It’s been a tough go of late in a league that’s been difficult to handicap in the early going.
If you look across the results from last night, 10 of the 13 games finished as one-goal affairs and only one of the 13 contests was won by more than two goals. That’s just how close this league is at the moment.
We were involved with a pair of one-goal affairs and lost both by 3-2 scores despite leading 2-1 in each game at one point.
The Rangers scored early and carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but a two-goal second was all the Sabres would need in a 3-2 upset win.
We also had the Islanders up on the Capitals 2-1 midway through that contest. It was a 2-2 score late, and after killing off a five-minute major penalty, the Islanders surrendered the go-ahead goal with less than 30 seconds left, dropping that one 3-2 as well.
The losses cost us 2.33 units as we slip deeper into negative territory on the season.
We’ve been victimized by some poor luck early, but that will turn around as we look towards this Senators vs. Canucks NHL pick from Vancouver!
- Season Record: 6-10
- Units: -4.98
Senators vs. Canucks Betting Odds
- Senators (+139)
- Canucks (-154)
- Senators +1.5 (-183)
- Canucks -1.5 (+163)
- Over 6.5 (-102)
- Under 6.5 (-108)
Senators vs. Canucks NHL Pick Breakdown
The Senators upgraded their offense throughout the offseason between trades, free agency and the draft.
They acquired the likes of Derek Stepan, Austin Watson and Cedric Pacquette via trades, signed Evgenii Dadonov as their highest-profile free-agent addition and drafted German winger Tim Stutzle with the third overall pick in October.
The result have yet to show, however as the Sens currently sit tied for 24th with just 2.50 goals per game on the season and their 12% power play is doing them no favors, either.
Dadonov was brought in with an eye on improving that man advantage after scoring 11 power play goals with the Florida Panthers last season, but that just hasn’t come to fruition early in the season.
That said, their fortunes appear bound to improve at even strength, at least. At 5v5 this season, the Sens rank 11th in terms of scoring chances for/60, fifth in high-danger chances for/60 and 13th in expected goals for/60, as per Natural Stat Trick.
After taking their fifth straight loss via a 7-1 beatdown from the Canucks on Monday, head coach D.J. Smith vowed to switch things up a little bit of front, and it appears Colin White will get back into the lineup for this one, apparently at the expense of fellow center Artem Anisimov. Alex Galchenyuk has also seen his role diminish in a hurry as he continues to drag his feet at the NHL level.
Whatever the case may be personnel-wise, the Sens’ offense should certainly have a fire lit underneath them for this one after that embarrassing rout on Monday night.
As much as this offense could possibly improve, the defense isn’t likely to be any good, not this season, at least.
No one has allowed more than the 4.50 goals per game the Senators have allowed this season and they’ve allowed an average of 5.25 goals per game over their last four, all of which have resulted in losses.
While the forward group has produced metrics that suggest positive regression, it appears this Senators defense is right where it should be.
At 5v5 this season, the Sens rank 27th in scoring chances against/60, and 25th in both high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60. Maybe those aren’t league-worst numbers like their surface number is, but they sure don’t look pretty here in the early stages of the season.
Not helping matters is their 76.9% penalty kill that might sit tied for 16th at the moment, but is still a very poor number.
At the end of the day, this group was expected to struggle. The team has elite young blueliner Thomas Chabot at the top of the defensive depth chart, but the off-season additions of Erik Gudbranson, Brayden Coburn and Josh Brown were never going to be difference-making moves. Rather, they allow Brown and fellow youngster Erik Brannstrom time to develop while the fifth overall selection of Jake Sanderson will help in due time.
For now, this Senators blueline is struggling and Monday’s romp was a clear indication of just that.
It’s tough to blame the Senators’ goaltending for their defensive woes, but they certainly haven’t helped.
Smith opted to allow Matt Murray to battle through his struggles on Monday, which could theoretically line up Marcus Hogberg for his second start of the season. Of late, however, it hasn’t mattered who is in goal for this team.
In five starts this season, Murray is the not-so-proud owner of a ghastly 4.47 GAA and .862 Sv%, going 1-3-1 in the process. Hogberg wasn’t any better in his lone outing of the season in Winnipeg last week, allowing five goals on 40 shots in that one, good for an .875 Sv%.
My guess would be Hogberg for this start, and he owns a career 3.28 GAA and .900 Sv% across 30 NHL appearances across parts of three seasons. He worked to a subpar 3.05 GAA and .897 Sv% in 15 games in the American Hockey League last season and a similar 3.12 GAA and .904 Sv% in 24 NHL appearances as well.
Whoever is in goal for the Sens this season will largely be in tough behind one of the league’s worst defense corps.
The Canucks offense got back on track with seven goals on Monday, but one of the main takeaways from that effort – besides the Brandon Sutter hat trick – was a pointless night from both Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.
Boeser has four goals in his eight games this season, but Pettersson’s struggles have been the focal point of the hockey world in Vancouver as he has just one goal and two points in eight games and certainly looks off his game from both the eye test and advanced metrics where he usually excels.
Depth scoring was a question mark heading into the season, but it was all depth scoring on Monday while Bo Horvat has been the team’s best forward to this point.
With the blowout, the Canucks sit tied for 10th with 3.25 goals per game on the season, but have yet to see their fifth-ranked power play from last season return as they own a measly 12.9% clip in that department to this point.
The Canucks more or less deserve their offensive fate so far, ranking 12th in scoring chances for/60, 16th in high-danger chances for/60 and 14th in expected goals for/60 at 5v5. Of course, a return of that power play would certainly help, but that group isn’t going to be nearly as potent until Pettersson finds his confidence.
That said, while he was held pointless on Monday, this is again a fantastic matchup for the 22-year-old Swede to get things straightened out before it’s too late.
I’ve already harped on the Senators defense in this piece, but there’s a strong case to be made that this Canucks group is worse.
After all, their 4.25 goals against per game sits 30th, only worse than the Sens while it’s Vancouver who ranks dead last while allowing 36.4 shots per game on the season. Unfortunately, the last-place rankings for this back end don’t stop there.
At 5v5, the Canucks rank last in both scoring chances against/60 and expected goals against/60. They rank 30th in high-danger chances against/60 as well. In other words, according to the advanced metrics, they’ve been the worst defensive team in the NHL so far this season.
I didn’t expect them to be this poor, but I expected them to struggle.
This is a defense that tied for 19th last season while producing some weak advanced numbers, and a group that lost a rock-solid top-four defender in Chris Tanev, not to mention their MVP from a season ago in netminder Jacob Markstrom.
They acquired defenseman Nate Schmidt in a trade with Vegas and signed veterans Travis Hamonic and Braden Holtby, but there was no way those players were going to replace what the team lost on the back end.
It appears an uninspiring offseason from general manager Jim Benning has come back to bite his club early in the 2021 campaign.
Like with the Sens, the Canucks goaltenders aren’t to blame for their poor defensive numbers this season. They too have been under siege, but neither have been all too reliable in the early going.
Thatcher Demko earned the win in his best effort of the season on Monday, turning aside 35 of 36 Senators shots in that one. That said, that work only improved his resume to a 4.33 GAA and .890 Sv% on the young season.
For his part, Holtby hasn’t been any better, turning in a 3.70 GAA and .888 Sv% himself in four starts. Each goaltender has made four starts, and while we don’t have confirmed goaltenders for this one, I’d be surprised if Demko doesn’t go again as the Canucks should absolutely be rolling with the hot hand in goal at this juncture.
Demko is coming off that fine effort, but as noted, has been inconsistent this season, as he was last year en route to a 3.06 GAA and .905 Sv% across 27 appearances. He owns a 3.15 GAA and .904 Sv% in 41 career NHL games.
While he’s just 25 and appears to be the team’s goaltender of the future, the decision to allow Markstrom to walk could be the single-biggest dagger in the Canucks’ back this season.
Senators vs. Canucks NHL Pick
Sometimes picks seem too obvious, but I’ve always stuck with the research and what the numbers tell me, and right now they tell us we have two of the worst defenses in the NHL so far this season in this one, both on the surface and underneath the hood.
Neither team has benefited from consistent goaltending and both teams are allowing scoring chances by the bushel.
I’d also be surprised if tonight isn’t Pettersson’s coming out party. This is one of the game’s best young talents and a player that accumulated 132 points across 139 games in his first two seasons in the NHL, beginning at the age of 20. His start has been poor and the advanced data confirms it, but you’re just not going to keep this guy down much longer and the opportunity to break out doesn’t get much better than tonight.
Until these two teams clean things up defensively, I have no choice but to expect another high-scoring affair, so give me the over 6.5 tonight from Vancouver.