NHL Betting Guide: Saturday 1/23/21

Welcome to the first Saturday NHL Betting Guide of the season! This will be a regular occurrence as we skate towards the conclusion of the condensed 56 game schedule.

Tonight we're highlighting a couple of games from the NHL's North Division!

Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens

Canucks moneyline (+138): 2-Star Rating Out of 5
Canucks +1.5 (-190): 3-Star Rating Out of 5

The Vancouver Canucks need to get their season back on track. Through six games, they have just two wins and have an NHL worst -10 goal differential. You have probably deduced that goaltending has been a bit of an issue, and you are correct. Braden Holtby and Thatcher Demko have stopped only 87.4% of shots this season, which is well below their career averages making them positive regression candidates.

Vancouver's offense continues to be their strength. They rank fourth in shots, third in scoring chances and sixth in high-danger chances while posting the third-highest expected goals-for. When they figure out their defensive structure and goaltending, the sky's the limit for this team.

So far this season, the Montreal Canadiens' offense has been too great, if not unsustainable. The Habs rank in the top 10 in most offensive categories and lead the league with 24 goals scored. But they are overachieving relative to expected goals-for by a significant margin. As expected, they've posted a scorching 13.3% shooting percentage to start the season, which has contributed to a slightly inflated PDO. The Habs' shooting percentage should start to come back down, bringing their PDO with it.

Saturday night's contest will be the Habs' sixth straight road game to open their season, including their third in four nights against the Canucks. That amount of travel and condensed scheduling would take a toll on any team. With four days off after tonight and the comforts of their own beds awaiting, this could shape up to be a "play not to lose" situation.

numberFire's algorithm pegs the Habs as marginal favorites in this one, giving them a 51.0% chance of winning. But the betting market has them at a much higher evaluation, with the Montreal moneyline at -164. That leaves an advantage in taking the Canucks both on the puck line and moneyline, which are listed as three- and two-star plays, respectively.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Ottawa Senators

Jets moneyline (-142): 3-Star Rating Out of 5
Jets -1.5 (+194): 2-Star Rating Out of 5

The Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators play the exciting conclusion of their early-season trilogy tonight in Winnipeg. The Sens blew a two-goal lead twice in the first game and then lost in overtime before being dismantled in the second game. In reviewing some of the metrics, we should expect more of the same tonight.

Winnipeg has tidied up their defensive play this season, which was their biggest concern heading into the year. On Thursday night, they limited the Senators to 14 scoring chances and six high-danger chances at five-on-five. Across all strengths, those metrics have come down substantially compared to last season's averages, which speaks to how they Jets have adapted their defensive structure.

The Jets return home, where they should be able to impose their offensive power even more. Winnipeg posted season-high scoring metrics at five-on-five in their lone home game this year. That's also going to be trouble for Ottawa as the Sens are playing their first road game of the year and haven't had to play without getting their line matchups yet.

Matt Murray continues to struggle with his new team, posting a 3.79 goals against average and 88.0% save percentage. Murray was almost completely unhinged on the road last season, stopping only 88.4% of shots and allowing almost three goals per game. Somehow, Murray managed to finish above .500, but without the benefit of the Pittsburgh Penguins' offense to bail him out, road wins will be harder to come by for the Senators.

Winnipeg has built some momentum against the Sens, which we should expect to continue. The Jets have posted above-average offensive metrics while improving their much-maligned defense. Meanwhile, the Senators play their first road game of the year after already appearing to hit a bit of a wall early this season.

Our projections favor the Jets by a substantial margin, giving them a 69.5% chance of winning. That exceeds the 51.2% implied probability of the -142 moneyline available at FanDuel Sportsbook, making the bet a three-star play. There's also an implied advantage in taking Winnipeg to cover the -1.5 puck line, which we rate as a two-star play.