@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bet for NHL Wednesday - 3/9

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Montreal Canadiens (15-34-7) @ Vancouver Canucks (28-23-6)

If you told me 2 months ago that on March 9th, 2022, I’d be more intrigued by a Canadiens/Canucks matchup than Oilers/Capitals — I would’ve questioned your sanity.

That was then. This is now. Both teams switched up their coaches, caught fire and  captured my attention for their matchup tonight on National TV (10:30 PM ET, TNT). 

Game Preview

This is a matchup between clubs that started as two of the NHL’s worst teams. 

Pre-coaching change, their records were:

  • Vancouver: 8-15-2
  • Montreal: 8-30-7

Post-coaching change, their records are:

  • Vancouver: 20-8-4
  • Montreal: 7-4-0

From a timing standpoint, Vancouver switched coaches early enough to potentially save their season, but it’s a narrow path. MoneyPuck.com estimates Vancouver has a 26.4% chance to make the playoffs (at time of writing), up from single digits just 2 months ago. It’s still a long-shot, but the key point is they still have a chance, and every standings point matters for them going forward (Wins = 2 standings points, OT/SO Loss = 1 standings point).

The same statement, unfortunately, is not true for Montreal. They’re playing inspired, incredible hockey under their new coach, but it’s too little, too late. According to MoneyPuck.com, they could literally win every remaining game and still have 0% chance at making the playoffs. Not what Montreal fans wanted to hear, but at least the team is playing with heart.

Spread Pick

Vancouver opened as -125 moneyline (ML) favorites for this matchup. However, since then, it was announced Montreal’s best goalie at the moment (Andrew Hammond) will not be available tonight. 

The market response was swift, as sharps pounced at the opportunity to fade MTL backup Sam Montembeault (6-11-4, 3.66 GAA, 0.897 SV%) by backing Vancouver ML. The resulting price movement saw VAN ML steam down as low as -230 before settling back at around -215 consensus odds at time of writing.

I understand why the market moved, but is the size of the shift justified? Personally, I’m not buying it. I agree with the move directionally but feel the size of the shift was an overreaction.

I get that Montembault’s season-long numbers stink, but did the market forget he’s coming off an impressive 28-save performance vs. one of the most lethal offenses on the planet, the Edmonton Oilers? He’s now held 5 of his last 7 opponents to 2 goals or less, including high-scoring teams like STL, TOR, CBJ and most recently EDM.

Also, did the market forget that this matchup historically plays very close?

  • 4 of their last 5 meetings settled as 1 goal games.
  • 3 of the 5 games required overtime or shootout.
  • All 5 matchups happened within the last calendar year.

I’m putting less weight into this next stat since the rosters have changed up, but since 2017, MTL is 9-0 vs. a hypothetical +1.5 spread as a visitor in Vancouver.

My hesitation to back MTL on the moneyline relates to my respect for Vancouver starting goaltender, Thatcher Demko (25-16-2, 2.63 GAA, 0.917 SV%). He’s having a fantastic year, and I expect a strong bounce back performance from him at home tonight after he surrendered 4 goals in Toronto on Saturday.

I do expect this to play very close, though, and feel the right choice is to back MTL on the puck line (i.e. spread) at a very reasonable price.

To close this section… I’ll leave you with a rhetorical question: Can you name a type of team more dangerous than a motivated underdog with a new coach that won 7 of its last 8 outright and has a chance to spoil a rival’s playoff hopes in their own building?

$FML Spread Pick

betway

MTL +1.5 PUCK LINE @ -125

Game Prop Pick

While I enjoy trying to predict game outcomes, I get my best thrill from digging for value in the darkest corners of prop markets that nobody cares to look at. With only 2 games today, I had more time than usual to go digging… and think I found something.

While I do expect a strong game from Demko, I do not expect a shutout, which raises a question: In which period is Demko most likely to allow a goal?

To answer, I found a way to get Demko’s performance splits by period, and while I was at it, I did the same for Montembeault. Let’s look at them side-by-side:

NHL

The data tells an interesting story, which is effectively that:

  • Demko performs best in the 1st & 3rd period; worst in the 2nd.
  • Montembeault averages 1+ GA in all periods.

The question then becomes, in what percentage of their games does each goalie allow a 2nd period goal? Excluding games where they faced less than 8 shots, I found that:

  • Demko allowed a 2P goal in 23/34 (68%) appearances overall, and 10/14 (71%) at home.
  • Montembeault allowed a 2P goal in 13/17 (76%) overall and 12/12 (100%) on the road.

The last piece to this equation is offense. In what percentage of their games do Montreal and Vancouver score 2nd period goals? I found that:

  • Vancouver scored a 2P goal in 18/25 (72%) at home.
  • Montreal scored a 2P goal in 22/30 (73%) on the road.

String those data points together and I feel we’ve found a sneaky little prop bet to attack in the 2nd period market tonight. I personally played it for 1 unit.

$FML Game Prop Pick

betmgm

BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE IN 2ND PERIOD @ +120

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