New NHL ‘Pulling the Goalie’ Early Tactic Hits Sportsbooks Hard in Over Betting

  • NHL coaches have employed a new tactic of ‘pulling the goalie’ early, increasing goals
  • Sportsbooks can’t adjust live odds fast enough, meaning they lose out on over betting
  • Around 53% of games this season exceeded the over total, costing sportsbooks highly 
  • All nine teams that scored at least 19 empty-net goals this season have made the playoffs
Pucks in an empty ice hockey net
The new NHL-wide tactic of ‘pulling the goalie’ early has led to a glut of goals and headaches for sportsbooks as bettors take advantage of the inability to adjust odds fast enough. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

28-year goal-scoring high

A 28-year goal-scoring high in the NHL, aided by a new tactic of ‘pulling the goalie’ early, is causing all sorts of headaches for sportsbooks as opportune bettors feast on the over market.

NHL coaches bench keepers for outfield players

As reported by USA Today, sportsbooks have pointed the finger of blame for increased losses in the over market on the new trending tactic. ‘Pulling the goalie’ sees NHL coaches bench keepers for outfield players to chase down the score, leaving the net wide open. Although this isn’t a new tactic, coaches are benching goalies earlier in the game this season to catch opponents by surprise.

Bally’s Interactive oddsmaker Jay Rood has said the aggressive “industry trend has resulted in increased scoring en masse.” Sportsbooks simply can’t adjust their live odds calculations fast enough to mitigate against the new high-risk trend — which has seen nine teams score at least 19 goals without a keeper in their net this season.

Goal glut

A few weeks of the regular NHL season remain this year, but the stats on goals for 2021-22 are already staggering. According to NHL stats published by Hockey Reference, average team goals per game this season are up from 2.94 in 2020-21 to 3.12 through games played as of April 1. It’s the highest goal-scoring figure since 1993-94, when teams scored 3.24 goals per game.

According to sports wagering websites that track NHL results, including Scoresandodds and Covers, 53% of games this season exceeded the over total. The effects of this trend were confirmed by Tipico Sportsbook manager Sunny Gupta, who told USA Today: “Our book and other books have been getting hit hard by the overs.”

Not only that, but the NHL season has also seen a significant swing towards the favorites in most games. For the season to date, 65% of favorites have won their games.

Will the trend continue?

Commenting on the Stanley Cup playoffs, Rood suggested sportsbooks could get some respite through an upturn in casual bettors. However, he then defeatedly conceded that these gamblers actually “typically gravitate to the favorite and over bets.” 

we had more haves versus have-nots”

“I’m hopeful the trend doesn’t pan out in the playoffs now that the competition is evening out versus the way it was — so troublesome — when we had more haves versus have-nots,” USA Today reported Rood as saying. 

All nine teams that scored 19 or more empty-net goals this season have, however, made the playoffs. For the moment at least, it seems likely that Rood and Gupta’s sportsbooks will see plenty more over betting action during the Stanley Cup playoff games which began May 2.