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Senators vs. Canucks NHL Odds & Picks: Vancouver’s Defense Provides Value on the Underdog (Monday, Jan. 25)

Senators vs. Canucks NHL Odds & Picks: Vancouver’s Defense Provides Value on the Underdog (Monday, Jan. 25) article feature image

Rich Lam/Getty Images. Pictured: Tanner Pearson

  • The only game on the NHL schedule on Monday night is out west, where Vancouver hosts Ottawa.
  • The Canucks have been scoring enough early on, but their defense and goaltending leave a lot to be desired.
  • Michael Leboff explains why he sees value on the Senators in this North Division matchup.

Senators vs. Canucks Odds

Senators Odds +132
Canucks Odds -152
Over/Under 6.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds as of Sunday night and via DraftKings.

There is just one NHL game on the schedule on Monday night and it’s a 10 p.m. ET showdown between the two teams at the bottom of the North Division, Vancouver and Ottawa. Not only are the Canucks and Sens in the cellar of the All-Canada Division, but they are the two worst teams in the NHL in terms of points percentage. Bring it on.

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Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators have had some positive moments, but they’re treading water a bit to start 2021. Ottawa is 1-3-1 with a -6 goal differential and has been outscored 10-4 in its last two contests. Nobody was expecting the Sens to contend this season, but going 0-2-1 against the short-handed Jets is a bit of a red flag.

What’s even more concerning is that Ottawa’s expected goals percentage has dropped to 47.3% through five games, with three of them coming against the Jets, who are not a strong 5-on-5 team. The Senators are the worst team in the North Division so you should expect a fair share of stinkers from them, but I thought they’d show better against a flawed team like Winnipeg.

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.

Ottawa’s biggest issue has been keeping the puck out of its net. The Sens have allowed at least three goals in all five games this season and they are allowing 3.15 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. That doesn’t bode well against an offense like Vancouver’s, especially if the goaltending continues to sputter.

The Senators made a bet that back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray would be able to find his game with them, but the 26-year-old hasn’t been up to scratch and owns a -3.76 GSAx in four starts. Murray, or Marcus Hogberg, will need to step up if Ottawa is going to be effective in playing spoiler in the North. The Sens don’t have the talent nor the depth to contend with most teams in their division, so the margin for error is quite thin and that means they aren’t able to survive lapses from their shot-stopper.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks were a polarizing team coming into 2021. There were plenty of people out there that thought Vancouver had enough star talent to contend. But there were also plenty of skeptics who thought that the Canucks’ flaws were significant enough, especially on defense, that they wouldn’t be able to score enough to provide cover for their shortcomings.

So far, it looks like the latter is true as the Canucks are drowning thanks to the league’s leakiest defense. Vancouver has allowed a league-high 33 goals through seven games. That’s 10 more than any other team in the NHL.

Neither Thatcher Demko (-4.36 Goals Saved Above Expectation in 3 games) nor Braden Holtby (-2.24 GSAx in 4 games) have been positive influences in goal, but you can’t blame them for Vancouver’s slow start. The Canucks are allowing the most expected goals and second-most high-danger scoring chances in the NHL, meaning they are making life very hard on their netminders.

Vancouver’s offense has been productive, scoring 2.75 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, but they’ll need to generate more opportunities if the defense continues down this path. Right now the Canucks are relying on their stars to score four or five goals every game and they’re only creating 2.18 xG per 60, so an off night shooting the puck would doom them.

Senators-Canucks Best Bet

The Ottawa Senators are never going to scare anybody offensively. The Senators rank in the middle of the pack with 2.47 G/60, but that number is a bit flattering since they are only creating 2.08 xG/60. That said, even the Senators should find some success against this Vancouver defense.

Favorites, particularly home favorites, are off to a great start in the 2021 NHL season, but I don’t think anybody could feel confident paying this price for a bet on the Vancouver Canucks considering their defensive transgressions. And it’s not like this is a new issue, either. The Canucks were a bottom-10 team in goals and expected goals in 2019/20, too.

The Senators can’t match the Canucks in terms of talent, but there is certainly a viable path to the upset for the Sens on Monday night, especially since the goaltending matchup doesn’t project to be as harrowing as what the Senators saw against Winnipeg.

Vancouver’s defense makes it vulnerable and if the Senators can weather the Canucks’ offensive firepower and stay in this game there should be plenty of chances for them to get a win on Monday night.

The current odds give Ottawa a 43.1% chance of winning on Monday night. I already think that’s a shade low, but there’s a chance that this number climbs a bit as I don’t think many people will be looking to spend their Monday evening sweating the Senators. I wouldn’t go any lower than +130, but I like the value on Ottawa on Monday night.

The Pick: Ottawa Senators +132

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