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Maple Leafs vs. Oilers Odds & Picks: Is Edmonton Good Enough at 5-on-5?

Maple Leafs vs. Oilers Odds & Picks: Is Edmonton Good Enough at 5-on-5? article feature image

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid.

  • The Edmonton Oilers face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
  • Things are starting to turn around on the power play for the Oilers, but will they be good enough at 5-on-5 to grab a win Saturday?
  • Matt Russell previews this game and shares his betting analysis below.

Maple Leafs vs. Oilers Odds

Maple Leafs Odds -1.5
Oilers Odds +1.5
Moneyline -130 / +110
Over/Under 6.5 
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds as of Friday night and via FanDuel.

Back when George W. Bush was president, Pearl Jam wrote and recorded a song called Bushleaguer that included the line, “Born on third, thinks he hit a triple.” 

In sports betting, people make bets and then grade the result by the scoreboard. If it wins, we were right. If it loses, we were wrong. 

But it almost always goes deeper than that. We want to know how we won or lost, so that we know whether to back the team we bet on next time, or the team that beat us. That’s a prime issue as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers fill it up for the fourth time this season as the feature presentation on Hockey Night in Canada.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

If you’ve been winning bets on the Maple Leafs lately, you probably think you’ve hit a triple — that laying a favorite price with the Leafs was the right thing to do, and rightly worked out in your favor. 

The Maple Leafs have won four straight games, but in doing so haven’t been the better team 5-on-5 in any of those games from an Expected Goals (xGF) standpoint. Add it all up and the Leafs have been good enough for 7.06 xGF in the four games, while their opponents have played to an expectation of 9.35 xGF. 

Maybe they keep piling up the wins despite being on what should be the losing end of the play at even-strength. Maybe the Leafs turn this concerning trend around and win their next one, two, three or four games with a positive Expected Goal share. Both options are plausible, especially in the short term. 

We work in the long-term here in the sports betting realm. Which means that we have to be ready for regression to the mean. 

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.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers may not be the team to force the regression out of the Leafs’ even-strength metrics, as they’ve lingered with very little volatility as a perfectly average hockey team 5-on-5 this season. Their preseason market expectation was 1.04 points per game towards the standings. Their current market expectation is 1.06 points per game. The numbers of points they’ve accumulated this season is .66 points per game. 

What does this mean? It means that the simple act of comparing their market expectation, both before the season and now, to their place in the standings should tell you that regression should result in some improved results for the Oilers. 

In the first matchup with the Leafs in Edmonton, the Oilers allowed one of those goals. The killer goals that go off your own players and into the net. The unearned runs of hockey, for those baseball bettors out there.

In betting on hockey, with the extremely tight margins between victory and defeat you cannot allow one of those goals. A game that should be tied is a one-goal deficit. A game that you should be leading is now tied. The Oilers gave up this goal to open the scoring for the Leafs, and Edmonton never led on the way to a 4-3 loss, their second to Toronto this season. The game-winner came on the Leafs power play — irritating for Oilers backers because for the third time in their three meetings the Oilers were the better team 5-on-5.

Maple Leafs-Oilers Pick

From a situational standpoint, anyone even remotely associated with the Leafs would have been thrilled with taking six out of possible eight points on their trip to Alberta, regardless of how they played. Now Toronto has those points banked, and it’s human nature to feel “mission accomplished” even before puck drop on Saturday.

The Oilers have enough talent on their power play that eventually their efficiency will meet up with the Leafs atop the power play rankings of the NHL as a matter of mutual regression. They took a big step towards that on Thursday with the Oilers converting 2 of 7 opportunities, improving to 3 of 12 in games against the Leafs. 

With the worm starting to turn on the man-advantage for the Oilers, I’m willing to bet they’re still good enough at 5-on-5 to be a live home underdog against the Leafs on Saturday. They’ll just need to avoid the bad goal in their own end, so that when the horn goes to end the game, Leafs bettors aren’t sitting on a third win over Edmonton, thinking they hit a triple. 

Pick: Oilers (+110 or better)


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