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Flames vs. Canadiens Odds & Picks: Is Now the Time To Sell High on Montreal? (Thursday, Jan. 28)

Flames vs. Canadiens Odds & Picks: Is Now the Time To Sell High on Montreal? (Thursday, Jan. 28) article feature image

Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Tkachuk

  • The Montreal Canadiens are off and running to start the 2021 season so it's no wonder they are favorites in their matchup with the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
  • While the Habs are deserving favorites, Matt Russell thinks this is a good sell-high spot on the Habs.

Flames vs. Canadiens Odds

Flames Odds +110
Canadiens Odds -130
Over/Under 6
Time 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via bet365.

“If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I’m sure you’ve heard this existential question before, and maybe you have a definite answer. On Thursday night, hockey’s version of this mind bender takes place at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Unfortunately, in betting the NHL (or sports in general) there are no definite answers, so we play the odds. I made the mistake of seeing an early projection of this line that looked something like CGY +128/MTL -155, which for me would be an immediate bet on Calgary. A shift in the numbers by the time the line opened has me less excited but I think there’s still a bet that can be made if it can get closer to this early projection.

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Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames had almost a week off in the middle of a homestand, and when they returned to action, they lost a pair of games to the Toronto Maple Leafs… and they’re rating dropped just 3% in my “Let’s Do That Hockey” betting model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast.

Offensively, the Flames created 12 High-Danger Chances (HDC) 5-on-5 in each of the two games against the Leafs (per Natural Stat Trick). That amount of quality scoring opportunity should result in 3.36 goals over the course of two games. The Flames converted just twice. That extra goal might have come in handy in a pair of games they lost by a goal.

On top of that, the Flames did well to only allow the Leafs to get on the power play six times. However, the Leafs scored three times, for a 50% clip. At least twice as frequently as league-average.

The two losses should have a pair of results; increase in value relative to the market, and a little extra motivation to go on the road and put their best skate forward.

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

Why the Canadiens went to Alberta, and then to British Columbia without swinging by Calgary is beyond me, from a scheduling standpoint, but instead we’ll get the first matchup of my two highest-rated Canadian franchises back in Montreal. The Habs return home after a 3-game set with the Canucks, and a 4-0-2 road trip to start the season.

The issue for the Canadiens is both literal and figurative. There’s an old hockey tennent about the first game after a long road trip not favouring the home team. Whether it’s a relaxed attitude and more to do at home outside of hockey life when the players return, or the narrative of “Now they’re back home and they’ll play well” artificially boosting the price, fading the home team off a long trip is a constant angle in NHL betting.

The second issue is more factual, as the Habs haven’t been a very good home team. Last season they were 14-17-6 in Montreal, but 17-14-3 on the road (not to mention success in Toronto during the playoff bubble).

This information is to be taken with the natural grain of salt given how long ago these games were actually played, but that’s also part of the issue. If you haven’t played a home game in over 10 months, should you really be given a particular advantage in the marketplace for being at home? This is the bettors’ existential question for Thursday night.

Flames-Canadiens Pick

My model has the Flames as 10% above league average, while it has Montreal at 22% above average, but playing Edmonton and Vancouver in 5/6ths of your games will help boost that up. Montreal should be favoured in this game, but not quite by as much as my numbers indicate which have a true line for this game at MTL -112/CGY +112.

The excitement over Montreal’s start could drive their price up, at which point there’s a better chance of Calgary coming into the betting range for us, than vice-versa.

So the advice is to wait and see if we can get a +120 price for the Flames, and if it doesn’t, maybe the best advice is to just not bet Montreal at what might look like a good number but isn’t. That way if you don’t bet the game, you still might win. Talk about your existential thoughts.

Pick: Flames (+115 or better)

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