For bettors who aren’t sure which team to wager on, or for those who want to place a prop bet in addition to a bet on the winner, betting on the highest-scoring period is a fun and profitable way to go. In NHL wagering, highest-scoring period betting means picking which period will have the highest combined goal total between the two teams (not accounting for overtime or the shootout.
Because of the unpredictable nature of the game, betting on the highest-scoring period can offer a lucrative payday, and each period has nuances that affect betting.
Betting Advantages in Each Period
Betting on the first period regularly offers more favorable betting odds because the first period is traditionally the lowest-scoring period. In the 2021 NHL season, teams combined to score 1,412 goals in the first period. In the second, that number jumped to 1,706, and in the third, NHL clubs combined for 1,739 goals.
Part of the reason the first period is so low-scoring is that both teams are fresh with their focus set on the game plan. An old hockey adage says: “You can’t win a game in the first period, but you can lose it.” Teams tend to take fewer risks in both the offensive and defensive zones in the first period, keeping scoring down and thus offering much longer odds at being the highest-scoring period.
The second period tends to provide more scoring opportunities than the first period for two reasons: first, the fatigue factor, and second, teams switch ends of the ice for the second period.
As fatigue sets in, mistakes are made. The longer a game goes, the more likely a team is to make a mistake. Especially at the NHL level, hockey is a game of decision-making and forcing your opponent to screw up at a greater frequency.
Furthermore, because the teams have switched ends, it’s harder for defensemen to get from their own zone to the bench because it is further away. This ties back to the fatigue factor: when defensemen are on the ice longer, they are more likely to make a mistake. Longer changes mean better scoring chances, therefore, more goals.
The third period is almost always the highest scoring over the course of the season, though on a game-by-game basis, this is not always the case.
Similar to the second period, fatigue setting in leads to mental and physical gaffes. However, the third period does offer one more distinct advantage: the empty net.
Teams trailing a game late in the third period often send their goaltender to the bench for an extra attacker. This situation presents better scoring chances for both sides: the offense has another player on the ice desperately trying to put the puck in the net while the defending team can attempt to shoot the puck on the empty net for a “freebie.”
In the 2021 season, NHL teams scored 262 empty-net goals, or roughly one empty-net goal every five games. Additionally, NHL teams scored 122 goals with an extra skater on the ice in 2021 (though that number includes goals from all periods, which could include during a delayed penalty. The NHL does not provide an accurate track of that data).
Excluding empty-net goals, NHL teams scored 1,477 goals, much closer to the first period total. The potential for an empty-net goal or a goal with an extra attacker to tie the game skews betting odds accordingly.
Can I Bet on a Tie?
Absolutely! While it is a somewhat less common strategy, betting on all regulation periods to have the same goal total is an option as well. However, because such a bet encompasses all periods, it generally offers the lowest odds of any betting type.
What Should I Know Before Placing a Bet?
Before placing a highest-scoring period bet, there are several things you should consider. First, how many goals has each team scored and allowed in each period? This is a tougher metric to track earlier in the season and can be easily skewed, but the data often doesn’t change much from year to year if many of the team’s personnel are the same.
Another thing to research is recent trends: Is either team playing on the second night of back-to-back games? Are they coming off a road trip? Who are the goaltenders? Is either team dealing with significant and/or considerable injuries?
The more research you put in before placing a bet, the more likely you are to win.