Flames vs. Maple Leafs NHL Odds & Picks: Target the Total with Top Goaltenders Likely Back (Wednesday, Feb. 24)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Auston Matthews.
- The Flames and Maple Leafs meet in a rematch of a game on Monday night that saw neither starting goaltender play.
- The Maple Leafs had seven power play and couldn’t take advantage of any, as Calgary backup net minder David Rittich shut them out.
- Matt Russell breaks down where the betting value lies on Wednesday night.
Flames vs. Maple Leafs Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday night and via PointsBet.|
It was like the dumbest poker game of all time on Monday afternoon. Hours before the Flames and Maple Leafs collided in Toronto, they each tried to one-up each other with player announcements.
Toronto: “We’re going to bet we can win without Jake Muzzin, Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman.”
Calgary: “Hmmm, OK. I see those players, and I raise you a massive downgrade in net with Jacob Markstrom out.”
Toronto: “Not so fast, my friend. We will also sit number one goalie, Frederik Andersen.”
Calgary: “Fine, we fold. We win.”
The Flames went from +150 underdogs, to +125, back up to +140 and then back to +125. It’s kind of difficult to determine value with all these moving pieces throughout the day. My handicap was rendered useless. I felt like Will Hunting in the math office lighting his formula proof on fire in front of Professor Lambeau.
While it seemed like a waste of time, my handicap turned out to be right in the perfect vision that hindsight provides. Fundamentally, the Maple Leafs are as overpriced in the market as they ever have been, and that’s saying something. Moreover, the Flames have struggled to get wins but their underlying metrics aren’t nearly as bad as their recent record indicates.
The Flames gladly showed their cards and accepted the 3-0 shutout victory on Monday, which was a big deal for backup goaltender David Rittich.
When the Flames backed up the truck to sign Jacob Markstrom, it shined a light on the shortcomings of Rittich who wasn’t able to win the starting job in Calgary when given the opportunity the last few years. This did, however, mark the second straight quality start for Rittich, so if he’s needed to play again on Wednesday there should be no shortage of confidence.
Where the Flames should be concerned is with the amount of offence they generated in the first game, creating only three High-Danger Chances (HDC) on the Leafs’ third-string goaltender, Michael Hutchinson. They took advantage of one soft goal on the journeyman netminder and two power play goals to get the comfortable win.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Even though they were without a trio of important skaters, the Leafs did what they could to protect their part-time goaltender.
Offensively it wasn’t pretty, but eight HDC at even-strength isn’t terrible considering they were without two of their top-six forwards.
The big surprise was that the Leafs were awarded seven power plays and didn’t convert on any of them. Toronto is toward the bottom of the league in power plays per game, and its conversion rate is tops. You’d think they would have feasted on Monday night, but an ill-fated strategic tweak to the world’s greatest power play may have been the cause of that.
The Leafs often used world-class sniper Auston Matthews as effectively a setup man, and not the trigger. The Leafs have a big lead over the Flames in the North Division, but that’s still not reason enough to just start experimenting for fun.
The irony in Monday’s loss is that it came in one of the Leafs’ best games of the season from an Expected Goal Share (xG%) perspective. Toronto had an even-strength 68.9 xG%, which given that the Leafs have taken some heat this year (from me) about rarely winning that metric, is quite surprising.
The bad news for Toronto is that despite the loser of the first game winning the rematch 61% of the time, those first-game losers actually have a losing record when they had more than 50% of the xG% in the first game.
Basically, if the Leafs played better and lost, they would be less likely to play better in the rematch.
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.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Obviously, we can probably expect another late afternoon of multiple moving pieces when it comes to the most important players on each team, but my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model from “THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast” maintains that the Leafs are just below 5% above average 5-on-5 in the North Division, while the Flames are just 1% worse. This translates to about a 53% win probability for the Leafs.
The opening lines of Flames +130/Leafs -150 line up with where Monday’s game sat during that brief period of time when Markstrom and Andersen were starting. As usual, this would indicate some value on the Flames, but we would need the chips to fall in a way that has sportsbooks adjusting Calgary to +140 to make them a bet.
On the flip side, the Leafs become a viable option should enough of the usual suspects be missing that the market makes them -125. Clearly, this is a developing situation.
What doesn’t need to be analyzed much more is that regardless of whether the better goalies are in or it’s the backups again, the under may have some value.
The Leafs aren’t likely to get that many power-play chances again and aren’t great at creating even-strength chances. Meanwhile, if they can replicate a strong defensive game around either Andersen or Hutchinson, they can control the Flames, as Calgary won’t likely get multiple power-play goals.
Per usual, we’re getting the full 6.5 goals to play with, as is standard in games where Matthews is conscious. The fear is that he’ll have four points in the first two periods, light that formula proof on fire and say “Do you know how (bleeping) easy this is for me?”
Pick: Under 6.5 (-110 or better)