NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Oilers: Which North Division Team Has Value? (Wednesday, April 21)
Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jake Allen, Connor McDavid
- The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens are both in the thick of the playoff race in the NHL's North Division.
- After a strong start to the season, the Habs have struggled in the second half and find themselves as slight underdogs on Wednesday night.
- Matt Russell previews Wednesday night's contest in Edmonton:
Canadiens vs. Oilers Odds
|Time||Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday and via DraftKings|
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
You hear this phrase all the time, about everything. Especially when it comes to sports, and even more especially when it comes to the long, winding road of a regular season. Although this season, you would think that it would feel more like a sprint, with just 56 games on the docket for each team.
Nope, it’s still feeling pretty marathon-y. However, the Habs are in Edmonton desperate for a glass of water and a strong breeze at their back, in a matchup of teams where one has to feel like the legs are getting heavy after 20+ miles, while the other squad may have a second wind.
Last Saturday afternoon, the Montreal Canadiens looked like they were headed up “Heartbreak Hill” (the famous finishing kick for the Boston Marathon, an event that was supposed to happen this past Monday), as they were shutout at home by the Ottawa Senators, in a game where both teams struggled to crack 20 shots on goal. The game came less than 24 hours after a semi-crucial win over the Flames, the team that’s trying to track down the Habs for the last playoff spot in the North Division.
It was also the 7th game in 11 days for Montreal, after their schedule had its own bit of condensing after a week-long COVID break. So, a lackluster effort could be written off as tired legs.
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, the finish line wasn’t anywhere in sight as they continued to play catch-up on the season. Outside of a quick jaunt down to Toronto, all of those games were at home, and then Habs had to travel half-way across the country in just 48 hours.
It’s not like the Habs had been playing all that great at the start of their recent densely scheduled stretch. Montreal started the season with an incredible 20+% rating at even-strength in my “Let’s Do That Hockey” Model. It’s dropped precipitously over the course of the season. In fact, in their last eight games the Habs are playing at a 15% BELOW average rate.
The even-strength metrics were pretty even through the first 40 minutes, as the Habs played a solid second period with four High-Danger Chances at even-strength to just one for the Oilers. They even caught one of the luckiest breaks of the season when Connor McDavid botched a 2-on-0 and the best offensive player in the game failed to get a shot off.
The Canadiens scored something of a lucky goal to take a 1-0 lead in Edmonton on Monday night, only to breakdown in the third period resulting in them crawling along the concrete while the Oilers ran past them.
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.
The third period was where things turned for the Oilers, as Edmonton created eight even-strength High-Danger Chances to just one for the Habs. The Oilers also had 1.77 Expected Goals during 5-on-5 play to just .33 for Montreal. This is not all that surprising considering the Oilers had a week off to rest and prepare for a three-game stretch that included a game against a Jets team run ragged, and this Habs team that has had it even worse.
Give the Oilers credit, they’ve taken advantage of the weakened state of their opponents. Edmonton has racked up 24 High-Danger Chances at even-strength in their two games this week. The Jets and Habs have created just seven. It had been nine games since the Oilers had managed more than six High-Danger Chances at even-strength in a game, going 4-4 in that time.
Incredibly, the Oilers get another break after this game, before their schedule gets crazy next week. Banking a full six points in these three games would be a boost for the Oilers to secure their place in the standings for the final stretch of the season when they’ll be the team gasping for air.
Canadiens vs. Oilers Best Bet
The time when the Canadiens were playing good hockey is long gone. There’s enough evidence from an analytics standpoint that they’re not the same team that metrics-forward handicappers thought they were early in the year.
Unlike many teams who have kept a consistent rating, the Habs has plummeted and while they get credit for what they’re capable of, from the start of the season, this recent stretch is how we have to judge them for Wednesday’s game. While they might not be a 15% below-average team, they’re definitely looking for a shortcut Rosie Ruiz-style.
The Oilers’ rating in my model puts them as a purely average team at even-strength, but relative to their last two opponents, they’re nearly 20% above average. Obviously, that has more to do with some tired legs for the Jets and Habs. Since we can expect the Habs to still be that tired team, we can’t back them until they prove they’ve found their way. In a tightly lined game close to pick’em, I’ll be backing the Oilers at a short price in one final game before they get a chance to take another breath.
Pick: Oilers (-125 or better)