Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:45 AM EST
7:35 PM EST. OT included. Montreal is coming off a hard fought 2-1 OT loss to the Hurricanes but nonetheless, it was a valuable point and the going gets so much easier here against the Panthers. Montreal is playing at an extremely high level and has been since the season started. They are an analytical beast that leads the NHL in Corsi For % during five-on-play, thus meaning that no team possesses the puck more than the Habs. Montreal’s defense is solid, its goaltending is also rock solid and its offense creates, ranking fourth behind Toronto, Calgary and Vegas in Scoring Chances For over the past eight weeks. That’s the skinny on the Habs in a crucial match in their Cathedral Palace in Montreal. The Canadiens will be ready.
Florida played last night and lost 7-5 in Toronto. That score is flattering to the Panthers, as they scored five goals because Toronto’s defense is getting worse by the week. Had Florida played anyone else last night not named Ottawa, they likely would’ve lost 7-2. Incidentally, Florida lost 7-3 to Boston the game prior. Florida’s offense is capable but its defense and attention to details are about as bad as it gets. We’re not sure if the Panthers are tired after a long year, badly coached or are just not committed enough but it’s one odd man rush after another against them. We have seriously not seen more open ice against a team than we have against the Panthers over the past month or longer.
Last night, Sam Montembeault started in goal for Florida and was yanked after allowing two goals on Toronto’s first four shots about four minutes in. In 50 years of watching this sport, I cannot recall ever seeing a goalie yanked so quickly. In any event, Roberto Luongo played the remaining 56 minutes and if Luongo starts tonight, that’s a lot of rubber. He’s also 40 years old and not very good. If the Panthers start Montembeault, even better, as the kid is messed up in the head after embarrassingly being pulled after four lousy minutes. We doubt pulling the kid so quickly endeared the coach to anyone on that Panthers bench in such a meaningless game. Finally, the Panthers will play their fifth game in seven days, third in four and tail end of back-to-backs. The fatigued and frustrated Florida Panthers just want to clean out their lockers already while the Habs are itching to play well into April. If Montreal doesn’t score six times here, we’d be surprised.
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MONTREAL -1½ +145 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.90)