The Action Network: Canadiens vs. Golden Knights, Game 5 odds, analysis

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The Action Network is providing NHL.com readers with odds and analysis for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Today, a look at Game 5 of the Semifinals between the Montreal Canadiens and the Vegas Golden Knights.

Canadiens at Golden Knights Game 5 odds 

Canadiens Odds: +195
Golden Knights Odds: -230
Over/Under: 5
Time: 9 p.m. ET

Note: If you’re new to betting, the Golden Knights’ -230 odds mean a $230 bet would profit $100 if they win the game. Conversely, the Canadiens’ +195 odds mean a $100 bet would net $195. Convert odds using The Action Network’s Betting Odds Calculator.

Considering how stacked the odds were against the Canadiens coming into their Stanley Cup Semifinal best-of-7 with the Vegas Golden Knights, you’d think that a 2-2 series score line would be a victory for the Habs. When you’re a big underdog, dragging the series as deep as possible is almost always a good thing. But you can’t help but feel that the Canadiens may be left ruing the opportunities they had to get back to Vegas up 3-1.

After escaping with an overtime victory in Game 3, the Habs put together a terrific performance in Game 4. Montreal won the expected goals battle, 3.24 to 2.32, in all situations and 3.04 to 1.84 at 5-on-5. Those kind of numbers usually translate to a win, but hockey is a beautifully-cruel sport and on Sunday night they weren’t good enough thanks to Robin Lehner.

Lehner, who hadn’t started a game since allowing seven goals on 37 shots in a Game 1 loss against the Avalanche in the second round, was superb in his return to the crease, stopping 27 of 28 shots keeping the Knights in the game long enough for them to draw even on a third-period goal from Brayden McNabb. According to MoneyPuck, Lehner posted a +2.24 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in Game 4 and his performance now sets up an interesting subplot in this series.

Will Peter DeBoer roll with Lehner or go back to Marc-Andre Fleury? No matter who he chooses, I wouldn’t overreact to it and I doubt that the betting market will either. Fleury has been sensational since this season started, but Lehner’s numbers were also solid in 2021 as the veteran netminder posted a +4.96 GSAx in 19 appearances. There is no wrong choice between Lehner and Fleury, so any big line movement off of DeBoer’s goaltending decision would be an overreaction.

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. xG numbers and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

What we do know — or at least presume — based off how this series has gone is that whoever is in net for Vegas will need to be on his game. Surprisingly, the Habs have been the team that has been driving play at 5-on-5. The Knights may have the edge, 10-7, in 5-on-5 scoring but the Habs have created 16 more high-danger scoring chances and have a 9.03 to 7.9 advantage in terms of expected goals at even strength. 

Part of Montreal’s stellar play can be chalked up to the injury to Vegas’ No. 1 center Chandler Stephenson, but it is still impressive to see the Canadiens take it to one of the league’s best 5-on-5 teams. The betting market seems to have taken note, too, as the price on the Habs has come down from where it was for Game 1:

Game 1: Golden Knights -275/Canadiens +220
Game 2: Golden Knights -250/Canadiens +200
Game 5: Golden Knights -250/Canadiens +195

It is fun to ponder where these odds would be had Montreal been able to hold onto its lead and close out Game 4. Casual bettors are typically results-based, so it is fair to think that, had the Habs won on Sunday night, the price on the Canadiens would have dropped even further.

Nonetheless, the Habs still remain a big underdog in Game 5 and to win the series. According to implied win probability, Montreal’s +195 odds for Game 5 translate to a 33.9% chance of winning and its +240 series moneyline gives the Habs a 29.4% chance of advancing. Those numbers may seem a bit jarring considering how well the Canadiens have played through the first four games, but when you compare them to where the Habs were sitting before the series you start to see that this team is starting to earn respect from bookmakers. 

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Michael Leboff covers the NHL and more at The Action Network — a sports media company that builds products and creates content to inform and entertain the sports bettor.

Listen: NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast with guest Michael Leboff of The Action Network

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