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NHL weekend betting guide: Is it time for the Canucks to panic?

Derek Cain / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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The weekend NHL betting guide returns with a question: "What's going on with the Canucks?"

Vancouver has been the biggest surprise this season from a betting perspective, as its market rating got cranked up within a few weeks.

Before the season, the market assigned the Canucks an expectation of 89 regular-season points - a number that would have them on the outside looking into the playoffs and rated them marginally below average. By the All-Star break, they were considered 15% better than an average team.

As March begins, Vancouver is headed toward comfortably cashing tickets on the over for regular-season point totals. However, the Canucks' first 50-plus games have altered the hope threshold in the Lower Mainland. With a 10-point lead in the division, no one should be freaking out in the dressing room like Will Ferrell's character did in the movie "Old School." However, when projecting forward into the playoffs, we should look at how they've played recently compared to those first 55 games.

Let's evaluate their expected goals share (xG%), high-danger chance share (HDC%), high-danger conversion rate at even strength (HDCV%), and power play:

Before Feb. 16 51.8 50.6 16.8 42
Since Feb. 16 51.2 55.8 9.1 4

The Canucks' xG% hasn't changed significantly, and they've been even better than their opponents at generating high-danger chances. However, the scorers have gone from being able to convert those high-danger looks at a rate well above league-average (12.5%) to well below. When people talk about regression due to sample size, this is what they mean.

The Canucks are a talented enough group that they should convert more than 12.5% of their even-strength HDC, and even with this recent downturn, they're still clicking at 15.9% for the season.

With 42 power-play goals in the first 55 games, they were averaging a goal with the man advantage in 76.4% of their games. More recently, they've added a goal in 57.1% of those seven contests. Meanwhile, their opponents have nine power-play goals in that stretch.

Using their early metrics, which we saw as a shade above 50%, the Canucks weren't the best team in the NHL despite the standings points rolling in. High conversion rates on one end, combined with great goaltending, always mask any deficiencies. Thatcher Demko provided 25.83 goals saved above expectation (GSAx), and even backup Casey DeSmith was above average at 3.27 in limited work.

However, in the last seven games, Demko has a GSAx of -3.63, and DeSmith's lone start in Minnesota was a borderline disaster (-4.25 GSAx).

While it might seem complicated for those who aren't as comfortable with the numbers, it's rather simple. For the Canucks to be successful come playoff time, their high-end talent has to score at an above-average rate, and - surprise - you need good-to-great goaltending. Neither of those has happened in this seven-game stretch, but the sample size isn't big enough for anyone in B.C. to lose their composure.

The cheat sheet

The dirty little secret in the betting world is that, while there are no bad bets at the right price, the discovery process of what a good price looks like is hidden.

Each week, we balance market information from regular-season point totals and in-season advanced metrics - with an even-strength focus - to determine the win probability for each team and the moneyline needed to bet on either side. The idea is to remove the cognitive bias of win-loss records, which can be skewed by outliers like special-team results, poor goaltending performances, and other unreliable events.

You can use whatever parameters you like to decide how much of an edge you need to trigger a bet, but here are mine:

  • True line favorite of -111 or longer: 1%
  • True line between -110 and +110: 2.5%
  • True line underdog of +111 or longer: 4%

I also have a 5% win probability consideration for a team playing in the second game of a back-to-back with travel and a 3% consideration for the second leg of a home back-to-back. When it comes to injured players, an estimation is made on the player's impact on their team's win probability.

When the betting markets open up the night before, you can compare those prices with our "price to bet" column to see if you're getting any value with either side's moneyline. There's a possibility that a moneyline moves into a bet-friendly range at some point between the market opening and puck drop.

Mar. 1 PHI@WSH 47.3/52.7 PHI +131/WSH -107
ARI@OTT 34.3/65.7 ARI +230/OTT -183
NJD@ANA 70.3/29.7 NJD -225/ANA +289
Mar. 2 WPG@CAR 34.7/65.3 WPG +225/CAR -180
FLA@DET 59.3/40.7 FLA -140/DET +173
EDM@SEA 57.5/42.5 EDM -130/SEA +160
COL@NSH 56.9/43.1 COL -127/NSH +156
MIN@STL 54.3/45.7 MIN -114/STL +140
VGK@BUF 46.0/54.0 VGK +138/BUF -113
NYR@TOR 42.8/57.2 NYR +158/TOR -128
OTT@PHI 54.2/45.8 OTT -114/PHI +139
MTL@TB 32.4/67.6 MTL +252/TB -200
BOS@NYI 51.1/48.9 BOS +106/NYI +115
SJS@DAL 19.5/80.5 SJS +547/DAL -389
CBJ@CHI 49.1/50.9 CBJ +115/CHI +107
PIT@CGY 49.1/50.9 PIT +115/CGY +106
Mar. 3 ARI@WSH 45.9/54.1 ARI +139/WSH -113
NJD@LAK 47.9/52.1 NJD +120/LAK +101
WPG@BUF 43.5/56.5 WPG +153/BUF -124
SJS@MIN 27.3/72.7 SJS +330/MIN -254
VAN@ANA 59.6/40.4 VAN -142/ANA +175
PIT@EDM 38.5/61.5 PIT +190/EDM -153

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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