Canadiens vs. Oilers NHL Odds & Pick: Back Edmonton vs. Fatigued Montreal (Monday, April 19)
Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid.
- Montreal continues a hectic period of games against the Oilers on Monday night.
- Edmonton features a pair of high-level attackers but no one else is really producing at the moment.
- Here's why Sam Hitchcock is still backing the Oilers in this North Division battle.
Canadiens vs. Oilers Odds
|Time||Monday, 9 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via BetMGM|
Discussing injuries or scheduling may not be thrilling but when viewing Monday’s contest between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens, both are extremely important.
Will recently injured Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins play this game? Could Montreal’s Cole Caufield make a surprise debut? The possibility of either joining their respective lineups is worth monitoring. But we also know that Montreal is missing a key cog in its lineup (Brendan Gallagher) and that the attrition of a grueling schedule is ominous for this away team.
Let’s dig in and find the betting value.
The Canadiens can put on a confident face. They rank in the top 10 in expected goals and high-danger chances at 5-on-5, both hallmarks of a contender. Montreal has a stingy defense. It also smacks a lot of shot attempts at the net and has depth all over the ice.
But this big-picture outlook fails to account for Gallagher’s injury and the significant impact his absence has had on Montreal. In the seven games Gallagher has missed, the Canadiens rank second last in expected goals and high-danger chances.
It makes sense. According to MoneyPuck, in 200 minutes of ice time or more, the Tomas Tatar-Phillip Danault-Gallagher line had the best expected goals percentage of any in the NHL. Desperate to find a replacement, Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme tried Paul Byron, Corey Perry and Josh Anderson in Gallagher’s role in Saturday’s game against Ottawa.
As with an individual, a team’s identity can change over time. The Canadiens started the season shattering their opponents’ will with their rush game. Several months later, however, they have shifted their offensive posture to one that revolves around the forecheck and cycle. Montreal still relies on low-to-high point shots from its defensemen and on the cycle, it welcomes its defensemen activating at opportune times.
But the fatigue factor and its gnawing influence on this game makes Montreal a risky gamble. On Monday night, the Canadiens will be playing their fifth game in eight nights, as well as their third in four nights.
On Saturday, there were hints of exhaustion. Four Canadiens puck-watched as the Ottawa Senators’ Artem Zub coasted into the slot for a goal. Danault lacked the extra oomph to back-check on Drake Batherson’s tally. The Canadiens’ defensemen did a discomforting amount of backpedaling, ceding the blue line to the Ottawa puck-carrier. These are about the worst omens for Montreal’s contest against the Oilers, because if you give Connor McDavid and Leon Drasaitl an inch, they will eat your lunch.
One area in which the Canadiens can breathe a sigh of relief is in goal. Jake Allen has been stellar this season between the pipes, whereas Carey Price has been dreadful. The Canadiens shouldn’t dither over whom to start. Since Price got the start on Saturday and finished the game with a -1.2 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), saving 11 of 14 shots, one would guess Allen will get the nod.
Oilers goaltender Mike Smith has had a shockingly good year but having started the last three games for Edmonton, there is a dangerous possibility Mikko Koskinen will get the start, which would give Montreal a distinct advantage in net.
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.
From a record standpoint, the Oilers have had a pleasant April. They are 4-1-1 this month and have had time to rest and heal while their adversaries continue to get more banged up.
But the Oilers’ underlying metrics this month are less kind. They are generating the fewest expected goals and high-danger chances per 60 minutes of any team in the NHL at 5-on-5. They are getting creamed in terms of controlling possession as opponents are dominating the puck and hemming them in.
With Nugent-Hopkins injured, a thin forward group is being stretched to a frightening degree. Yet Oilers coach Dave Tippett remains comfortable stacking his first line with McDavid and Drasaitl. With Edmonton having last change and so much weighing on that line producing, which Montreal defensive pairing or forward line Tippett tries to exploit is going to be consequential to how this game is decided. If the Canadiens can stifle the Oilers’ dynamic forward duo, they probably win.
One important way the Oilers can seize this game is with their special teams. Edmonton has an elite power play while Montreal’s penalty kill stinks. The Canadiens rank in the top 10 in the NHL in penalties taken per 60 minutes, although under their new coaching regime, they have been more disciplined.
In the Canadiens’ last four games, they have only surrendered nine power plays. The scary part for Montreal is that Edmonton only needs a few chances on the man advantage to put a game out of reach. The Oilers rank right outside the top 10 in penalties drawn per 60 minutes and unsurprisingly, McDavid ranks in the top five in the NHL in penalty minutes drawn, per MoneyPuck.
Just as Tippett will search for the ideal matchup for McDavid and Drasaitl to thrash, he should avoid playing his stars against Montreal’s Nick Suzuki line. That trio is humming of late and the possibility of Suzuki recovering pucks on the forecheck, with Tyler Toffoli gliding around the slot, spells trouble for an Oilers team that can get very sloppy as the seconds tick by in their own end.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The Oilers thrive off their speed through the neutral zone and by attacking off the rush. Tight gaps that force them to forecheck are their nightmare. But if the Canadiens are too worn out to apply that back pressure, they are in danger of getting roasted.
Ultimately, the Canadiens’ fatigue and lack of scoring, as well as the Gallagher injury, make Edmonton the play at -125 at home.
Pick: Oilers -125