NHL Odds & Pick for Flames vs. Maple Leafs: Bet Against Overvalued Toronto (Feb. 22)
Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Auston Matthews.
- The Maple Leafs host the Flames on Monday night in Toronto.
- Despite their records, the Flames' metrics have been solid while the Leafs' have been underwhelming.
- Matt Russell analyzes the matchup and makes his pick below.
Flames vs. Maple Leafs Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-170|
|Time | TV||Monday, 7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday night and via PointsBet.|
In hockey, the more scoring chances you have, the better your chances to win. The two most trustworthy ways to measure scoring chances are high-danger chances (HDCs) at even-strength, and power-play opportunities.
In the case of HDCs, you can expect to score 15% of the time. A very good PP scores 25% of the time. Teams get an average of eight HDCs per game, and four PPs per game. Easy math says you should score once per game in either situation for two total goals. Any subsequent goals in a one-game situation would theoretically come from either scoring when you didn’t really deserve to (ie. from a non-quality scoring chance, a short-handed goal, etc.), or getting more out of your HDCs or PPs than you mathematically should.
Over the course of a season, these numbers should even out. The only thing you can control is how many even-strength chances you get and give up, and how many penalties you draw and commit. The rest is just math.
Calgary has averaged 1.85 expected goals for and 1.62 expected goals against at even strength this season. The Flames have 164 total high-danger chances to their opponents’ 143 while playing 5-on-5. Despite being on the better side of 50% in both categories, the Flames have won just eight out of 18 games this season.
On top of that, the Flames are fifth in the entire league in power play time on ice. As the losses add up, so do the critics, but as much as one might complain about the head coach or individual players, the results add up to numbers that many teams would be happy to have.
The Flames have lost four of their last five games, but again the math doesn’t add up, considering they’ve had more high-danger chances than their opponents, 55-51, and their expected goal share at even-strength is a dead-even 50%.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is 4.5% above average at even-strength. The Leafs have six more HDCs than their opponent, and have an expected goal share of 50.7%. Despite being barely above average 5-on-5 so far this season, the Leafs have won 14 out of 19 games this season.
An incredibly efficient power play is one of the reasons the Leafs have racked up the points toward the standings this season. They lead the league, converting 37.5% of the time on the power play. Many thanks go to Auston Matthews and his outrageous start to the season for this historically good man-advantage success.
The analytics community is waiting impatiently for the natural power play regression to hit the Maple Leafs. Especially considering — given their merely decent even-strength play — the Leafs have spent the fourth-lowest amount of time on the power play. Part of that is that they take advantage of the man-advantage so often that their time is abbreviated, but they’re still just 24th in the league in PP opportunities per game.
The Leafs scored three power play goals on Saturday night in a win over the Montreal Canadiens, and if we could predict things like “Team X will score three power play goals” then that would make the Leafs a viable bet on a regular basis. However, it’s just not responsible to rely on outlier performances like that.
Check out our free NHL odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game.
Betting Analysis & Pick
It’s never fun to bet against the Maple Leafs, because inevitably Matthews will score a goal, maybe two, and you’ll be wondering why you tried fading a team with arguably the top sniper in the league. However, his potentially historic season is factored into these bigger picture numbers referenced above.
Given the underlying analytics, my model spits out a true win probability of 53.5% in favor of the Leafs. Unfortunately, a -165 price on the Leafs suggests they need to win this game more than 63% of the time for that bet to be profitable. It should be noted that the Leafs have surpassed this expectation from a win percentage standpoint, but despite a 14-3-2 record, betting on the Leafs to win a unit every game would only leave you up 4.8 units.
It’s not going to be any fun, but the responsible bet is to continue to fade the Leafs at the prices the sportsbooks are putting up, as bettors seem willing to play whatever they ask to be on the side of Matthews’ snipes. Wait until closer to gametime and you should be able to get a price of +150 on a live ‘dog in the Flames who haven’t been playing as badly as their record indicates.
Pick: Flames (wait for +150, accept +140 or better)