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Tips For Betting The Total In The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final

Scoring is ablaze these NHL playoffs. It reached its peak May 3 with a ridiculous 6.09 goals per game and it’s now at 5.85 goals heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. 

When you compare it with recent postseasons, that number is ridiculous. It’s also a storyline that’s been largely overlooked by both the mainstream media and the betting community. 

In the 10 seasons prior, the highest goals per game average in a playoffs was 5.98 (2010) and even that was an anomaly considering it was the first season under new rule changes to crack down with a force on obstruction. The NHL called it tighter to open up play and the OVER crushed that year at 45-30-14. 

So I gotta hand it to oddsmakers because although scoring is way up this season, they’ve managed to book totals admirably. The O/U stands at 32-36-11 heading into Game 1 between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. That’s actually a profit of $200.25 if you put $100 on every UNDER. 

Scoring in the nhl playoffs
SeasonGoals per gameOVER/UNDER

So how should we be betting totals in the NHL final? 

I think we’ll see some UNDER value throughout the series. 

The biggest reason is goaltending and that’s always the first thing you have to look at when you’re betting totals in the NHL. If a team’s goalie isn’t playing well, pucks are going to find the back of the net – it’s just a matter of how many. 

When a team’s goaltender is hot, though, he can always steal an UNDER victory for you on his own. 


Marc-Andre Fleury has propelled the Golden Knights to the final and that’s obvious with him sitting as the -120 favorite to win the Conn Smythe. If you need more than that, Fleury owns a 1.68 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. 

That second number ranks best for a single postseason of any goalie who’s played at least eight games. As in No. 1 all-time according to quanthockey.com. He’s putting on a playoff performance for the ages here and you can run out of superlatives to describe it. 

Braden Holtby is a bit of a different story for Washington. He’s been up-and-down these playoffs with a few softies squeezing through. He’s had six games this postseason where his save percentage plunged below .900, which is a little scary. 

The good news for Caps and UNDER bettors, though, is it appears he’s saved his best for last. Holtby enters the final off back-to-back shutouts against a potent Tampa Bay squad with a combined 53 saves. 

A big reason why is that Washington played much better team defense in front of him in those games. The Capitals had 36 blocked shots compared with the Bolts’ 21 and, to me, they played their best defensively of the postseason at both ends of the ice. 

Holtby is a better goaltender when the Capitals are playing like that. He’s not always the type of keeper who’s going to steal goals off great scoring chances time and again like Fleury. But he’ll stop just about all the shots he should when his team is playing well in front of him. 

The former fourth-round pick has quietly earned the third-best goals-against average in playoff history (2.01) among goaltenders with at least 50 games. 

Scoring in the Stanley Cup Final: 

Scoring typically goes down in the NHL final. The team that can play better defense and owns the hotter goaltender usually wins the Cup. 

Take a look at scoring in the final round. With the exception of 2010, the Stanley Cup final has averaged no more than 5.33 goals per game in nine of the last 10 seasons:

Scoring in the Stanley Cup final
SeasonGoals per gameOVER/UNDER
Last 10 seasons4.920-36-5

Other reasons to like the UNDER in this series: 

  • Both these teams have been sliding UNDER the total these playoffs with the Knights at 5-8-2 O/U and the Capitals at 7-9-3. 
  • Ovechkin has played inspired hockey at both ends since missing his assignment in Game 5 that led to Ryan Callahan’s game-winning goal. The Caps have followed suit as a team and are playing UNDER the total. They’ve only seen two OVERs in their last 10 games. 
  • The Knights power play has gone cold. They are just 3-for-22 in their last 25 chances. 

Keep an eye on the O/U odds as the playoffs progress. The UNDER 5.5 goals is favored in Game 1 at -125. 

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