Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:00 PM EST.
7:05 PM EST. OT included. After a disastrous Western Conference road trip that saw Montreal plummet to the bottom three in the NHL standings, the team departed for Philadelphia with two major pieces also making the trip. Both Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw rejoined their teammates after extended absences -- Danault due to a serious concussion after he took a Zdeno Chara slap-shot to the head, while Shaw has been out since before the All-Star break recovering from an undisclosed lower body injury. it looks like Danault might be ready for game action, as he was slotted into his usual spot in the lineup at the morning practice.
Montreal’s first three practice lines were:
The Habs are losing a lot of games lately but it’s not because they’ve been playing poorly. It’s because Carey Price has been brutally awful the entire season, as he ranks 58th out of 66 qualified goaltenders in Goals Saved Above Average. In its aforementioned three-game losing streak in Colorado, Arizona and Vegas, Montreal went 0-3 but played well enough to go 3-0, as they outshot Colorado 44-25, outshot Arizona 36-21 and lost the shots on net battle to Vegas by one lousy shot, 34-33 but significantly won the 5v5 Corsi For % over Vegas, 64-45. In fact, the Habs have dominated the 5v5 Score and Venue Adjusted Corsi For % in six straight games but all they have to show for it is one victory because their goaltenders, both Price and Antti Niemi have been awful. Price was sharp in one game over that span, a 3-2 OT loss in Nashville, while Niemi was also sharp in one game, a 2-0 loss in Colorado. The Habs dominated both those games. Montreal ranks #1 in the NHL in xGF% over the past five weeks. So, what the market will see here is a Montreal team that they perceive is playing poorly and that has lost five straight and five of six. What we see is a Montreal team playing its best hockey of the year getting back a key piece or two and that is playing one of the most overvalued teams in the game right now.
Before we discuss the Flyers, it should be noted that they’ve added some goaltending depth with the absences of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, as Petr Mrazek comes over from the Red Wings in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and a conditional third-round pick in 2019. Mrazek has had an up-and-down year with Detroit. In the first three months of the season, he posted a GAA of 3.64 with a .892 SV%, numbers that are well below average. He has turned things around considerably since then. In his past 11 games, he has cut his GAA down to 2.29 and upped his SV% to a strong .925. As a result, he had started to wrestle away starts from Jimmy Howard as of late. Although his form is good right now, we’ve seen Mrazek choke to pieces when being handed the #1 role before. The Flyers are in a fight for the playoffs and Mrazek instantly becomes the #1 goaltender for now. We’re not going to back or fade Philadelphia because of it and will take a wait and see approach instead.
Philadelphia won 7-4 in New York on Sunday afternoon but pretty it was not. Had King Henrik not crapped the bed again, the Flyers would not have won. They were badly outplayed for stretches and even lost the shots on net battle, 40-37. That was the eighth straight game that the Flyers have picked up at least a point but there are warning signs all over the place. Philadelphia has allowed 40, 36, 36 and 39 shots on net in its last four games respectively. What makes that even more disturbing is that they have only had to kill four penalties combined over those four games. The Flyers have the fifth worst 5v5 Corsi Against/60 in the league over the past five weeks. Five of Philadelphia’s last eight games have gone into OT. The other three games over its current eight game point streak came in Vegas in which they were outshot 39-18 but won 4-1, at home against these same Habs in which Philly lost the 5v5 Corsi For % battle 54.09% to 31.63 but won 5-3 and Sunday’s aforementioned game in New York where once again, Philadelphia was the second best team on the ice. The Flyers are a massive risk at prices like this, period and it’s also worth noting that Wayne Simmonds, one of Philadelphia’s best players both talent and energy wise is on the rack for the next two or three weeks. Man, are the Habs ever underpriced here.
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Montreal +125 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.50)