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Posted at 1:20 PM EST.
7:35 PM EST. Regulation only. Minnesota will conclude its brief, three game trip here after winning in Toronto on Thursday and Ottawa on Saturday, both by 4-3 scores. The Wild were outshot in Toronto 41-34 out-chanced, 31-24 and then were badly out-chanced in Ottawa, 28-15 during 5-on5 play, That’s a 2-0 record when they deserved to be 0-2. Over the last month, covering 12 games, the Wild rank 20th out of 30 teams in Expected Goals for per 60 minutes (xGF/60). It’s the same story for Minnesota every year. They an average team that works hard and has a decent enough season to make the playoffs before getting knocked out in the first round. In other words, when the opposition shows up and their goaltending isn’t standing on its head, the Wild are very beatable.
By contrast, the Habs are very difficult to beat. Saturday night the Habs were a bigger favorite against Nashville than they are here and that cannot be. The Habs went on to lose that game 4-1 but for whatever reason, they were flat. It was Montreal’s second game back from an exhausting six-game trip and they weren’t flat in the first game back so perhaps that explains it. Whatever the case, we’re sticking with it here. Montreal has tremendous numbers under the hood that ranks them top three in all key categories over the past month and also over the past two months.
Shea Weber returned to action on Nov. 27 and from that moment everything changed for Montreal. The Canadiens were already a strong possession team, but Weber’s return bumped the team up a notch, ranking second by Corsi in December behind only San Jose. It’s thanks to a relentless offensive pace the team plays at, firing 70 shot attempts per 60 for the month, nearly five more than the next best team. That epic shot volume was enough to give the team a top five goals rate for the month, doing so with a shooting percentage of just 8.6 percent. It’s actually difficult to find many holes in the roster from top to bottom with the only question remaining is if Carey Price can find a return to form because then this team might be really scary. We’re not going to let one game (against Nashville) prevent us from stepping right back in on the Habs at this bargain price.
Note: If Antti Niemi gets the start for Montreal, we’re still playing it.
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MONTREAL -½ +143 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.86)