Jets vs. Senators Odds
|Time||Monday, 7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via FanDuel|
I can keep a secret if you can.
If you don’t tell my Action Network editors about this, I won’t. They don’t need to know how simple the handicapping is, at this point in the season. We don’t have to tell them that it’s as simple as finding a team that cares about winning games and is in good form, then just riding them until the season’s conclusion.
Another option is finding a team that doesn’t have a particularly deep level of desperation with just a handful of games left.
So when two teams that fit these opposing bills square off, it’s an easy decision on who to bet on. Now, winning that bet is a different story, as we found out on Saturday.
The Winnipeg Jets have been lined up for a first-round playoff meeting with Connor McDavid and the Oilers for seemingly weeks now, and the lack of urgency has shown in losing six straight games.
The record is one thing, but the play is another. Winnipeg has only averaged 1.5 expected goals (xG) at even-strength in the six games, while its opponents have been good for 1.97 xG on average at 5-on-5. On top of that, the Jets allowed 17 more high-danger chances at even-strength.
Those metrics aren’t actually all that different from the Jets’ standard. For the season, their rate is at just under 8% below-average at even-strength according to my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model. So while the skid has seen them play at 13% below-average, Winnipeg kind of used to winning anyway.
One of the key reasons the Jets have been able to do that over the past two seasons is because Connor Hellebuyck has been one of the top-three goaltenders in the NHL. April, though, was a different story.
Hellebuyck struggled with a 3.05 goals-against average (GAA) and a .898 save percentage (SV%), both well below both his standard and the league average. Maybe he’s feeling the effects of a heavy workload in this season’s dense schedule, but his backup, Laurent Brossoit appears to be getting the start on Monday night against the Ottawa Senators. Normally, a night off from Hellebuyck would be worth celebrating, but in this case it might be a small reprieve for the Jets.
Offensively, the news might be worse. The Jets are normally very good at converting their relatively few high-danger chances at even-strength, doing so at an above-league-average rate. You would expect a six-game losing streak to be the result of that rate dropping during a small sample size. That hasn’t been the case, as the Jets are still scoring at better than 15%, with six goals in those 39 HDC. They’ve scored just four other goals in their last six games, going 1-for-14 on the power play. Averaging just over two power plays earned per game is of great concern for a team that’s fourth in the NHL with the man-advantage.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
Whether it was their four-game series with the Canucks that eventually ended with the Senators being favored for the first (and likely only) time this season, or their metrics that make them decidedly better than the market has given credit for, the Senators saw their moneyline price move 50 cents from an early open of +180 all the way down to +130 on Saturday night in Montreal.
This looked to be validated when they took a 2-0 lead in the third period over the Canadiens. Unfortunately for Ottawa, the Habs battled back with a big third period for the second night in a row, forcing overtime and then getting the winner from future Montreal star (hopefully) Cole Caufield, who deftly redirected a pass for his first career goal. It was a heart-breaking loss for the Sens but not one that should put the brakes on the heart they showed in April.
The Senators went to Montreal and accumulated 12 high-danger chances to the Habs’ 10, and they nearly improved upon a 6-2 stretch that my model rated at almost 17% above average at even-strength. Filip Gustavsson didn’t give up a goal on any of those 10 chances, and 36 of the 39 shots.
Four different Sens goaltenders have combined to stop 53 of 55 high-danger chances. This is a critical note for a team whose skaters deserved better early in the season, playing at a level that wasn’t met by their goaltenders. The Senators goaltenders had a collective 4.89 GAA and .848 SV% in January, but have gradually improved to 2.79 and .920, respectively.
On the offensive side, Ottawa’s young core is finding the back of the net more than they have all season. After averaging 2.53 goals per game from January through March, the Sens scored 3.21 goals on average in April. Since the first of April, the Senators are converting high-danger chances at 15.4%, which is above the league average of 14%. The talent that was finding it difficult to score on their best chances is finally doing so, with more experience.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Whether it’s high-danger conversion rates on offense or recent goaltending stats and metrics, the Senators’ recent numbers look very familiar to those of the Jets of late. Using the season-long numbers, my model makes this game just shy of a 50/50 proposition, so we don’t even need to pare down the numbers to recent subsets in order to find value in the Senators.
On top of that, these teams met two weeks ago in Ottawa and the Senators outplayed the Jets over two games at even-strength, 2.87-2.53 xG on 5-on-5. They split the two games, but Sens backers came out in the black thanks to their home underdog price in both.
Anything better than +115 is worth a play on Ottawa as they have shown an interest in finishing the season strong, whereas the Jets seem to be looking for the playoffs to start so they can get some urgency back in their game.
Pick: Senators +142 (play down to +115)