Canadiens vs. Jets Odds
|Time||Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings|
“The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.”
It’s one of the great quotes from 1995’s “The Usual Suspects,” a film that, if you know it, you know it.
Right now, we might be in the midst of the Montreal Canadiens sneaking around the North Division with just slightly less anonymity than Kaiser Soze, but causing comparable damage in their wake.
The market might now only be starting to realize that the Canadiens are actually good and that they exist in a way that isn’t just rumour or myth.
When it comes to betting, the greatest trick the Habs may have pulled was convincing the world they aren’t any good.
So, the Canadiens Are Actually Good?
In the first four games of the first-round series with Toronto, we saw some signals that Montreal might be the early season version of the team that was analytically strong, but unable to convert its High-Danger Chances at even-strength. Whether it was inevitable or an accident, Montreal was able to finally convert just enough of those chances in the final three games to edge the Leafs.
While finally being able to score was an obvious key component to winning three hockey games, many hockey coaches of all levels will tell you that not giving up goals is the trait they’re looking for in a good team. In the same way that the above quote from “The Usual Suspects” is more widely known, there is another one that might as well be talking about the Habs directly: “You just need the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.”
When the Canadiens are at their best, that’s what they do — impose their will defensively.
It’s not just on the shoulders of future Hall of Famer Carey Price. While Price was outstanding in the series, his teammates came through in their own zone in Game 7, putting the clamps on Toronto to the tune of one single even-strength High-Danger Chance against.
Then we all just assumed the turnaround from a third straight do-or-die game in Toronto would be too quick for the Canadiens after travelling to Winnipeg, only to watch the Habs keep those same clamps on the Jets. Winnipeg managed just two High-Danger Chances in Game 1, getting so frustrated that Mark Scheifele, who had been percolating all night, finally blew his top taking a 5-minute major for charging which will result in his watching Games Two through Five from home.
While obviously not a direct comparison, Price might be having flashbacks to 2014 when he backstopped one of the best hockey teams ever put together that no one talks about — Team Canada’s Olympic Team. That team won the gold medal with such relative ease that it’s rarely discussed, but the reason they were so good is because no one could score on a team that would suffocate you defensively.
Of course, they were a defensively responsible team that also had Canada’s usual absurdly talented roster and was able to score enough that three goals felt like six. That team had offense on the blue line, and so do the Canadiens, with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. Those two combined for 3-for-6 points provided from the Habs’ defenseman on Wednesday night.
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.
Jets Look to Bounce Back in Game 2
If the Habs are Kaiser Soze, the Jets might be Dean Keaton — the character with enough of a background to make you think they could pull off an elaborate scheme but really is just a two-bit crook.
The flashy forward corps of Scheifele, Nik Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Conner and Pierre-Luc Dubois couldn’t muster much in Game 1. Looking back on that game, the question I found asking is “Should we have been surprised?” I’ll present this chart that would suggest the answer is no.
|CANADIENS||Expected Goals For (5v5)||Expected Goals Against (5v5)|
The expected goals for at even-strength for Game One look a lot like the teams’ season averages. Numbers that flatter the Habs given they finished with a worse record than the Jets, and if you asked the average fan, they’d probably say the Canadiens were a bad hockey team. When in fact, they’re a talented team whose talent is weighted towards its youngsters. The Jets best players have been around a while and are thus household names, but even the most experienced veterans can have trouble with a defence-focused approach.
While the fifth goal of the game was the most notable due to the suspension of Scheifele, the four goals that Connor Hellebuyck allowed have to be considered a disappointment for a guy that was allegedly motivated by being snubbed for a Vezina Trophy nomination.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The 5-3 score line from Game 1 was both misleading given how little offense was actually created in the game and unlikely to be replicated going forward. Both goaltenders are too good to give up a combined seven goals, especially since the Habs only scored once on their nine High-Danger Chances during 5-on-5 play and the Jets were 0-for-2 HDC at even-strength.
The moneyline has shifted drastically, from the silly MTL +130/WPG -150 to a more sensible MTL -105/WPG -115. Given that adjustment, I’m not looking to back Montreal even if my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on “THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast,” makes Montreal a -135 favorite.
Instead, I’ll look for a bounce back from the goaltenders, and try to prey on the Jets missing Scheifele, by betting on the under 5.5 goals.
If Winnipeg and Hellebuyck can’t keep the puck out of the net, they’re going to send their bettors desperately running into the streets like Agent Kujon looking for Verbal Kint, only to realize that for the Jets will be just a matter of time before “just like that (poof) they’re gone”.
Pick: Under 5.5 -132 (play to -135)