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NHL Odds & Pick for Canucks vs. Maple Leafs: Do These Odds Flatter Toronto? (Thursday, Feb. 4)

NHL Odds & Pick for Canucks vs. Maple Leafs: Do These Odds Flatter Toronto? (Thursday, Feb. 4) article feature image

David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Thatcher Demko

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs are favored on Thursday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
  • However, the even-strength metrics can't be ignored in this matchup.
  • Matt Russell explains why and shares his betting pick for Canucks-Leafs below.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Odds

Canucks +150
Maple Leafs -180
Puckline +1.5/-1.5
Over/Under 6.5
Time | TV Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings.

Don’t look for the incriminating photos. This is good advice at all times, some things are just better left unseen.

Fortunately, I’m just referring to pictures of me at a Toronto Maple Leafs game in one of my two Vancouver Canucks jerseys. It was a fun night, Mats Sundin made his return to Toronto and the Canucks (as they almost exclusively did in that era) won the game, thanks in part to a shootout goal from the former Leafs’ captain and general face of the franchise. I was able to escape ‘the ACC’ that night because… well… it’s Toronto and everybody was wearing a suit, even on a Saturday. There wasn’t exactly a ton of resistance to my taking great pleasure in the outcome.

Over a decade later, my fandom has waned as it’s been replaced by the dollar value that comes with being correct. If the Canucks aren’t going to win, I’m more than happy with cashing a winning ticket on their opponent.

Vancouver Canucks

We cashed a pair of tickets during the Canucks trip to Montreal. Thanks to the power of the Ottawa Senators. The Senators are the North Division’s jobber. In pro wrestling, the jobber is the guy whose role is to make the hero look good. After three victories over the Senators, the market bumped the Canucks up quite a bit to where the Canadiens became a valuable bet at a price of -160 and even higher.

Montreal is the exact opposite. An ability to prevent High-Danger Chances (HDC), and an even greater ability to not allow those HDCs to be converted into goals will make their opponents appear much worse than they are. A pair of losses for Vancouver where they never led at any point will make the market view them as a lacklustre outfit.

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.

In truth, the Canucks didn’t get killed 5-on-5 with 3.06 Expected Goals For (XGF) to Montreal’s 3.98 (xGF), and their 19 HDCs to the Habs’ 24. The key to the Canadiens controlling the games was they were able to bury 6 of those 24 chances in getting a jump on the Canucks.

After the two games, my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model from THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast dropped the Canucks just a couple percentage points, to 6% below average in the North Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs drew the long straw this week, getting time off thanks to the odd number of teams in the North Division. Last we saw of them, they lost to Connor McDavid magic in Edmonton. It was a game that was ready to frustrate if you were backing the Oilers. The Leafs have struggled to keep up with their opponents’ while at even-strength this season.

They’re averaging 1.85 Expected Goals Against (xGA) and that’s a number that’s been rising as the last four games have resulted in 2.55, 2.49, 2.59 and 2.25 XGA while at even-strength. Numbers that they did not match at the offensive end.

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The Leafs have been dining out on the success of their league-leading power play which is at an early-season efficiency of 43.3% which is not remotely sustainable based on the history of hockey at any level. That’s how they’ve defied the even-strength odds to sit at 7-2-1 to start the season. That said, the numbers are what the numbers are, and the Leafs numbers conclude that they may be headed for a regression as they’re even-strength imbalance makes them 4% below average.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The Leafs’ talent on the power play is not to be ignored and that’s what makes them a better than average team over the course of the season. However, when we start assigning prices to teams we have to evaluate whether those prices are valuable, fair or a bad deal. With an early moneyline of TOR -180/VAN +150, the even-strength metrics cannot be ignored.

My model makes this game TOR -126/VAN +126, so the Leafs are rightly favored and will win this game 55.7% of the time. However, the Canucks at +150 provides a better than 4% edge which is something that should work out in our favor over the course of a long season.

Since I retired from wearing jerseys in public, and have become committed to the spreadsheet, it hasn’t been that common that I’m backing the team of my youth, but the percentages don’t lie, so this is an easy bet to make. Even easier considering I won’t get any pushback from the “fans” in suits.

Pick: Canucks +150

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