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Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs Odds & Pick: Betting Value Sitting With Montreal (Saturday, Feb. 13)

Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs Odds & Pick: Betting Value Sitting With Montreal (Saturday, Feb. 13) article feature image

David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jeff Petry.

  • The Montreal Canadiens will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
  • Matt Russell had the Habs rated higher than the Leafs to begin the season, and he's going with his numbers on Saturday.
  • Check out Russell's full betting breakdown complete with a pick below.

Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs Odds

Canadiens Odds +105
Maple Leafs Odds -125
Over/Under 6
Day | Time Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings.

Skiing’s never really been my thing.

The fun-to-discomfort ratio has never been where I’d like it to be to bother making the trek to the closest mountain. Part of it is my fault — an aversion to cold, for one, and not having a desire to get dangerously good at it.

I can get down the mountain on mid-level “blue” hills, but my overall issue is that there are only two stages to skiing. 

  • Comfortably shushing down the mounting to the point it gets kind of boring.
  • Feeling that boredom and trying something that might result in sending me out of control, heading toward an unavoidable tree, desperate for the halcyon times of being bored on the mountain. 

There’s no in-between for me when it comes to skiing, so why bother risking the broken leg for the upside just to be bored in the cold?

Handicapping hockey using a purely analytical approach is a lot like how I ski.

Either I’m bored because things are going exactly how the numbers indicated they would, or they don’t and things spiral down the mountain headed for a concussion.

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Montreal Canadiens

My rating before the season on the Montreal Canadiens was considerably higher than the market, as it put Montreal as a 96-point team, and I had it just over 103 points for a traditional season. So, 1.5 points per game is more than just a little “over their skis” for the Habs.

Like me on the hills of Mont Tremblant, even the most optimistic of us expected there to be a fall at some point. 

On the surface, it looks like the Habs have lost control and might be headed for the tree line, with three losses in their last four games. However, there’s no reason to panic for two reasons: 

  • That same math equation. Even after this mini-swoon, Montreal is only “down” to 20 points in 16 games, which makes it a 103-point team. Sound familiar?
  • The underlying metric in those games, particularly the three losses. The Habs have averaged 2.29 Expected Goals (xG) at even-strength which would lead the league in that category if they somehow maintained that for a full season. They have gotten a little looser defensively in these games watching the Expected Goals Against increase, but giving up just two goals on 23 high-danger chances (HDC) is nothing to be concerned about. 
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Toronto Maple Leafs

What the Canadiens should be concerned about are the soft goals — he goals that come not from the opponent’s power play, or from their limited high-danger opportunities at even-strength, but from other plays in the flow of the game. Shots that seem innocuous at the time, but somehow find their way into the back of the net.

In fact, the Habs are third in the NHL in fewest even-strength goals allowed per game, giving up just 18 total, but only six of those are on high-danger chances. 

By comparison, the Maple Leafs have given up 20 goals at full strength, and 12 of those have been HDC conversions, which is right around the league average of 60%.

That means 40% of the Leafs’ goals against at even-strength are considered unexpected, compared to 66% for the Habs.

This bore itself out on Wednesday in Montreal, as the Leafs scored two of their three even-strength goals this way, and the third was on a high-danger chance that was created by an attempted shot and was fanned on and accidentally turned into a pass. 

Wednesday’s game marked the eighth time in the last 10 games the Leafs had a sub-50% expected goal share.

Incredibly, they’re 8-2 in that span, making winning games despite being outplayed at even-strength something of an art form. In the past week, they’ve shown an uncanny consistency as well.

On Monday, the expected goals were 2.19-1.63 in favor of Vancouver, but with the game tied at 1 headed to the third period, the Leafs manufactured a pair of goals to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

On Wednesday, the expected goals were 2.2-1.67 in favor of Montreal, but with the game tied at 1 headed to the third period, the Leafs manufactured a pair of goals to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Betting Analysis & Pick

From an analytics standpoint, the Leafs continue to play with fire given how they play at even strength, but between their win-loss record and their brand, they get the benefit of the doubt from the betting market.

At a preseason point total of 73.5, the Leafs were rated at 1.17 points per game, which is right where my rating has them right now.

However, with an opening moneyline price of -120, that considers the Leafs at a 1.26 points per game mark. Given their place in the standings and their current 1.64 points per game, it’s hard to blame the bettors’ fervor.

That said, getting a plus-money price with Montreal here is too hard to pass up given that it’s the better team at even-strength and its latest dip in the standings is nothing more than a small icy patch knocking it off-balance on the long way down the mountain.

Pick: Canadiens (+105 or better)

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