Explaining NHL Alternate Lines – Where to Find Value

NHL alternate lines can offer lucrative payouts, but also involve more risk. We’re going to explain how to bet on NHL alternate lines and when these markets should be targeted to extract the most value.

In the NHL, there are alternate lines for the puck line and game total.

Targeting NHL alternate lines is an excellent ice hockey betting strategy in moderation. You need to pick your spots wisely or losses can potentially compound quickly. Since NHL alternate lines offer huge odds, bettors can still turn a big profit with a winning percentage well below 50%.

NHL Alternate Puck Lines Explained

In hockey, standard puck lines are -1.5 (favorite) and +1.5 (underdog). Puck lines are goal spreads. When the spread is negative, the team needs to win by more than the spread. When the spread is positive, the team can lose by less than the spread and still win the puck line bet in the NHL.

Bettors can also target reverse NHL alternate lines for huge payouts.

Let’s look at examples of NHL alternate puck lines for an upcoming game:

  • Standard Puck Line: Senators -1.5 (+168) vs. Capitals +1.5 (-205)

There are numerous NHL alternate lines for the puck line for this upcoming game. You could bet on the Senators at -2.5 (+280), -3.5 (+680), -4.5 (+1400) or even -5.5 (+3000). You can also bet on the Capitals at +2.5 (-390) or +3.5 (-1400), but that’s never recommended, as the juice is too high.

NHL alternate lines can also be reversed. For example, you can bet on the Capitals -1.5 (+250), which means you would need the underdog to win by two or more goals for the bet to win.

NHL Alternate Lines Strategy for Spreads

We don’t recommend targeting NHL alternate lines for spreads above -2.5 goals. The reason is because the majority of NHL games finish with a winning margin between 1-3 goals.

Also avoid betting on positive alternate puck lines. There’s no reason to target an underdog at +2.5, as your winning percentage would need to be very high to turn a profit because of the poor odds. 

NHL alternate lines should be utilized when you expect one team to dominate. This could be because of injuries, starting goalies, team form, value in the odds, statistical mismatches or other reasons.

You also need to factor in empty net goals. When a team is losing by one or two goals, they often pull the goalie for an extra attacker late in the game. During the 2022-23 NHL season, half the teams (18) had an average margin of victory above 2.00 goals in wins, so why not target NHL alternate lines?

NHL Alternate Lines Explained
NHL Alternate Lines Explained

How to Bet NHL Alternate Lines

Let’s say I like the Senators to dominate the Capitals from the example above. I would place bets on the Senators to win on the moneyline (-137), cover -1.5 goals (+168) and cover -2.5 goals (+280). You might be wondering why I wouldn’t play it safer by betting the full amount on the Senators moneyline only.

That’s because we’re trying to extract the most value from the game. If I bet $300 on Ottawa to win, it’d pay $218.98. If I bet $100 each on the Senators moneyline, -1.5 and -2.5, it’d pay $520.99 if Ottawa can win by three or more goals. Even if Ottawa wins by two goals, we’d make $140.99. If Ottawa loses, we’d lose $300 regardless of how we stack our bets. We increase our risk, but potential profits as well.

You can also lower the risk of NHL alternate lines by betting less on the bets with bigger payouts. In our example above, we could bet $200 on the moneyline, $50 at -1.5 and $50 at -2.5.

You shouldn’t bet on NHL alternate lines for every game. Only when you believe there’s value. Ottawa at -2.5 (+280) has an implied probability of 26.3%. If we think Ottawa can win by 3+ goals 30% of the time in this situation then there’s value with this line, but we recommend stacking your bets like we did above.

NHL Alternate Total Lines Explained

NHL betting sites also have NHL alternate lines for game totals. Depending upon where you bet, there could be alternate totals between 2.5 goals and 10.5 goals for an upcoming ice hockey game.

There’s rarely ever a reason to pay more juice when betting on NHL alternate lines for game totals. This means you shouldn’t bet over on a lower total or bet under on a higher total. For example, if a total is at 6.5 goals, you shouldn’t bet over 5.5 goals or under 7.5 goals, as the juice will eventually crush you.

The best way to bet NHL alternate totals is when you expect a game to go considerably over or under the standard game total. Let’s say we expect a low-scoring game between the Senators vs. Capitals and the total is at 6.5 goals. We can bet under 6.5 goals (-110), but we will also want to target NHL alternate lines, such as under 5.5 goals (+138) or even under 4.5 goals (+350) based on our assessment.

Alternatively, you might expect a ton of goals between the Flames vs. Oilers. If the total is set at 6.5 goals, we can bet over 6.5 goals (-110), but also over 7.5 goals (+210) and over 8.5 goals (+320).

A lot of NHL games have 10+ goals scored in recent years. Targeting NHL alternate lines will give you the ability to extract the most value out of a game, but you need to have a good reason to do so.

When Should I Target NHL Alternate Lines?

We recommend being cautious with NHL alternate lines initially. You should only target alternate lines in hockey when you’re confident that your desired result has a realistic shot at hitting.

It’s important not to get greedy either. The payout odds for a team winning by -3.5 or more goals will be enticing, but how often does that happen? Once you start betting NHL alternate lines, you need to track the results to determine if you’re making more profit or if you’re losing out on profits.

You should be tracking all of your NHL betting results. You could then go back and look at recent results. If you generally bet the moneyline for $250, check to see how much you would have won or lost if you split the $250 on the moneyline and some alternate lines. You could be leaving value on the table.

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Joe Berra
Joe Berra
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Joe takes care of the bits and pieces that sometimes slip through the cracks of the sports world. Efficiency and consistency is what makes SportsHub.com different. JB helps keep Sports Hub’s content fresh and exciting, managing its many authors. From the New York area, Joe knew he had a knack for sports betting when his uncle was always asking him which side he was on as a young boy. His meticulous approach to the numbers formed his career path as a professional handicapper. Joe is sometimes called Jimmy Bagpipes, JB or Mr. B.