NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Canucks: How to Bet This North Division Matchup (Wednesday, March 10)

NHL Odds & Pick for Canadiens vs. Canucks: How to Bet This North Division Matchup (Wednesday, March 10) article feature image

Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Thatcher Demko.

  • The Canadiens face off with the Canucks out west in late-night NHL action on Wednesday.
  • Vancouver has gotten exceptional goaltending of late from Thatcher Demko, although whether he's in net against Montreal is uncertain.
  • Matt Russell breaks down two bets he's looking to make once he finds out who's in and who's out of this game.

Canadiens vs. Canucks Odds

Canadiens Odds-150
Canucks Odds+130
Over/Under11 p.m. ET
Time | TVNHL.tv
Odds as of Tuesday night and via PointsBet.

We're one year into the COVID-19 era for sports, and it’s been a study in human adaptation in many ways. One of the main things we’ve gotten used to as a fan, though, is a lack of crowds. We’ve come so far that it’s going to be weird when we get sold-out stadiums and arenas back, hearing the roar of the home crowd that we took for granted as long as we’ve known what sports were. 

On Monday, with under a minute to go, down 1-0, Adam Gaudette sent a rocket past Carey Price’s shoulder to the game, that in an alternative non-COVID-19 universe would have blown the roof off Rogers Arena. If that didn’t do it, Bo Horvat’s winning goal in the shootout would have. Alas, the Canucks will have to take the win and the two points and save the adulation for another day.

Montreal Canadiens

Don’t look now, but the Montreal Canadiens have just three wins in their last 12 games. Analytics darlings due to their strong 5-on-5 play, the Canadiens continue to be priced as favorites against everybody but the North Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. I can’t disagree with this because I’m one of those analytics-based handicappers whose plays value at even-strength as the prime measurement for a teams’ quality.

Strangely enough, the Canadiens have actually increased their expected goals (xG) For at even-strength, from 1.76 expected goals for (xGF) per game to 1.86. It’s been the defense that has loosened a little, from 1.33 expected goals against (xGA) in their first 12 games to 1.56 in the 12 games since.

Despite the difference in their record, it’s easy to see that their expected goal share (xG%) isn’t actually all that different. The Habs' even-strength xG% during their slump is 54.3%, which while lower than the 56.9% XG share they had in the first dozen games is still very good.

The big change for the Canadiens is actually a reversion to the mean by their opponents. In the first dozen games, their opponents scored just four goals on 73 High-Danger Chances (HDC). Since then, they’ve converted 13 times on 87 HDC. This is just a natural adjustment as the recent clip of 14.9% conversion is right around league average.

Simply put, the Habs were getting extremely lucky that the other team wasn’t converting good chances when it had 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.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

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Vancouver Canucks

I’m not sure the Canucks have ever been called lucky in their tortured history. While a three-game stretch in the middle of March in what may end up being a lost season might never be recalled, the Canucks have been fortunate to accrue the three wins that make up their win streak. Certainly, pulling out the win late on Monday is a pretty good example. On Saturday, they didn’t wait quite as long, but two quick third-period goals against the Leafs turned what looked to be a sure loss into a win. 

This has all come without the services of star sniper Elias Petterson, but in case you were about to do the thing where you wonder if the team is better without their star … they’re not.

The Canucks didn’t replace Petterson with another player, but maybe a mindset. They’ve only created only six, seven and seven even-strength HDC in the last three games and won those anyway thanks to much more solid defense than they’ve shown all season. They’ve allowed just seven HDC per game after averaging 9.5 HDC against this season.

It helps to have outstanding goaltending when your offense is compromised. Thatcher Demko has picked up the starting goaltender’s puck and is skating with it.

Demko has rocketed up the league rankings in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) in his last five games, stopping 155 of the 161 shots on goal in that time. He’s moved from a below-average goaltender early in the season to eighth in the league with a +5.24 GSAA.

The Canucks play their 30th game on Wednesday, the most so far in the North Division, so while they appear in the hunt for a playoff spot, everyone around them has games in hand, which makes the Canucks' playoff hopes slight. That would be a disappointment, but at the very least they can take solace in Demko stepping up and away from veteran Braden Holtby statistically. It now matters whether he’s in net on any given night. 

Betting Analysis & Pick

Since Demko has pushed ahead of Holtby statistically, we need clarity on who is starting in net for Vancouver. For Montreal, we saw on Saturday, once Jake Allen was announced as the starter, their moneyline price actually got more expensive. Price was much better than he has been recently, in Monday’s loss. So there might not be much of a true discrepancy in the Montreal crease. 

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on "THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast," rates the Canadiens at 16% above average at even-strength, while the Canucks are 8% below-average. With the game in Vancouver, the model has the true moneyline for this game as MTL -131/VAN +131. Therefore, there’s not much in the way of value with this game priced at MTL -150/VAN +130.

I would, however, make a bet should either of the following be the case. If Petterson is out again for the Canucks, I think the under 6.0 is a good bet because the Canucks are forced to play a more defensively responsible style.

If Demko gets a rest and Holtby plays, then the under can’t be the play, and the Habs become a reasonable bet at -150 as the Canucks aren’t going to be able to rely on the big saves they were getting from Demko.

Pick: Under 6.0 if Demko starts, and no Petterson | Canadiens ML  (-150 or better) if Holtby starts for Vancouver

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