It was nice to get the season started with a winner at we hit out Lightning -1.5 puckline pick at +105 odds.
Considering that line opened at +140 and moved all the way to -106 come puck drop, it was obvious where the money was flowing in and the Lightning, as expected, blew up the Blackhawks to the tune of a 5-1 final with the ‘Hawks avoiding the goose egg in the game’s final minutes.
We’ll take the plus-money winner and move onto tonight’s 10-game slate as we take a look at the Canucks vs. Oilers in the second half of a back-to-back from Edmonton!
- Season Record: 1-0
- Units: +1.05
Canucks vs. Oilers Betting Odds
- Canucks (+113)
- Oilers (-125)
- Canucks +1.5 (-240)
- Oilers -1.5 (+200)
- Over 6 (-130)
- Under 6 (+118)
Canucks vs. Oilers NHL Pick Breakdown
It was a quality offensive debut for the Canucks last night as they hung five goals on the Oilers on the heels of finishing eighth in overall offense last season and fourth on the power play.
The Canucks scored all five of their goals at even strength, however, at least two of which came via mental breakdowns or the inability of the Oilers to get the puck out of their own net.
We knew the big boys would produce for the Canucks this season, and they did in this one. Brock Boeser scored twice, Bo Horvat has a goal and an assist and Quinn Hughes racked up a pair of helpers himself. What we didn’t know is where they would get their secondary scoring from.
In his NHL debut, Nils Hoglander impressed on a line with Horvat and Tanner Pearson, recording his first career NHL goal while bottom-six forward Adam Gaudette restored a one-goal lead for the Canucks early in the third.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 14, 2021
Still, I’m not exactly convinced. The top line of Boeser, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller (when he returns to the lineup) is deadly, the Horvat-led second line will produce. However, the bottom six is a big concern from an offensive standpoint and Hughes will mostly act alone as the team’s lone impact scorer from the back end.
Of course, they get the job done in spades on Opening Night but I’ll be interested to see how the secondary scoring works itself out as the sample size grows.
The Canucks lost top-four defenseman Chris Tanev to the rival Calgary Flames in free agency, but also added Nate Schmidt via trade and signed former Flame Travis Hamonic to a one-year deal during training camp.
The Canucks’ defense was able to keep Connor McDavid off the score sheet last night and limited Leon Draisaitl to just one assist. When you’re playing the Oilers and that’s the end result from the game’s best one-two punch, your chances of winning improve substantially.
Hamonic did take a pair of penalties, however, one on a partial breakaway for McDavid that arguably could have resulted in a penalty shot. He didn’t look great in his Canucks debut, but that’s to be expected after spending much of the offseason in free agent limbo before signing a late deal during a short camp.
The Canucks back end will remain a concern for me with Tanev’s departure. He was their best defensive defenseman last season and a shot-blocking machine. Even with his services (and Jacob Markstrom in goal), the Canucks tied for 19th in overall defense last season, but graded far worse analytically.
At 5v5 a season ago, the Canucks ranked 27th in expected goals against/60, 30th in scoring chances against/60 and 20th in high-danger chances against/60. Tanev’s advanced metrics weren’t great last season either, but his presence might be missed over a player such as Hamonic.
Gone is Markstrom, and Braden Holtby made 28 saves on 31 shots in last night’s win (.903 Sv%). As a result, it should be Thatcher Demko’s crease in the rematch this evening.
The 25-year-old got his first extended taste of NHL action last year as Markstrom’s full-time backup, but also took over the No. 1 job when Markstrom briefly left the team for a personal issue.
The end result was subpar last season, and it was a fairly wild ride to that point with good months mixed in with bad months, but the bad outweighed the good for the most part.
As he and Holtby likely share the crease in what I believe will be close to a 50/50 split all else being equal, Demko’s production will need to improve if this Canucks team boasts postseason aspirations.
As noted, McDavid was held in check last night, missing the scoresheet despite putting five shots on goal in the loss. His line as a whole didn’t look great alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Kassian, but McDavid had a pair of excellent scoring chances, one denied by Hamonic’s hooking penalty on a partial break.
How many times was McDavid held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games last season? That would be twice in 64 games. Once from October 18-22 and again from Dec. 18-20. Otherwise, he avoided back-to-back pointless efforts in his other 59 games in that time.
While his line didn’t look great, the Dominik Kahun/Leon Draisaitl/Kailer Yamamoto line clicked, and many expected it would. Draisaitl and Yamamoto displayed big-time chemistry last season en route to an Art Ross and Hart Trophy for the former, but fellow German Kahun meshed well with Draisaitl in his Oilers debut. Kahun and Draisaitl played minor hockey together growing up in Germany, so their chemistry had been expected by those close to the team.
— Alykhan Khamisa Ravjiani (@AlykhanKR) January 14, 2021
We’ll see how the secondary scoring shakes out here too, however. Two of the team’s three goals came from defensemen last night and the power play went 0 for 4 after leading the league with a 29.5% clip a season ago. Maybe it takes some time for Tyson Barrie to click on that top unit with the Oilers big boys or maybe they’ll miss Oscar Klefbom there as well. That we don’t know yet after just one game.
I do expect something like a multi-point effort from 97 in this one, but we’ll see how if the bottom-six can deliver some results in support.
As I mentioned earlier, the Canucks capitalize on some Oilers miscues as part of their five-goal output last night, nothing more obvious than the first one.
Three Oilers sweaters converged on puck-carrier Tanner Pearson before he dished it to a wide open Bo Horvat who had ample time to beat Koskinen to open the scoring, forcing the Oilers to chase the game from that point on.
— Harman Dayal (@harmandayal2) January 14, 2021
I might be beating a dead horse at this point as I wrote extensively about this in the offseason, but this team is going to miss Klefbom in a big way on that back end.
Their No. 1 blueline horse thanked fifth while averaging 25:25 of average ice time per game, led the league with 180 blocked shots and was on pace for a career-high in points before the season was cut short. His absence was blatantly obvious in last night’s affair and could remain that way for some time as Dave Tippett and his defense continue to work on their structure.
Barrie was mostly brought in to replace Klefbom on the top power play group, but Adam Larsson was at fault on the Horvat goal and will need to be far better moving forward.
He and Darnell Nurse are major x-factors this season as the anchors of their top-four that was certainly exposed last night.
Mikko Koskinen started strong before the defensive breakdowns took place and wound up stopping just 30 of 35 shots en route to an .875 Sv%. Now, it’s Mike Smith’s turn at the Canucks.
Smith was retained this offseason despite working to a 2.95 GAA and .902 Sv% in 39 appearances last season, and for what it’s worth he was worse at home where he posted a 3.08 GAA and .900 Sv% in 18 games.
Like Demko, it was a wild ride to those results. Smith was excellent in October, brutal in November and December, back to very good in January-February and terrible in March. In all honesty, it’s difficult to know what you’re getting from the 38-year-old at this point, but if anything we can expect inconsistency.
Canucks vs. Oilers NHL Pick
There was only one goal scored in the first period of last night’s game, but the flood gates opened from there as seven goals were scored in the final 40 minutes of the game.
On last night’s schedule as a whole, the average goal total was 7.4 goals per game across the five Opening-Night contests, and three of the five went over the total, including the Canucks/Oilers matchup.
Given the short training camps and zero exhibitions games, it was blatantly clear that many teams struggled with their defensive structure and general sloppiness ran supreme. That was certainly the case with this Oilers back end, and their second-best goalie gets the nod in the rematch tonight.
With my expectation that McDavid will return with a bang tonight while the Draisaitl line’s chemistry hums along, I’m not arguing against the Oilers on the moneyline here. That said, I simply cannot trust this defense and Smith at this juncture.
McDavid and Draisaitl could score all they want, but if the same Oilers defense shows up tonight as last night, the Canucks could have a field day again themselves.
This is a much weaker Oilers defense without Klefbom, and I’m certainly not sold on the Canucks back end or either of these goaltenders who both posted subpar numbers a season ago.
I do, however, trust the big boys up front on each side to take advantage of defensive sloppiness early in the season, so give me the Over 6 at -130.