Canucks vs. Oilers NHL Odds & Picks: Fade Edmonton on Wednesday Night (Jan. 13)
Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Myers
- The Oilers are slight favorites over the Vancouver Canucks on Opening Night.
- Neither team has a terrific defense to speak of, but Sam Hitchcock thinks the road underdogs have value thanks to a few offseason additions:
Canucks vs. Oilers Odds
|Canucks Odds||+107 [BET NOW]|
|Oilers Odds||-124 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||6 [BET NOW]|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|TV||NHL Center Ice|
|Odds as of Tuesday night and via DraftKings.|
Although we are starting a new season, and yes, “new year, new you,” we are familiar with the Edmonton Oilers’ shtick. Their idiosyncrasies are fabled. Which brings me to evaluating their moneyline and your confidence level.
The last time we saw the Oilers, they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the qualifying round. For sure, they were torpedoed by inept goaltending, but the fact that they lost three of four games in that series is deeply unsettling.
The Oilers’ moneyline for Wednesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks is -124, which for a team missing top-minutes-crunching defenseman Oscar Klefbom seems like extortion. The Oilers underwent minimal changes in the offseason, and if this team is going to improve it will need to come from developing young players already in the organization like Kailer Yamamoto.
After all, this team is only one season removed from 2018-19, when they finished second-to-last in the Pacific Division, edging out only the Los Angeles Kings.
There are a lot of things to like about Vancouver. The J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser line throttled its opponents last season, doubling its totals in goals at 5-on-5 (30-15) and outshooting them by 65 shots. In 426 minutes, this line had a 58.40% expected goals rate.
As may become a common occurrence this season, Miller is now quarantining because of COVID concerns and will be absent Wednesday. His line loses some firepower for sure, but I suspect by the time this article is released the odds will have risen for the Canucks. Edmonton will still have fits trying to stop Vancouver with Pettersson and Boeser together.
While there is a drop-off after the first line, Bo Horvat is a talented two-way center who is coming off a monster postseason and can register a 25-goal pace. It’ll be interesting to see if Horvat matches up against Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, or if Oilers coach Dave Tippett goes to lengths to avoid having his stars match up Horvat.
Most importantly, with the addition of Nate Schmidt in the offseason, the Canucks are helping to address their defense, which was dreadful last season, among the bottom-five in the NHL. The blue line will keep this team playing up tempo and bringing in Travis Hamonic to play with Hughes allows Tyler Myers to anchor the third defensive pairing.
Even with the explosiveness of Vancouver’s forwards and defensemen, the peak and valleys in goaltending exhibited by Braden Holtby and Thatcher Demko have piqued my interest. Holtby apparently will start the season as the 1A, and his Goals Saved Above Expected over the last two regular seasons has been a rollercoaster, going from 10.06 in 2018-19 to -12.82 in 2019-20.
Holtby went from being one of the best goaltenders in the league, statistically speaking, to one of the worst. In 2017-18, he was ho-hum, finishing close to the middle.
In the 2019-20 postseason, Holtby posted a -0.81 GSAx, which is not great, and he was similarly unremarkable in 2018-19. But in 2015-16 and 2017-18, Holtby was fantastic.
Demko isn’t expected to start Wednesday, but he has a similar story in his more condensed career. For the regular 2019-20 season, Demko had a Goals Saved Above Expected of -1.93. Underwhelming. But during the playoffs, he submitted a 10.59 GSAx, bested only by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Holtby is not just with a new team, but in a different country. If he tentatively has the starting job, he needs a big first outing. If he shines, the Canucks could win this game comfortably.
The terrifying part of fading the Oilers is wagering against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two superstar players who know how to put their thumb on the scale. McDavid and Draisaitl commandeer their own lines, giving Vancouver the daunting task of containing two game-wreckers.
But even though Canucks coach Travis Green will not have the last change, he has matchups he can throw at Edmonton to make life difficult. Draisaitl played 22:43 against Vancouver’s Nate Schmidt and his defensive partner Brayden McNabb last season, and the Oilers lost the shot attempt battle and failed to register a goal at 5-on-5.
In 2019-20, the Vegas Golden Knights were dramatically better than the Canucks in controlling possession, but the Canucks snagged a very mobile, confident puck-mover from them in Schmidt.
He and Quinn Hughes can steward their own defensive pairing, and if Bo Horvat is playing as the shutdown center, maybe, just maybe, the Canucks can mitigate the Oilers’ offensive thrust. If these forwards aren’t sizzling, the Oilers are likely to spoil.
The Oilers’ team defense is a problem. On The Athletic, Allan Mitchell forecast that the Oilers are going to attempt to acquire a new goaltender, which doesn’t exactly instill confidence in their current tandem. One can see why: Last season the Oilers were sixth worst in goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.
Poor Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are going to have an inadequate group of defenders keeping enemies at bay again this season. Klefbom is a flawed player, but his season-long absence creates a hole in this defensive group. Klefbom played 25 minutes a game last season, leading the team.
The Oilers are going to have to really lean on defenseman Caleb Jones (presumed to play with Adam Larsson) who is going to see his minutes spike after playing 14:07 last season. Jones and Larsson will be the “shutdown” pair while Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Kris Russell and Tyson Barrie all try to create and do damage control from the back end.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Barrie, all of those defensemen saw their expected goals against per 60 minutes outpace their expected goals for. The Oilers allowed 31 shots against per hour at 5-on-5, just outside the top-ten worst in the NHL.
Their expected goals against places them in similar company. The Toronto Maple Leafs have a sharp, analytically inclined, front office and they couldn’t get rid of Barrie fast enough. The Oilers’ other new faces aren’t wild upgrades either.
In Oilers country, the buzzy additions to buoy their bottom-six forward depth are Jesse Puljujarvi and Kyle Turris. It is worth noting that new isn’t always better. Pulijujarvi should be familiar as the high-profile bust who was taken fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft but spent last season playing for Karpat in the SM-liiga. In his 139 NHL games, he has posted 17 goals and 20 assists. In that sample he had a 49.80% expected goals rate and 47.27% in high-danger chances. Maybe the Oilers can wring some value out of their draft flop, who is only 22, but that remains to be seen.
Turris’ last act in Nashville was getting bought out. Of course, getting run out of town is what happened to Kevin Shattenkirk in New York, and he was able to find his sea legs with the Tampa Bay Lightning, becoming an integral part of their defensive group. But Edmonton is not Tampa Bay. Environment matters, and with Turris, there are less signs for optimism.
To be blunt: Turris’s offensive prowess, which once overshadowed his defensive deficiencies, has wholly ebbed. He had a 47.47% expected goals rate last season, third worst among Predators forwards, and his high-danger chances against were 12.52 per hour, while he saw less than 10 high-danger chances for in a 60-minute span.
The Oilers’ only real path to victory is McDavid and Draisaitl partaking in a scoring frenzy and their teammates contributing on the edges. An attractive part of betting on the Canucks is that they have more routes to a W.
Canucks vs. Oilers Best Bet
At +107 to win on DraftKings, the odds for the Canucks are delectable when considering they are the deeper team and Edmonton’s defense is weak. With Vancouver’s forwards, defensive group and goaltender all possessing the capacity to catalyze a victory, this bet can be won in different ways.
The water is warm. Who’s ready to jump in first?