Canadiens vs. Jets - Game 2 NHL Picks
The NHL playoffs keep on keeping on. Friday gifts us two key games. The Winnipeg Jets will look to salvage a split at home after dropping the opener to the Montreal Canadiens. In the other matchup, the Vegas Golden Knights look to defend home-ice as they return to Sin City after dropping the first two games in Denver to the Colorado Avalanche.
Montreal Leads 1-0
A lot was made coming into this series about the goaltending matchup between Connor Hellebuyck and Carey Price. The two are amongst the best goalies in the league and had tremendous first rounds. Naturally, the first game of the series had four goals in the first period and finished with a final score of 5-3.
Montreal was utterly dominant and deserved the win in game one. Montreal had a 2.49 to 1.2 expected goal advantage at 5-on-5, good for nearly a 68% share. Montreal generated nine high danger chances while allowing the Jets just two. Price was good enough and Hellebuyck wasn’t as solid as he usually is, and that’s all the Habs needed to win the opener on the road.
Montreal has gotten contributions from up and down the lineup. They’ve gotten points from veterans such as Tyler Toffoli, Corey Perry and Eric Staal while also getting nice performances from youngsters such as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. All four lines have made a positive impact through the playoffs.
Montreal has done a good job of shutting down the opposition’s top players in these playoffs. They did a masterful job in round one against Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. They carried that over to game one against the likes of Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Philip Danault along with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Jake Evans.
Unfortunately for Montreal, they’ll be without the services of Evans for the foreseeable future. Evans scored an empty net goal to seal the win for the Habs, but he paid a heavy price. Mark Scheifele skated the length of the ice, and in an attempt to prevent Evans from scoring, absolutely leveled him. Evans was clearly concussed on the play and had to be stretchered off the ice. Scheifele has since been suspended for four games for the hit.
Scheifele’s suspension is warranted, and it leaves a huge hole in Winnipeg’s line-up. As mentioned earlier, Scheifele is the Jets’ first line center and plays pivot on an elite line. In addition to Scheifele, the Jets might be without Paul Stastny again, who missed game one with an undisclosed injury. For a team that overcomes poor metrics due to their elite talent, missing two top six players is a big blow.
I expect the Jets to struggle to score in this series without Scheifele. Montreal will continue to control the possession game, and Winnipeg is now hampered in the counter attack and offensive talent. In addition, I also expect both goaltenders to be better on Friday than they were in the series opener. For that reason, I’d look towards the under here.
The Pick: Under 5.5 Goals @ -132 (Click to bet)
Colorado Leads 2-0
Colorado has won every game they’ve played in these playoffs. However, no longer can you say they deserved to win every game they played.
Vegas had a tough luck overtime loss in game two as they were pretty clearly the better team. However, they now return home and face a huge must-win game in order to prevent going down three games to none.
At 5-on-5 in game two, Vegas held a 2.2 to 0.93 expected goal advantage, good for a better than 70% share. Vegas had a 41-25 advantage in terms of shots on goal, but Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer stood tall in his first real test of the postseason. The Avalanche got a powerplay in overtime thanks to a controversial penalty call on Reilly Smith for slashing. Mikko Rantanen beat Marc-Andre Fleury to send the crowd home happy in Denver.
In one way, it was an encouraging effort for the Golden Knights and it showed they can make this series competitive. However, it also had to be disheartening. Colorado had a rare mediocre game, and they still came away with the victory. Colorado is normally the best team in the league in terms of shot generation and puck possession, so playing as poorly as they did in game two is not common. If they’re still going to win those games, you might as well hand them the Cup now.
Despite Vegas returning home in front of their home crowd, I still think they’re in trouble. The Avalanche led the league in terms of shot attempt share, expected goal rate, high danger chance percentage and 5-on-5 goal differential. I really don’t expect a repeat of game two to happen again. I think it’s more likely we see a re-focused Colorado team as they hit the road, which might spell trouble for Vegas.
Entering the playoffs, most identified Grubauer as the potential downfall for the Avalanche. However, the German netminder has been very good in these playoffs, posting a goals saved above expectation of +2.3. Many projected Vegas to have the goaltending advantage in this series, but that hasn’t yet been the case.
It’s rare we see the Colorado Avalanche as short favorites like this. This game is nearly a pick’em, with the Avs currently sitting as -115 favorites. When betting elite teams, I don’t like over adjusting for home-ice advantage. These teams are elite because they’re good both at home and in the other team’s rink.
Therefore, when we get the best team in the league at this short price, I like the value. Many expect Vegas to make this a competitive series, and while I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened, I think Colorado is simply the better team.
The Pick: Colorado ML @ -115 (Click to bet)