NHL Odds, Picks and Predictions: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens (Friday, August 7)
Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jeff Petry
Penguins vs. Canadiens Game 4 Odds
|-162 [BET NOW]
|+138 [BET NOW]
|5.5 [BET NOW]
|Friday, 4 p.m. ET
We are one game away from the Pittsburgh Penguins being thrown into the NHL Draft Lottery. While the idea of consensus No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere joining forces with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is terrifying, it's hard for neutral parties not to be pulling for the Montreal Canadiens in this series.
The Habs were never going to make the postseason under normal circumstances and were the biggest underdogs in the qualifying round, so it's quite the story that Montreal has a 2-1 lead over Pittsburgh in this best-of-5.
It shouldn't be that surprising that Montreal is in this position. A best-of-5 series after a four-month hiatus really levels the playing field but the Habs were a better team than people — and the betting market — realized during the regular season.
Montreal finished the regular season with the third-best expected goals rate in the NHL and only Tampa and Vegas created more scoring xG per 60 minutes than Montreal. The Habs also ranked 10th in the NHL in xGA/60, so they weren’t all offense.
Only five teams spent more time with a lead than the Canadiens in 2019-20 and all of those teams finished inside the top four of their respective conference.
Those numbers tell you that Montreal could keep pace with the Penguins at 5-on-5 and if Carey Price played well, this series could go either way.
Price has certainly delivered on his end of the bargain and the Habs haven't been blown away at 5-on-5. In fact, Montreal has doubled up Pittsburgh in goals scored at even strength, even if the Penguins are generating more scoring chances.
In short, the Penguins may be controlling play but Montreal is keeping it close enough and with Price playing well, the Habs are able to hang around and turn each game into a coin flip. Montreal has essentially been one mistake or soft goal away from winning each of the first three games.
|5-on-5 Goals For
|5-on-5 Expected Goals For
|5-on-5 Shot Attempts
|5-on-5 High-Danger Scoring Chances
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.
Stats cited from Natural Stat Trick.
The betting history for this series has been pretty stable. The Habs have closed in the +140/145 range at most sportsbooks each game with the Pens coming back as a -165/-170 favorite.
I wouldn't expect anything different for Game 4, though I would expect Pittsburgh to take most of the action since bettors will have a tough time believing that the Penguins could be ousted not with a bang, but a whimper.
Odds via DraftKings
I've got no issues going back to the well with Montreal again at this price. The Habs are good enough at 5-on-5 to keep this game close and if Price stays on song, there's no reason to believe this series can't end on Friday afternoon.
I'd try your best to get the best number possible on the Habs and that may mean waiting until closer to puck drop but anything in the +140 range is a solid bet in my opinion.