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Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens NHL Odds & Pick: Back Host Montreal Against Rival Toronto (Saturday, Feb. 20)

Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens NHL Odds & Pick: Back Host Montreal Against Rival Toronto (Saturday, Feb. 20) article feature image

Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner.

  • Montreal hosts Toronto on Saturday in a battle of NHL North Division rivals.
  • Can the Canadiens get the win in this evenly matched affair? Matt Russell breaks it all down below.

Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens Odds

Maple Leafs Odds -115
Canadiens Odds -105
Over/Under 6.5
Time | TV 7 p.m. ET |
Odds as of Friday and via PointsBet.

“Here I go again on my own.

Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known.

Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.

An’ I’ve made up mind, I ain’t wasting no more time.”

This Whitesnake 80s rock classic got second life in 2003 film “Old School.” Unlike others, it feels like I’m walking alone fading the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With the Maple Leafs visiting the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday for the second time this season, we get another chance to get it right. 

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Mitch Marner and the Maple Leafs don’t need a party to get their mojo back, as they bounced back from Monday’s catastrophe against Ottawa where they blew a 5-1 lead and lost in overtime. Toronto racked up a pair of wins, including a 7-3 victory on Thursday, thanks to Marner and Auston Matthews each having four-point nights. 

However, there’s a couple of red flags for the Maple Leafs going into another showdown atop the North Division. Firstly, starting goaltender Frederik Andersen is banged up after 14 consecutive starts, to the point where he was given Thursday off.

Andersen’s best skill so far this season has been his availability and I expect him to be back between the pipes. However, with a -0.67 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), he’s been merely average this season.

The other issue for Toronto is the amount of opportunities it allows its opponents in the defensive zone. The Senators, not known for offensive dominance, scored six times in the first game, then created 12 High-Danger Chances 5-on-5 in a 2-1 loss in the second game.

In the rubber match, while the scoreboard was crooked in favor of the Leafs, the Expected Goals Share (XG percentage) was almost 50/50 in the game.

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

The Canadiens come into this one well-rested, as they drew the long straw this week in the uneven North Division. Montreal hasn’t played since beating Toronto last Saturday, and the rest probably came at a good time for the team, having lost three out of four before the late comeback to beat Toronto.

Even with the slip in the standings, Montreal is still a darling of the analytics community, having been sub-.500 on the XG% metric just four times this season. This is despite something of a lackluster start for veteran goaltender Carey Price, who went into the week off with a -1.30 GSAA.

The Canadiens’ defensive system has helped keep the opponents’ offense in check, giving up double-digit High-Danger Chances at even strength just once this season. This has led to a division-best 5-on-5 rating of a ridiculous 23% above average.

Betting Analysis & Pick

While the expected goaltenders have very similar metrics, you’ve got Price after a week of rest and Andersen who may be white-knuckling it at this point in the season with no significant break coming anytime soon. Toronto’s backup goaltender Jack Campbell still a few more days away from a return. 

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model makes the Canadiens’ win probability 56.3% for a true moneyline price of -129. However, as we know by now, the market will weigh in favor of the Maple Leafs, so we’re certain to get a price worth betting, even as bettors line up to bet on Matthews’ squad at what they deem to be a short price.

Pick: Canadiens (-115 or better)

[Bet Montreal now at PointsBet risk-free up to $250]

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