Canadiens vs. Jets Odds & Picks: Bet Montreal After Coaching Change (Thursday, Feb. 25)
Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Carey Price.
Canadiens vs. Jets Odds
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday night and via BetMGM.|
The first game after a coaching change in sports is usually filled with narratives. Claude Julien lost his job as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, and his now former team will play their first game under interim coach Dominique Ducharme on Thursday night in Winnipeg.
Is it best to fade the narratives, or is Montreal still in play under its new coach?
After considerable offseason hype, the Montreal Canadiens opened the year with a 7-1-2 record. Long a darling of the analytical community, the number-lovers felt vindicated that this team was finally getting the results they’ve deserved for a few years now.
Since that start, the Habs have gone 2-4-2 over their past eight games. After back-to-back losses to the lowly Ottawa Senators, the front office had seen enough. On Wednesday, they pulled the plug on Julien and replaced him with Ducharme.
This losing streak and firing really highlights how fickle this sport can be. Montreal was the better team in almost every game of this recent eight-game slide, losing the expected goal battle in just one game.
Truth be told, if Carey Price was stopping more than 89% of the shots he’s faced and wasn’t allowing nearly seven goals below expectation, the Canadiens would be winning more and Julien would still be employed. Price is widely considered one of the better goalies in the league, but his inconsistent play to begin this season has been Montreal’s biggest problem.
The coaching change might serve as a wake-up call, but I’m not entirely certain this team needs to play much better. They lead the league in expected goal-rate and high-danger chances. Montreal is second in shot attempt rate. They are sixth in expected goals scored per hour at 5-on-5 and first in expected goals against. The Habs are still a top-10 offense in the league in terms of goals per game.
While the Canadiens are underperforming related to their underlying metrics, the Winnipeg Jets are the polar opposite.
The Jets rank 30th in the 31-team league in terms of expected goal rate. They are giving up 2.65 expected goals per hour, which is also the second-worst mark in hockey. The Jets are giving up nearly 13 high-danger chances per hour.
Despite the ugly numbers, the Jets are 11-6-1 to begin the season. They are vastly outproducing their metrics due to the combination of high-end talent and goaltending.
With a top six featuring names like Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Jets can score goals. They are scoring 2.52 goals per hour at even strength, despite their expected goals being just 2.11/hour. Overall, they rank top five in the league in goals per game, scoring 3.39 goals a night.
In addition to the offense, Connor Hellebuyck has been solid to follow up his Vezina trophy-winning performance from last season. Despite Winnipeg’s disgusting defensive metrics, they are a top-10 team in terms of goals against per game. Hellebuyck has posted a +2.8 goals saved above expectation through the early part of the year.
With that being said, despite their strengths, it’s hard to win in this league when you’re chasing the puck in your own zone all night. Regression is likely coming for Winnipeg if it can’t figure out how to improve in the puck possession and shot generation area of the game.
Canadiens-Jets Analysis & Pick
Oftentimes, the coaching change narrative is overrated. In this situation, I think it’s particularly overrated because Montreal is controlling play in every game they play. If the Habs were getting better goaltending, we’d be discussing Julien as a coach of the year candidate rather than him being unemployed.
While in usual circumstances I would consider fading the narrative, I think this line is too good to pass up. The Canadiens and Jets are polar opposites in terms of puck possession and shot generation. There’s proven correlation to those factors and winning hockey games over an extended sample.
I expect Price to rebound, as he’s considered one of the best goalies in the league for a reason. While it’s entirely possible that he continues to struggle and/or Hellebuyck steals the game for Winnipeg, I’m going with the team that plays with the puck all night rather than chases it.
I would bet the Canadiens up to -120.
Pick: Montreal Canadiens (-110)