Today's Free Picks for
Posted June 28, 2021, before Game 1.
NHL Stanley Cup Finals - Series Wager
Montreal +245 over TAMPA BAY
8:08 PM EST. Does anyone even understand how close the NHL came to a NY Islanders/Canadiens Stanley Cup Finals? The Lightning won Game 7 over the Isles and happened to be the first team in NHL history (that’s a long time) to win 1-0 in a playoff game with the only goal being a shorthanded one. That’s how fucking close the Islanders were to meeting the Habs in the final. We mention this because you could have asked 10 million hockey fans to pick the final two and zero would have picked Montreal v N.Y. Islanders. That’s significant because it reverts back to what we have been preaching for years……that being, that single game results are extremely luck-driven. That almost every game or upwards of 90% of games are decided by puck luck and nothing else. Just on that basis alone, the price on the Habs is utterly absurd.
There is nothing we’re going to write about the Bolts that you don’t already know. Yeah, they’re good and yeah they have the best goaltender on the planet and yeah, they have a great chance to win back-to-back Cups and yeah, they deserve to be here but it would be foolish to write off the Canadiens for several reasons.
What we’re reading and hearing is that the Canadiens are a fluke so allow us to set the record straight. The Canadiens' run to the Stanley Cup Finals was not luck driven. We’ve been praising the Habs for three or four years now because the predictive stats always believed in them. Fact is, Montreal has been good for at least three years according to all the measures that typically predict success. It has all come together at the right time. Montreal’s success is not just goaltender-driven either.
In the past three regular seasons, the Habs ranked 3rd in 5v5 scoring chances (expected goals), 2nd in shot attempts per 60 minutes and 4th in puck possession time in the offensive end during 5-on-5 play. There have been stretches over that time in which the Habs ranked 1st overall in puck possession time at even strength play.
Corsi (shot attempts) and Expected Goals (xGF) are both unanimously accepted by the metrics community as the most predictive measure of future outcomes, Goals scored and points in the standings for instance, are not predictive measures but betting lines are largely predicated on luck-driven stats (penalty kill %, goals scored, wins and losses, etc).
The Habs lack of star power creates a big gap between just how good they are and public perception. The Habs have great players and the proof is in the pudding. Since 2018, Brendan Gallagher is 7th in the league in 5v5 goals, ahead of Tavares, Connor, Panarin, Stone, Marchand, MacKinnon, and many other stars; Philip Danault’s 44 assists at 5v5 rank 16th, ahead of Scheifele, Matthews, O’Reilly, and Aho. Montreal’s first line (Gallagher, Danault, Artturi Lehkonen) was the best in the league at 5v5 during that time. Now throw in two of the best defensemen in the league in Shea Weber and Jeff Petry and Montreal’s reason for success becomes even clearer. The fact of the matter is that the Habs have been an excellent 5v5 team for years, driven by excellent players. That Carey Price is hot doesn’t hurt either but he’s not the reason the Habs are rolling.
When Vegas was running over teams in their first year of existence, then Head Coach Gerard Gallant, commented late in the season after Vegas had played Montreal for the second time, “That is the best team we have played this year”.
In the second round of the playoffs against Winnipeg, Montreal not only swept the Jets, they dismantled them in terms of scoring chances. In fact, the scoring chances in favor of Montreal was the biggest margin ever recorded in a playoff series. In almost two decades and hundreds of series, many between powerhouses and total pretenders, none had ever even come close to Montréal’s dismantling of the Jets.
And then we get to Vegas. Vegas is also a top possession team at 5v5. They continually create scoring chances at a very high rate and often put up a crooked number. Since losing the 2018 Cup finals, Vegas outchanced their opponents by solid margins in six straight series….until they met the Habs. Even if you completely toss goaltending out the window, no team has played Vegas better than the Habs did in the past three postseasons. Not even close. Montreal’s lack of success prior to this playoff run was not based on poor play, instead it was an extreme case of lousy puck luck.
Add it all up and you have a team that has constantly outplayed every opponent in the playoffs and regular season during five-on-five play. As a result, they had the potential to do great things if the goals started to go in, which they did. Three years ago, Washington’s Stanley Cup win was a fluke. Two years ago, The Blues Cup win was a fluke (those teams ranked 14th and 12th respectively in xGF during five-on-five play in their Cup winning seasons). Montreal getting to the finals is no fluke and should they beat the Bolts, it won’t be a fluke either.
At these prices, Montreal must be played each and every game.
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Montreal +245 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 4.90)