Canadiens vs. Canucks NHL Pick – January 20, 2021

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It was a tough-luck loss with last night’s lone NHL pick between the Avalanche and Kings where I had the favored Avs -1.5 on the puckline at +100.

Things were lookin’ pretty after 40 minutes as the Avs carried a 3-0 lead into the third. Not only would the Kings have to post a third-period shutout but they would need to score twice to sink our pick.

Andreas Athanasiou continued his hot start with a goal midway through the period and with just over five minutes left the Kings made it a 3-2 score, a score that would stand as the final.

Not much we can do about that one as I like that pick all night long in that matchup, just didn’t work in our favor this time.

Now, we’ll turn our attention to this five-game slate with a Canadiens vs. Canucks NHL pick from Vancouver!

  • Season Record: 5-6
  • Units: -1.09

Canadiens vs. Canucks Betting Odds

  • Canadiens (-125)
  • Canucks (+113)
  • Canadiens -1.5 (+185)
  • Canucks +1.5 (-215)
  • Over 6 (-122)
  • Under 6 (+111)

Canadiens vs. Canucks NHL Pick Breakdown

Canadiens

Offense

The Canadiens’ new-look offense has certainly lived up to the increased hype in the early going, scoring 12 goals in their three games while outplaying their opponents for the vast majority of that time despite taking an Opening-Night loss to the Maple Leafs in overtime.

Following that four-goal output in Toronto, the Habs headed west and scored eight goals in taking two straight from the Oilers behind heading even further west for this one tonight.

It’s certainly a much deeper offense this season with the additions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli, but this was already an offense that greatly outplayed their opponents a season ago.

At 5v5 last season, the Canadiens ranked fourth in scoring chances for/60, third in high-danger chances for/60 and third in expected goals/60, as per Natural Stat Trick.

Their undoing was three-fold: a 19th-ranked high-danger shooting rate, 25th-ranked 5v5 overall shooting rate and a power play that ranked 22nd league wide.

The power play is off to a productive start as well, however, going 4 for 10 (40%) in the early going with player such as Nick Suzuki looking awfully dangerous on the top unit alongside a pair of offensively-gifted defensemen in Shea Weber and Jeff Petry.

Defense

The Habs’ defense struggled on the surface last season, finishing in a three-way tie for 19th in overall defense, but again, a closer look reveals they were one of the better defenses in the NHL.

At 5v5, the Canadiens ranked fifth in scoring chances against/60, seventh in high-danger chances against/60 and sixth in expected goals against/60. Add in their excellent metrics on offense and the Canadiens were an elite puck possession/analytical team last season. Whether you want to hang your hat on that is up to you, but there’s little doubt they were better than their year-end numbers would tell you.

It’s a defense that was shook up a little bit in the offseason as well. The team acquired Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes, but also graduated top defensive prospect Alexander Romanov.

Romanov has arguably been the brightest spot on the Canadiens this season as he looks far more like a seasoned veteran than he does a rookie with all of three NHL games under his belt. He’s among the league leaders in hits and scored his first NHL goal in a win over the Oilers two nights back. The 21-year-old has certainly been among the best early-performance rookies so far.

Goaltending

A big reason why the Canadiens rank below the middle of the pack on defense last season was due to goaltending. Carey Price endured a subpar campaign, but the team couldn’t find a legitimate backup to provide any stability behind their starter.

That’s not the case this season as the club acquired backup Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues on the heels of a bounce back season that saw him turn in a 2.15 GAA and .927 Sv% behind Jordan Binnington. Allen backstopped the Habs to a 3-1 win on Monday, so I would look for Price to get back in tonight, although that’s unconfirmed at the moment.

Price has been solid if unspectacular in the early going, posting a  2.92 GAA and .913 Sv% in two outings, although five of the six goals he allowed came in the season opener with the Leafs. More recently, the former Hart Trophy and Vezina winner stopped 34 of 35 shots in a stellar effort as part of the Habs’ 5-1 win over the Oilers on Saturday in Edmonton.

This is a guy that should certainly benefit from Allen’s presence despite the condensed schedule. He’ll also benefit from a defense that’s again putting forth excellent numbers this season after posting subpar work — certainly be his standards — in two of the last three regular seasons before excellent in the postseason over the summer.

Canucks

Offense

The Canucks blasted the Oilers for five goals on Opening Night a week ago, however they’ve since struggled in scoring just four goals over their last three games and were shutout by former goaltender Jacob Markstrom in one of those contests.

Most fingers are being pointed at a slow start from Elias Pettersson who has just one assist in four games, and rightfully so. The 22-year-old is the team’s offensive anchor and Vancouver will be hard-pressed to compete if he isn’t leading the group again this season.

That said, scoring depth was a question mark before the season began. After the top-six, the team has received next to zero secondary scoring in the early going with only Adam Gaudette and Tyler Motte scoring goals from that bottom-six through four games.

That said, perhaps they’ve been dealt some bad luck this season, something they didn’t deal with while ranking in the league’s top 10 on offense last season. The Canucks rank in the top 10 in all of expected goals for/60, scoring chances/60 and high-danger chances/60 at 5v5, but haven’t capitalized on their high-danger opportunities while a power play that’s gone 0 for 15 — a season after ranking fifth on the man advantage — has done them zero favors.

With Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and co. on that top unit, I would expect the Canucks’ power play to score sooner than later, but I remain skeptical of their 5v5 scoring depth despite some quality advanced metrics in a small sample.

Defense

Another reason I was bearish on the Canucks this season is their back end. Losing Chris Tanev will hurt more than most thought it would, and I’m not sure Travis Hamonic is the player he once was.

Nate Schmidt was also added to the right side of the blueline, but the early results have the Canucks sitting 27th in overall defense while their 66.7% penalty kill also isn’t helping. Special teams have been a major reason for their slow start to be sure.

This wasn’t a great defense last season, either, as their 3.10 goals against per game tied them with these Canadiens for 19th in the league, and they more or less deserved that defensive fate as per the advanced data.

The advanced data is even worse in the four-game sample this season. The Canucks rank 29th in expected goals against/60 at 5v5, and 28th in both scoring chances against/60 high-danger chances against/60. There’s been plenty of defenses around the league that have struggled with their structure in the early stages of the season, but only one or two more than the Canucks, mostly the San Jose Sharks.

Travis Green certainly needs to get this group figured out or the Canucks could be out of this thing before they know it.

Goaltending

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I was also quite skeptical of the Braden Holtby/Thatcher Demko goaltending duo. Demko is inexperience and posted mediocre numbers last season while the veteran Holtby has endured three consecutive subpar regular seasons.

Each netminder has made two starts this season, and the result has been a 3.01 GAA and .909 Sv% for Holtby and an ugly 4.65 GAA and .883 Sv% for Demko. It appears the veteran will get back into the crease after Demko took the 5-2 loss to the Flames on Monday.

Holtby allowed three goals in each of his first two starts to the season, one a 5-3 win over the Oilers while taking a 3-0 loss to the Flames in the other. For what it’s worth, he’ll take on a Canadiens team he has dominated over the years. Holtby owns a career 1.81 GAA and .939 Sv% across 20 starts against the Habs, going 14-2-3 in the process.

Last season, the veteran worked to an .898 Sv% in two starts against them, however, going 1-0-1 in that that time.

Canadiens vs. Canucks NHL Pick

This is simply a game featuring two clubs that have began the season in opposite directions. The Canucks took advantage of a discombobulated Oilers defense on Opening Night, but have struggled mightily in the three games since.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, have certainly looked good in the early goings of a season that brings increased expectations after a fruitful offseason.

The Canucks’ offense is going to get things turned around, but this has been a sound Habs defense and I think the prospects of a bounce back season from Price. That’s not to mention how the Canucks’ defense corps has fared in the early going, allowing more scoring chances and high-danger opportunities than just about every other team in the league.

Add it up and I’ll take the Canadiens to continue their early-season surge and win this one on the moneyline tonight.

The Bet
CANADIENS
-125
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Brenton Kemp / Author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.

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