NHL Odds, Preview, Pick: Canadiens vs. Lightning (December 28)
Canadiens vs. Lightning Odds
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After winning seven of eight games, the Lightning went into their break with back-to-back multi-goal losses, to Toronto and Detroit. They sit third in their division with a record of 20-11-1. The Canadiens have just one win in their last six games, and are 15-16-3 for the year.
Here's a preview on both sides, and the NHL odds and our pick for your best bet for Canadiens vs Lightning on Wednesday.
A Mixed Bag for the Canadiens
After finishing last in the NHL last season, it's an improvement for Montreal to be just one game below .500 at the Christmas break. Those results have come even though the Canadiens are near the bottom of the league in most key statistical categories — and at 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, they're trending downward.
The young core of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach has been carrying most of the offensive load. Behind a young defense, the goaltending tandem of Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault has been strong, with both stoppers at more than five goals saved above expected.
The Canadiens are kicking off their post-holiday schedule with a four-game road trip. They'll also face the Florida Panthers in Sunrise on Thursday, so the goaltenders will likely split the starts. Practice lines from Tampa on Tuesday suggest that Allen will get the nod against the Lightning.
The Canadiens are also dealing with some injury issues. Forward Brendan Gallagher, who has been out since the beginning of December with a lower-body injury, is with the team on the road trip. He practiced in a non-contact jersey on Tuesday.
Defensemen David Savard and Mike Matheson and forward Sean Monahan all stayed behind in Montreal. Defenseman Justin Barron, a first-round pick from 2020, was recalled from the AHL Laval Rocket on Tuesday for the first time this season.
Riding the Lightning
As we've seen over the past few seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a very good hockey team. After three long playoff runs over the last three years and some roster changes due to salary-cap limitations, their primary goal during the regular season is to snag a playoff spot while staying as healthy as possible.
So far, those goals are being accomplished. The Lightning are solid in terms of expected goals, sitting at 52.3% at 5-on-5. They're above the league average in scoring (3.59 goals per game) and defending (3.00 goals per game), their special teams are good, and Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing well, with 11.9 goals saved above expected.
Offensively, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are having scorching seasons. And now that Anthony Cirelli is back in the lineup, the Lightning have all their key players healthy.
The Lightning are also starting their post-holiday schedule with back-to-back games, hosting the New York Rangers on Thursday. That sets up a likely start for backup Brian Elliott against Montreal. He's 7-2-0 for the year, with an .894 save percentage, 3.31 goals-against average and 0.4 goals saved above expected. In his last start, Elliott gave up five goals on 29 shots in the Lightning's 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings right before the holiday break.
Canadiens vs. Lightning Pick
Thursday's game is the second of four between the Canadiens and the Lightning this season. On Dec. 17, Tampa Bay skated out of the Bell Centre with an easy 5-1 win, with Vasilevskiy and Allen between the pipes.
Teams can sometimes be a bit sluggish or out of rhythm after time off over the holidays. But if Elliott gets the nod for the Lightning as expected, that could set up a game with plenty of goal-scoring at both ends of the ice.
The Canadiens probably don't have the horses to get a win — especially with the Lightning sitting at 12-4-1 on home ice this season, and looking to re-set after sliding into the holidays with a couple of losses.
The potential for a high-scoring game makes the Over look like a tempting proposition on Wednesday night.
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