Monday's NHL Playoff Picks
A new week begins, but the NHL playoffs continue on. The Winnipeg Jets will look to stave off elimination while the New York Islanders are shipping up to Boston to play a pivotal game five in their series which is tied at two. What can we expect?
Montreal Leads 3-0
Entering the series, this was a prime case for “eye test” against analytics. Winnipeg has annoyed hockey bettors for years. They’ve had a decent amount of success despite poor underlying metrics in terms of puck possession and shot generation. On the other hand, Montreal has disappointed their backers. Montreal was often near the top of the circuit in most analytical categories, but their results were far from elite.
So far in this series, the analytics have won out convincingly. Based on what we know about these teams, it’s no surprise that Montreal has been dominant in this series in most key underlying metrics. Through three games, Montreal has a 7.32-4.59 advantage in terms of expected goals at 5-on-5. Montreal has nearly doubled the Jets in terms of high danger chances with a 31-17 advantage thus far.
Goaltending often plays a huge part if your team’s results vary too much from the underlying metrics. That’s been the case for these two teams. Over the past few years, Connor Hellebuyck has been one of the league’s best goaltenders for Winnipeg, winning the Vezina trophy in 2020 and leading the league in goals saved above expectation (GSAx) in 2021. On the other hand, Carey Price has posted a -10.9 GSAx over the past two regular seasons.
However, in these playoffs, Price has reverted back to his form from a few seasons ago where he was universally considered a top netminder in the league. Price posted a shutout in game two in a 1-0 win. He has a +2.6 GSAx in this series and a +9.1 GSAx in these playoffs. Hellebuyck has been rather pedestrian in this series, giving up nine goals in three games while getting almost no goal support.
The Jets have just four goals in the first three games of this series. They have just one goal in the last two contests. Uncoincidentally, those two games are the two games Mark Scheifele has missed due to suspension thus far. Scheifele usually serves as Winnipeg’s top-line center and is a key part of Winnipeg’s elite top six. However, without Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler are missing their center. In addition, Paul Stastny has missed time and is clearly attempting to play through an injury. Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois haven’t made much of an impact. Their forward group has come apart at the seams.
The same can’t be said about the Montreal Canadiens. They’ve gotten contributions from up and down their forward lines. Veterans like Eric Staal and Corey Perry have turned back the clock. Phillip Danault and his line have done a tremendous job defensively against the opponents’ top players. Even more encouraging for Montreal fans has been the play of their young players. Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi all appear as if the bright lights of the playoffs have had no negative impact on them.
This series has been bordering on non-competitive. Sure, the first two games ended up having tight final scores, but the actual play on the ice was heavily tilted. Montreal has posted an expected goal rate of at least 60% in all three games so far.
I think Montreal wraps this one up in front of their home crowd and I think they do it in regulation. I’d rather the potential for a plus-money payout in the regulation time market rather than lay too much juice on the moneyline.
Bet: Montreal In Regulation @ +115 (Click to bet)
Series Tied 2-2
In every sport, there’s teams that have earned the respect of the betting market and have earned a boost in their public perception. At the same time, there’s always teams where people are more hesitant to jump on board and believe in their success.
Boston has been a league powerhouse for more than a decade now, often making deep playoff runs including winning a Stanley Cup in 2011 and winning the Eastern Conference in 2013 and 2019. On the flipside, the New York Islanders are relatively new to the space, but they’ve won playoff series in three consecutive seasons.
It’s no surprise the betting market leans towards respecting the Bruins. They’ve been here before and they’ve gotten results in the past. However, I think the line for this game is plain disrespectful to the New York Islanders.
Full disclosure: I am a fan of the New York Islanders, but I’m looking at this analytically. Also, I’m not disputing the notion that Boston is a better team than the Islanders and that they deserve to be favorites at home in this spot. However, -190? Really? Have you watched this series?
After being thoroughly outplayed and beaten in game one, the Isles have rebounded more than adequately in the past three games, winning two of them including one in Boston. In games 2-4, New York has outplayed Boston at 5-on-5 to the tune of an expected goal rate of 53.9%. New York has generated 27 high danger chances compared to Boston’s 25.
After Ilya Sorokin started game one, the Islanders went back to veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov for game two. In his three starts, Varlamov has posted a 94.6% save percentage and posted a +2.6 goals saved above expectation. He’s gone toe-to-toe with Tuukka Rask and based on wins, one can say he’s outplayed him.
With the series shifting back to Boston, coach Bruce Cassidy of the Bruins now gets the last change and therefore gets to control the matchups. He’ll do his best to keep his top line with Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand away from Isles’ center Jean-Gabriel Pageau as well as defensemen Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. However, New York did a good job of slowing down the Perfection line in game two which was also in Boston.
I’m not telling you the Islanders will definitely win this game. In fact, I agree that Boston likely wins this game over 50% of the time. However, at -190, that line implies that Boston wins this game nearly 66% of the time.
New York has outplayed Boston in the last three games and had a good chance of winning all three. The Islanders also went into Pittsburgh last series and won a pivotal game five in what was at that point also a tied series. This is a team that went on a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, so they, like Boston, have experience in big moments.
+155 on the Islanders is simply too good to pass up in what has been a very even series. In fact, I’d feel comfortable betting the Islanders at any price better than +135. The value is simply off here, in my opinion.
Bet: NY Islanders @ +155 (Click to bet)