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Canadiens vs. Flyers Game 1 Odds & Pick (Wednesday, August 12): Montreal’s Price is Too Good to Ignore

Canadiens vs. Flyers Game 1 Odds & Pick (Wednesday, August 12): Montreal’s Price is Too Good to Ignore article feature image

Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images. Pictured: Carey Price.

  • Montreal is a +128 underdog in Game 1 of its NHL playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • Philadelphia may be the better team, but Michael Leboff questions the Flyers' steep price as -148 favorites.
  • Check out his full betting preview below for odds, picks, and comprehensive analysis, including why he's backing the Canadiens in Game 1 and to win the series outright.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers Odds

Canadiens Odds +128 [BET NOW]
Flyers Odds -148 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET

Odds via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The Montreal Canadiens became an adorable little story during the Qualifying Round. The Habs, the 24th-ranked team in the NHL’s 24-team tournament, upset Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to keep their playoff dreams alive.

Montreal was the second-best team throughout the series, but Carey Price’s heroics in goal were enough to keep the Habs in each game. And frankly, that’s all you really need during Playoff Hockey.

Montreal now takes on Pennsylvania’s other franchise: The top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia finished the season as the fourth-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, but they leapfrogged the Capitals, Lightning and Bruins by virtue of a three-game sweep in the seeding round robin.

I was skeptical of Philadelphia’s status as a tournament favorite before the restart, and the Flyers’ three-game parade in the bubble hasn’t changed my attitude — especially after DraftKings made Alain Vigneault’s side the Stanley Cup favorites heading into Round 1.

The Flyers are good, but let’s pump the brakes a bit, shall we?

Montreal Canadiens

Many people will point to the highly variable nature of a best-of-5 hockey series as the main reason that the Habs were able to get past the Penguins. But, there’s more to this story than just a plucky upstart.

The Montreal Canadiens played better than their results during the 2019-20 regular season. The Habs boasted the third-best expected goals rate, the fourth-best high-danger scoring chance rate and the second-best shot attempt rate in during the 2019-20 campaign.

None of those predictive metrics ever really bared fruit though. The Canadiens finished the season with just a 50.83 goals-for percentage at 5-on-5 and were dragged into mediocrity by poor finishing and pedestrian goaltending.

As a hockey bettor, I am always on the lookout for teams that consistently post strong underlying metrics but mediocre actual results. The betting market tends to weigh the latter more than the former, which can create value on some underrated teams. Montreal was underrated in 2019-20.

5-on-5 Stat Result Rank
Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.53 17th
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.45 13th
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.47 3rd
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.09 5th
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes 63 1st
Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes 52.3 9th
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes 11.98 3rd
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes 9.9 8th

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.

Only five teams spent more time with a lead than the Canadiens in 2019-20, and all of those teams finished inside the top-four of their respective conferences.

This a good team — even if the standings say otherwise.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers may make me look very dumb when this thing is all said and done, but I don’t see them in the same light as I do the true elites. Moreover, Philadelphia may be the Stanley Cup favorites, but Tampa and Boston would both be favorites over Philadelphia in a best-of-7.

That’s neither here nor there for this series as the Flyers are playing the Montreal Canadiens.

Philadelphia’s actual results at 5-on-5 were up there with the best teams in the NHL. The Flyers finished with the fifth-best goals-for percentage, but their underlying metrics were middle of the road, especially on offense. Philadelphia averaged only 2.25 expected goals per 60 minutes.

I’m not saying this to discount Philadelphia’s success; this is a good team. Instead, I’m highlighting the Flyers’ deficiencies to throw some water on the notion that the Flyers should be priced as highly as they are across the market.

5-on-5 Stat Result Rank
Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.78 6th
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.41 10th
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.25 19th
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.18 11th
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes 54.12 20th
Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes 51.9 7th
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes 10.62 15th
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes 10.19 13th

The Flyers’ statistical profile may not blow you away, but there are no glaring weaknesses on this team either. They are a good defensive team, they can score and their goaltending is strong, too.

Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance. GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

Carter Hart finished the season with a +7.25 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in 43 games, and he got better as the season went on. If the 22-year-old plays up to his potential, then the Flyers should be able to get through this series.

Montreal’s biggest trump card is its goalie, Carey Price. Nullifying that edge would be huge for Alain Vigneault’s team.

Betting Analysis 

Philadelphia is the better team in this matchup. The odds at DraftKings (-240/+195) imply that the Flyers should win this series 67.6% of the time, but I’m not sure the gap between these two teams is that wide.

If you compare these rosters side by side, you’d come away thinking the Flyers are a little bit better in basically every spot and thus, more likely to win. That’s all well and good, but that’s not the question we’re trying to answer as bettors.

The quandary we’re faced with is more nuanced than that: It comes down to price. Would you feel more comfortable paying a steep price on Philadelphia against a team that is better than it has looked all season?

I have a hard time backing Philadelphia at such a short price, and I have an equally tough time passing on Montreal at these odds.

I’m backing Montreal to win the series at +185 or better and +135 or better to win Game 1.

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

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