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NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Flames: Will ‘New Coach Bump’ Be Enough for Calgary? (March 13)

NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Flames: Will ‘New Coach Bump’ Be Enough for Calgary? (March 13) article feature image

Derek Leung/Getty Images. Pictured: New Calgary coach Darryl Sutter directs Johnny Gaudreau on the bench.

  • The Flames won their first game under new coach Darryl Sutter against the Canadiens earlier this week.
  • Despite the result, Montreal is favored in the rematch tonight. (3) Who has the edge? Matt Russell breaks it down below.

Canadiens vs. Flames Odds

Canadiens Odds -115
Flames Odds -105
Over/Under 5.5
Time | TV Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday morning and via PointsBet.

In the NHL, where in-season coaching changes are so frequent, the “new coach bump” is a tried-and-true betting principle. Like everything in life, betting the team that just made a coaching change is not fool-proof, but logistically, it makes sense. Motivation and passion are important in a sport made up of a series of high-intensity battles. 

The Flames fired head coach Geoff Ward last week, and replaced him with the most no-nonsense, hard-scrabble guy in modern NHL coaching. They pulled Darryl Sutter off his Alberta farm to take over a team with high expectations but not much in the way of intensity. Sutter’s “my way or the highway” approach will provide Calgary with a fork in the road on its season.

More often than not, Sutter’s teams take the right path. Whether that’s the case this season is to be determined, but on Thursday, backing the Flames to beat the Canadiens proved profitable in Sutter’s first game behind the bench. 

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens were the first team this season to can their coach, though their “new coach bump” lasted about a period and a half. Perhaps the failure for Montreal was that the replacement was already in the locker room, with Dominic Ducharme taking over for Claude Julien. The Canadiens didn’t have the urgency of someone new coming in to change the culture.

Perhaps though, they just lost that game due to some shoddy goaltending, as Carey Price was in the midst of a significant slump. After all, the Canadiens issue was never a lack of inspiration or commitment. Advanced metrics darlings, the Habs have been creating more even-strength high-danger chances than they’ve given up all season long. 

That wasn’t the case when they went to Calgary on Thursday, as they managed just six HDCs while 5-on-5 and earned just two power play opportunities. The Habs could blame a sluggish effort — they managed a season-low 18 shots on goal — on one of the worst schedule spots of the year. The Canadiens had played the night before in Vancouver in the latest start time of the season, with the puck dropping at 11 p.m. ET.

The turnaround, with travel, against a team that hadn’t played in four days was liking heading into a firestorm. Throw in that it was the Flames’ first effort in front of their new bench boss and frankly, the Habs only losing 2-1 is actually pretty impressive. 

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.

Calgary Flames

If a 2-1 Flames win is actually more impressive for the Canadiens, that’s probably not a great sign for the Flames in the rematch. With Sutter now running things, we expected an all-aboard effort on Thursday and got it. However, when that initial surge wears off, what remains is a team still finding its footing. 

In assessing the pre-Sutter Flames, my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, rates them around 2% above average at even-strength. Their results in the standings have been harmed by not having their No. 1 goaltender, Jacob Markstrom. He’s missed time due to injury, but even when he’s been in the net he’s been underwhelming for what they paid him in the offseason.

Markstrom started the season with a pair of shutouts in January but hasn’t found that form since wear-and-tear became a factor, given he started just about every game for the Flames until he went down with injury.

As the Flames wait for the version of Markstrom they paid for, their bigger issue is an inability to take advantage of the HDCs they get at even-strength. While they create more than they give up, their opponents actually convert more. The Flames’ HDC conversion rate is just 11.7%, well below the league-average of roughly 14%. That has less to do with coaching, and more to do with simply finishing around the net. With an 18th-ranked power play, they aren’t getting much in those situations to make up for the lack of offense at even-strength.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Sutter wasn’t a prolific goal-scorer during his playing career, and he’s certainly not going to help the Flames in that department now. What he can do is create some urgency over the course of the rest of the season, which will help them win a few more games against the teams that they’re supposed to beat in the North Division. 

While they took advantage of a phenomenally advantageous scheduling situation to grab two points against the Canadiens, they’re going to need more in the rematch and I’m not sure they’re capable of it just yet. The Habs are a short -115 favorite on the road in Calgary, which is right where my model makes their price. It’s clear the market isn’t overreacting to the “head coach bump” for Calgary, and I won’t either in backing the Habs on Saturday night.

Pick: Canadiens (-115 or better)

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