How the NHL Playoffs Work
Sixteen teams make the playoffs -- eight from each conference. The top three teams from each division qualify along with two wild-card teams from each conference. The lowest seeded wild card in each conference plays the division winner with the best record in the first round while the other wild card plays the other division winner. The second-and third-place teams in each division also play in the first round. The winners advance to the next round followed by the Conference Finals and then the Stanley Cup Final that pits the winner of the Eastern Conference against the winner of the Western Conference.
How to Place a Bet on an NHL game or Stanley Cup Futures
- Select a Betting Site or App That Features the NHL - All the big sportsbooks have apps that are easy to use, so it's up to you to decide which ones you want to patronize. All the big sportsbooks offer daily odds on NHL games, along with futures bets and many others, such as awards, props and others.
- Sign up & Make a Deposit - Signing up for an account with the major sportsbook apps is easy to do. All that is needed is some perfunctory personal and banking information. The process usually takes only a few minutes.
- Review NHL Betting Lines and Odds & Place Your Bet - Always check the NHL betting lines for that night's game schedule. Check in on the latest information on injuries to a team and their schedule in general. Follow team reporters for the latest information on social media and team websites.
How to Read Hockey Odds & Bet on the NHL
There are three ways to be on hockey games. You can bet the moneyline, over/under and puck line. The moneyline is the traditional bet, picking the winner of a game. The over/under is a bet on the goals total set by the oddsmaker. Most NHL games have an over/under set at 6, 6.5 or 7. Bettors pick the over or the under based on the number. The puck line bet in hockey is betting the spread. Most NHL games have the favored team set at -1.5. It's a tricky bet in hockey because final scores often are influenced by empty-net goals.
Stanley Cup Trends
- There has not been a dominant conference this century. Since 2000, Western Conference teams have won the Cup 12 times and Eastern Conference teams have won 11 times.
- Since 2000, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have each won three Cups. The Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings have won two Cups and the Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues and Las Vegas Golden Knights have won one Cup apiece this century.
- Over the past 12 seasons, four teams were first-time Cup winners. The Los Angeles Kings (2012), Washington Capitals (2018), St. Louis Blues (2019) and Vegas Golden Knights (2023) all won their first Cup.
- The best team during the regular season rarely wins the Cup. The previous time the best team during the regular season won the Cup was 2012-13 when the Blackhawks did it.
- Lower seeds pull upsets in the playoffs. The Kings are the only No. 8 seed to win the Cup (in 2012), but plenty of other low seeds advance to the Cup Final. Just last season, the Florida Panthers advanced to the Cup Final after earning the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. In 2017, the Nashville Predators advanced to the Cup final as the final wild card from the Western Conference.
Past Stanley Cup Winners
The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy awarded in the four major sports in North America. It was first awarded in 1893 and has been the championship trophy for the NHL since 1927. Members of the Original Six franchises dominated until 1974 when the Philadelphia Flyers became the first team from the 1967 expansion to win the Stanley Cup.
Stanley Cup FAQ
The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche are tied for the best odds to win the Stanley Cup at +750.
The Vegas Golden Knights
There are four rounds, each best-of-seven games. What does that mean? To win a series, a team has to win four games. The Stanley Cup Finals start in early June. While it is only a best of 7 series, with the off days, the Finals can last as long as two full weeks.
The Montreal Canadiens are the team that has been crowned Stanley Cup champions the most. The franchise has won the Cup 24 times.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone 56 years without winning the Stanley Cup. They last won it in 1967.
The Stanley Cup is named after the former Canadian governor-general, Frederick Arthur Stanley. From 1884-86, he had the moniker of "Lord Stanley of Preston" in the Canadian-British colonies, and in 1892 he bequeathed a trophy to the country's best amateur hockey club. In 1909, it was awarded to professional teams in Canada and, in 1909 as part of the new National Hockey League, it was formally named the Stanley Cup.
All the major sportsbooks have well-run sites to bet on the Stanley Cup playoffs.