a substantial majority of games are hitting six goals, and a majority is hitting seven or more.

While it’s possible that the scoring binge may soon drop off, there’s no evidence that it will, or that the trend is abating. Whether sportsbooks are willing to continue to hang 6.5 totals, and even potentially hit 7 if a game has one or more backups in net, will be worth noting.

What Has The Scoring Bump Meant For Game Results?

The other interesting effect of the scoring bump has been the increase in non-competitive games, which matters for bettors. In the 59 games immediately before the Holiday break, 31 (52.5%) of them were decided by two or more goals, and 17 (29%) were decided by three or more goals.

In the 72 games since the break through Thursday, 42 games (58%) have been 2+ goal margins, and 27 (37.5%) have been 3+ goal margins.

Why does this matter for bettors? If games are more likely to blow out, and are therefore more likely to be uncompetitive, then the calculus for taking underdogs on a +1.5 goal puck line bet is changed, as is the calculus behind betting favourites at plus money laying a goal and a half.

It’s logical that an increase in scoring would lead to increased variance, and we’ve seen this so far since the break, with more games blowing out than in the period immediately before the Holiday break.

What’s It All Mean?

This could all just be a temporary blip of the calendar, but right now, the NHL’s offensive surge is totally remaking NHL bets and odds, with the consequences far reaching even beyond what seems obvious.

Despite the theory that this is just the cause of rust, after over a week of games, the offensive explosion is alive and well, and showing no signs of abating. And until it does, you might be able to capitalize with your NHL bets.

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Evan Scrimshaw

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