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Maple Leafs vs. Canucks NHL Odds & Pick: How To Bet Vancouver’s Return to Action (Sunday, April 18)

Maple Leafs vs. Canucks NHL Odds & Pick: How To Bet Vancouver’s Return to Action (Sunday, April 18) article feature image

Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Nicholas Robertson.

  • Vancouver is finally back on the ice after nearly a month away for COVID-related issues.
  • The Maple Leafs are the best of the North Division and nearly 3-to-1 favorites over the Canucks.
  • Matt Russell explains why there just isn't any value to be found in this game.

Maple Leafs vs. Canucks Odds

Maple Leafs Odds                          -275
Canucks Odds                         +225
Over/Under                             6.5
Time | TV Sunday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings .

Consider this a public service announcement. We here at the Action Network usually try to guide our readers towards a side or total that provides value. However, I’d like to believe that we’re also here to provide recommendations when it comes to best practices in betting and bankroll management. 

This preview could be a lot shorter, since the overall message for if you’re looking to bet on this game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks is to head in the opposite direction. Run far, far away. In these uncertain times, sometimes drastic measures need to be put in place. Here’s why this game should not be bet on.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs come into this game having lost three straight, so fundamentally they’re not a team that we should be looking to lay a bigger than 3 to 1 price with. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, has been impressed with the way they’ve been playing even in their losing streak, thanks to a cumulative advantage in Expected Goals (4.99-4.76) at even-strength.

The Leafs have ramped up their play at even-strength in their last 20 games, dominating even-strength play at 19% above-average, improving their season-long level to almost 12% better than average in the North Division. For example, they’ve created 229 High-Danger Chances in those games, to just 147 High-Danger Chances against. 

Even as good as the Leafs have played, my model would expect them to be a -150 favourite on the road in Vancouver, if all things were equal. Last month, the Leafs visited the Canucks, and they were typically inflated in the betting markets at upwards of -200 on the moneyline. Any bet on the Leafs in those two games would have been a failed investment as the Canucks managed a pair of victories even without their star Elias Petterson. 

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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 and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks proved that they could keep scoring down against the vaunted Leafs, allowing them to stay in the game long enough to pull off the upset in each game. Unfortunately, while there was mathematical value on the Canucks that weekend, it was based on the aforementioned concept of all things being equal.

Normally, this would be the space where we’d talk about the Canucks’ metrics and their current form, particularly with regards to their place in my model. How is knowing that Vancouver was playing at a 8.5% below-average level at even-strength this season remotely relevant knowing what we know now?

There’s no place in any model for the situation that Vancouver finds itself in on Sunday evening. The Canucks haven’t played since March 24th after being ravaged by COVID-19 in the worst way of any professional team in any sport.

The league expected the Canucks and their players to be ready to go on Friday in a game against the Oilers, but as the day approached, the Canucks players, led by veteran J.T. Miller, were outspoken in that they were not ready to play. As fast as the virus ran through the organization, their return to health has been just as slow. The league relented, postponing the game with Edmonton, and moving Saturday’s game with the Leafs until Sunday. 

Betting Analysis & Pick

Is this enough of a reprieve for the Canucks to be ready for a team that should be focused on getting back in the win column after three consecutive defeats? The Canucks have had a couple of practices to get their “legs under them”, as team captain Bo Horvat referred to it. However, that can’t possibly be enough to have them able to compete with the top team in the division. The markets know this as well, jacking up the price on the Leafs on the way to -300, daring you to bet the disheveled Canucks at the juiciest underdog price of the year.

So, why not back the Maple Leafs? Well, for one thing, the uncertain availability of a pair of key players, as they were without superstar scorers Auston Matthews in their most recent loss, and have been missing William Nylander as well.

Secondly, prior to their shutdown, the Canucks have shown an ability without Petterson to play a tighter style, keeping scoring down and leaving the end result up to conversion rates with fewer total scoring opportunities via High-Danger Chances and power play opportunities. They will likely try to play this type of game, and hope that sharp goaltending can at least force extra time. With a smaller margin for error, paying a 3 to 1 price on the Leafs is not advisable. 

Finally, that leaves the question of the total, and the idea that perhaps the under is worth a look based on the previous paragraph. However, that handicap assumes that Canucks’ probable starter Thatcher Demko is fully healthy and ready to carry the weight that the Canucks have often put on his shoulders, even at the best of times this season.

In what may be the first domino to fall, he was ruled out for the game on Saturday afternoon.  In the wide range of possible outcomes of this game, the Maple Leafs being able create High-Danger Chances at will is certainly of high probability. Even the Canucks scoring enough to contribute to the over is possible as the Maple Leafs goaltending is all of a sudden suspect after Jack Campbell was pulled from his most recent start. 

Fundamentally, we try to find elements of certainty in any game we bet on, and if there’s no certainty to be found, we’re more likely to take our chances on underdogs or other plus-money priced results. That said, in this game there isn’t even a plus-money price on TOR -1.5 to try. With no good options on either side, and no way of knowing what to expect from the total, the best advice for this game is none at all.

Given extremely rare circumstances, anyone advising a bet on this game is doing so based on little respect for probability or the respiratory affects of COVID-19. So the only responsible option is to stay away and find any of the other games to bet on where we have more information about the teams’ ability to perform relative to their priced expectations.

Pick: Stay Away 

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