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NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs: Montreal Has Value as Road Underdog (Wednesday, April 7)

NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs: Montreal Has Value as Road Underdog (Wednesday, April 7) article feature image

David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Victor Mete

  • Toronto returns home after an undefeated road trip to Winnipeg and Calgary.
  • Montreal's Carey Price was injured on Monday and has been ruled out tonight.
  • Matt Russell explains why Montreal has value on the road.

Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs Odds

Canadiens Odds +130
Maple Leafs Odds -150
Over/Under 6.0
Time | TV Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday night and via BetMGM.

Traditional season or shortened season, it’s the little victories for hockey fans that keep hope alive. There are moments throughout an often monotonous season that remind a fan why they care, and give them reason to believe this might be THE season.

For Montreal Canadiens fans, Monday night started out as one of those nights, and ended up as one of THOSE nights.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs outplayed Edmonton in 5-on-5 play on Monday. The Canadiens played a dominant first period, outshooting the Oilers by two-fold, only to look up at the scoreboard to see a 1-0 deficit.

After more of the same in the second frame, Montreal was somehow down 2-0. It rallied in the third to tie the game and force overtime. All that was left to do was to get the win it surely deserved after earning more than 62% of the Expected Goals at even-strength and a High-Danger Chance advantage of 15 to 6.

Struggling to find the right mix with more than their fair share of quality pieces, the Habs made an addition last week in a trade for veteran center Eric Staal. Staal was supposed to provide more leadership, depth and reliability for a team who’s top-tier talent is in its youth.

In his first game with Montreal, after a quarantine upon entry into Canada, Staal made fast friends with the millions of Canadiens fans when he scored the overtime winner to give the Habs the extra point towards the standings. 

The Habs aren’t likely to catch the Maple Leafs for the North Division crown, even as they were a popular choice relative to their preseason odds. However, they have matched the expectations of their underlying metrics, especially in their last eight games.

While the Canadiens have just five wins in this stretch, they’ve accumulated 88 High-Danger Chances at even-strength while allowing just 60 HDC by their opponent. More importantly, in just one of the eight games was Montreal outplayed by its opponent in 5-on-5 play. 

Carey Price was the winning goaltender on Monday, but it’s been announced that he’s suffered some sort of injury that will keep him out for at least Wednesday’s game against the leader of the North. 

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

Jake Allen gets the challenge of taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who return home after a successful week in central Canada, where they swept a pair of games in Winnipeg and did the same in Calgary.

Each game was a nail-biter, with all four games being tied in the third period. Despite the close games, the Leafs continue to play at even-strength the best they have all season long. Monday night’s game in Calgary was the first time the Leafs had fewer than 50% of the Expected Goals 5-on-5, since March 13th against Winnipeg.

The best time to get a team is after it returns home from a successful road trip. That’s the scheduling spot the Leafs’ 18 skaters will have to deal with on Wednesday. As for the goaltending, the Leafs may have a similar situation as the Habs in that the guy who was brought in to take some pressure off the No. 11 goalie may have actually taken the job off him entirely. Jack Campbell has started his Maple Leafs tenure with a cool nine wins in nine starts. 

There’s just not much to not like about the Leafs play these days. They’ve hit a new rating high in my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast. After lingering around 5% above average at even-strength despite winning an unsustainable amount of games early in the season, the Leafs have now surpassed the 10% mark. Which is a plateau that only the Canadiens have surpassed this season. 

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Beyond the goaltending from Campbell, what has allowed the Leafs to rise in the advanced metrics is the fact that they’ve done a better job of limiting their opponents’ High-Danger Chances. That’s the reason that Montreal’s rating has been as high as it has been the last two seasons despite sub-par results. Despite the big name of Carey Price, it’s been the goaltending that needs to stabilize and Jake Allen has been the better option, with a 4.74 Goals Saved Above Average to Price’s -3.64. 

With the assumption that we see Allen vs. Campbell, which side we want to back comes down to price. My model makes Toronto a 52% favorite to Montreal’s 48%. However, the market has opened Montreal as +125 underdogs, which translates to a win probability of 44%, is a 3.5% edge, making it worth a bet. 

Pick: Canadiens (+125 or better)

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