Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
|Canadiens Odds||+145 [BET NOW]|
|Penguins Odds||-167 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
If you played Saturday’s Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins 100 times, the Penguins would probably win a vast majority of the time.
The Pens won the expected goals battle, 3.07 to 2.03 at 5-on-5 and 4.72 to 2.17 in all situations, but they ran into a hot goaltender and came up one bounce short in overtime.
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.
Expected goals numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
The NHL is a luck-driven league and goaltending is the great equalizer. Sometimes you are on the team that gets the bounces, and other times you are not.
If Montreal wants to win this series it will need to improve its 5-on-5 play. Outside of the third line, the Habs were largely outplayed by the Penguins. The Canadiens don’t need to dominate the possession battle, but they can’t rely on Price to stand on his head every night.
I don’t doubt Price’s ability to steal a game or a series, but he did struggle to a -11.04 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in 58 games during the regular season so it’s not out of the question that his game will dip, either. It’s likely we saw his best game of the series on Saturday and it was imperative that the Habs didn’t waste Price’s performance.
Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance. GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
While I expect Pittsburgh to continue to be the better possession team, I am confident that Montreal can close the gap going forward. The Habs were a top-5 expected goals team during the regular season, so they can hang with the formidable Penguins at even strength.
Unlike in other Game 2s, the betting market held pretty firm from Game 1 for Pittsburgh-Montreal. Oddsmakers saw the Habs get a little lucky and didn’t want to lower the price on the Pens and risk getting pummeled with Pittsburgh money from bettors.
Since I liked Montreal at a similar price in Game 1, I’m going to back them again in Game 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Penguins take some money before the game in the form of there’s-no-way-Pittsburgh-will-go-down-two-nothing bets, so you may be able to wait it out and get a better number.
Price may not be as crisp, but I expect a better overall performance from the Habs on Monday night. And if the Habs improve their 5-on-5 play, they won’t need their goalie to stand on their head, especially since Pittsburgh’s goaltending situation is a bit murky.
The listed odds imply that Pittsburgh has a 60.5% chance of winning on Monday. I’ve been higher on Montreal than the market for most of the season but think this number still sells the Habs short and would play them at +140 or better.