Surprising Trends of NHL Over/Under Scoring Lines

If you’ve ever bet on sports you know the thrill and you get why people do it. Often times you don’t even like the team you’re betting on but for the sake of your wager you cheer like it’s no ones business. The elements of a good sports bet are gathered from an array of sources. The ingredients of a typical wager generally consist of unequal portions gut instinct, expert analysis, inside tips, and a splash of greed from wanting to hit the long odds.
One realm of sports betting that has had some interesting trends lately is the Over/Under bets for NHL games. For anyone who has followed the game over the past few decades, it is clear that scoring averages have decreased since the barn-burner days of the late 80′s and early 90′s. (The graph below from demonstrates the change in scoring throughout the history of the game and its inherent changes.)
There are numerous factors that have lead to lower scoring games such as altered coaching and defensive systems, improved goaltending technique and equipment, and overall enhanced commitment to team defense.
What this all means for dedicated sports betting junkies is a lowered O/U line that has gravitated to a fairly consistent 5.5 per game.
In 2010-11 there were 5,550 total regular season goals in 1,230 games. That’s a measly 4.512 goals/game average.
With that said, we decided to delve a bit deeper to see if we could identify any trends for the 2010-11 season as well as the current 2011-12 season. What we found is quite interesting. We compared the number of games that had 6 or more goals in three different categories: Western Conference vs Western Conference games, Western Conference vs Easter Conference Games, and Eastern Conference vs Eastern Conference games.
- The NHL season is comprised of 1230 total regular season games.
  • 960 games are with opponents from the same conference.
  • 270 games are with opponents from opposite conferences (inter-conference games)
- Each team plays an 82-game regular season schedule.
  • Each team plays 24 Intra-Division games against teams in their division.
  • Each team plays 40 games against Non-divisional, in conference opponents.
  • Each team plays 18 games against opponents outside of their conference.
Here are the statistics from the 2010-11 season. Beneath the main graph is a breakdown of the total information sorted into what happened for each day of the week.

The daily breakdown is interesting here. It seems that Wednesday and Friday night games in 2010-11 showed a spike in league-wide goal scoring and in particular the Western Conference match-ups. Tuesdays and Sundays were the only days of the week when, on average, the Eastern Conference games had more overall scoring than games in the West. Travel and varying game start times seem likely causes here (guess/speculation).
Compare that to what has transpired in the first 2 months of the current  2011-12 season.

There has been a pretty obvious shift in scoring trends here.In 2010 the Western Conference games averaged higher scores than those in the East. This year it has flipped; in a big way. The scoring is up in the East and the Western conference games are more often under 6 goals.  Meanwhile, cross-conference games have remained steady in terms of Over/Under outcomes.
It is still too early in the season to decipher any meaning from the day-by-day statistics as the sample sizes are too small. By around mid to late January there should be a clearer picture of what’s actually going on on a nightly basis around the NHL.
At this point in the season, however, we can clearly see the overall trend is headed towards a mirror image of last years results in terms of Over/Under results with a 5.5 total goal baseline.

It will be interesting to see if this continues for the duration of the season or if things revert back to last years tendencies. This analysis will be updated every 2 weeks.
How to use this for NHL Over/Under betting.
This information is useful as a baseline guide for what to expect when approaching Over/Under NHL bets but obviously each unique game has it’s own unique factors to consider. The data does not account for individual team scoring averages, starting goaltender changes, travel schedules, player injuries, or adjusted coaching strategies etc.
As stated above, the science of sports betting is comprised of many parts and you have to use whatever information you have to improve your chances of winning.
Good luck.

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