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Flames vs. Canadiens Odds & Picks: How to Bet Saturday’s North Division Showdown

Flames vs. Canadiens Odds & Picks: How to Bet Saturday’s North Division Showdown article feature image

Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Perry (left) and Mark Giordano.

  • The Montreal Canadiens host the Calgary Flames for a North Division matchup on Saturday night.
  • The Flames and Habs are the two best teams in the North, but the market is only willing to admit one of them has a chance to win the division.
  • Matt Russell previews Saturday's game and shares his betting pick below.

Flames vs. Canadiens Odds

Flames Odds +1.5
Canadiens Odds -1.5
Moneyline +115 / -135 
Time 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday night and via Bet365.

Betting on sports is not like picking your favorite child — not that I would know how difficult that would be. Maybe it’s not tough at all. Maybe one of your kids is a total brat, and would assume you’d probably not have that kid rated particularly high. You probably just can’t admit publicly who you like better, even if deep down you know. 

Betting on sports is the exact opposite, where it’s required to pick which of your children you like better. The Flames and Habs are the two best teams in the North Division, but the market is only willing to admit that one of them has a chance to win the division. 

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Calgary Flames

The Flames may have made a tactical error starting backup goaltender David Rittich in the first game with the Habs on Thursday night. Just 17 saves on 21 shots later, the Flames lost, 4-2, to the Canadiens. 

Calgary deserved a better fate in two losses to the Leafs early in the week, and then they held the Habs to 0.86 Expected Goals (xGF) 5-on-5. Even looking deep into a three-game losing streak shows a brighter picture for the Flames, as they were better 5-on-5 at a rate of 6.05 xGF to 4.77 xGA.

The big question facing Calgary is, will that continue? If it does, the Flames can rely on that and the return to the crease of their big-money acquisition, Jacob Markstrom and would be fair value at any plus-money price.

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.

Montreal Canadiens

The fans in Montreal are really fired up. The Habs are sitting at 5-0-2 this season, and are full value for it. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model over THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast has them at an astounding 22% above average in the North Division. This is thanks to a stingy defence at even-strength, where the most High-Danger Chances they’ve given up all season is eight, and an average of 5.5 per game. By comparison, the other North Division teams average 9.19 HDC/Game. 

This isn’t lost on the market in general, as it’s increased the Habs’ rating from a team expected to accumulate 1.04 points per game in the standings to 1.11 PPG. For the record, my preseason expectation for Montreal was 1.12 PPG, so the market is approaching where I thought it should be.

In fact, based on how Montreal has played so far, I’ve boosted its projection to 1.37 PPG. Though this needs to be taken with a grain of salt due to short sample size and specific opposition, even if they’ve average 1.71 PPG so far, thanks to the record mentioned above.

Flames-Canadiens Pick

My fair value moneyline price for this game is MTL -117/CGY +117. So on the surface, there’s a better chance we’ll get value betting on Calgary in the rematch on Saturday should the market react to Montreal’s win in the first game and the Habs fervor pushes this line to +120. 

On the podcast, we talk about the common sentiment that betting the loser of the first game has had success this season, and that’s due to my calculation of that team improving their win probability by just over 7%. If you increase Calgary’s win probability in your formula for this game, the value on betting them increases.

That said, there’s been 11 instances where the “better team 5-on-5” (according to Expected Goal Share) actually lost the first game, and in the rematch those teams were just 3-8 in the return match. This hurts the case for Calgary if you think they have some value in a revenge angle. We would prefer if they played worse in the first game, in a weird way.

The difference for me here is in net. Starting Markstrom gives them a considerable edge at plus-money and I’m willing to ignore this trend of the underdog blowing their chance to win the first game to bet the Flames here at the right price. 

If we don’t get the price we want for this game, we won’t have to choose between our children here, but I will recommend something different. The Flames can be had for +1200 to win the division. In a shortened season, games have piled up quickly and for most teams, it’s going to be difficult to make up ground.

The Flames aren’t most teams, not because they’re particularly special, but because they haven’t played as many games as the rest of the division, so they do have time to make up ground and are a good-value early season long-shot future.

Pick: Flames (+120 or better) / Flames to win North (+1000 or better)

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