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Why Successful NHL First Period Total Bettors Usually Look Under

James Murphy
by in NHL on
  • Sharp NHL bettors agree on few things. The betting opportunity that first period totals present is one of them.
  • The prevalence of opinion among hockey experts is that more often than not the ‘Under’ is the way to play.
  • In the 2022-2023 season, blindly betting New York Islanders games ‘Under’ for the first period would have yielded a profit of +25.41 Units.

In our previous article, we offered a quick overview of the NHL First Period Totals betting market and how it is very much comparable to ‘No Run First Inning’ (NRFI) bets in baseball. If you missed that discussion, you’ll find a link to that article at the bottom of this page. I know quite a few successful hockey bettors and all of them focus on the ‘Under’ when betting first period totals. A few have a strategy of ‘Under or pass’ meaning that if they don’t play the ‘Under’ they don’t play the first period total in a game. Most aren’t that disdainful of playing the ‘Over’ if the situation calls for it but they all play significantly more games ‘Under’ for the first period. One sharp NHL bettor said he figures that 80% of his colleagues’ first period totals wagers over the course of a season are on the ‘Under’.

You’ll seldom go wrong following the ‘Sharps’ and fading the ‘Squares’, but you already knew that. We’re going to validate the ‘Under first’ approach using some good old fashion statistics. The information I’m using is from an excellent website called EV Analytics and more specifically their past performance hockey data.

For the 2022-2023 NHL season, only six teams were profitable for bettors playing them ‘Over’ in the first period. Of those teams, only three earned more than 4 units of profit (Calgary, Anaheim, Vancouver) and only two produced double digit profits. Vancouver was the most profitable first period ‘Over’ team in the league at +15.89 units. Anaheim was right behind at +15.52 units. The other profitable over teams were Edmonton (+3.62 units), Seattle (+3.48 units) and San Jose (+3.20 units).

Now let’s flip the script and look at the first period ‘Under’ profit/loss statements. Same situation–units of profit/loss based on an ‘Under’ first period total bet for each team. Seventeen teams turned a profit on first period ‘Under’ bets. Thirteen teams earned more than 4 units of profit and eight delivered double digit units of profit. Two teams–the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers–were good for more than 20 units of profit with the Isles leading the league (+25.41 units) and the Panthers not far behind (+20.54 units).

Also keeping ‘Under’ bettors’ bankrolls in the black were the Minnesota Wild (+17.35 units), Winnipeg Jets (+16.76 units), Boston Bruins (+12.33 units), Columbus Blue Jackets (+12.25 units), Carolina Hurricanes (+11.01 units), New York Rangers (+10.61 units), Pittsburgh Penguins (+8.02 units), Chicago Blackhawks (+7.88 units), Washington Capitals (+7.64 units), New Jersey Devils (+6.58 units), Nashville Predators (+5.72 units), Toronto Maple Leafs (+2.81 units), Los Angeles Kings (+2.74 units), St. Louis Blues (+1.00 unit) and Colorado Avalanche (+0.99 unit).

Worth noting that due to the popularity of first period ‘Under’ plays among respected players you’re seeing a lot more games with a 2 O/U for the first period. As a result, there’s quite a few first period ‘pushes’ during the course of the season. Buffalo, for example had 27 OV, 31 UN and 24 push which put them in the unique position of losing money for both ‘Over’ players (-4.48 units) and ‘Under’ players (-1.35 units). Vancouver, Edmonton and Florida each had 21 first period ‘pushes’.

The good news is that you don’t *have* to bet the ‘Over’ or ‘Under’ blindly for every game. You can pick your spots like any other wager. Some factors to consider are the head to head matchup, tactical styles of the teams, past performance head to head, recent form, goaltender assignment for the injury, travel logistics, home/away tendencies and so forth. Several sharp players pointed to the second of back to back games as a good opportunity to play first period ‘Unders’.

We’ll revisit the topic of first period NHL totals once the regular season begins!


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