NHL Odds, Pick & Preview: Canadiens vs. Flames (March 3)
Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Gaudreau.
- The heavily favored Calgary Flames host the Montreal Canadiens in Thursday's NHL action.
- However, the visitors are playing with a much more potent offense under new coach Martin St. Louis.
- Nicholas Martin breaks down the contest below and shares his top selection.
Canadiens vs. Flames Odds
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
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The newfound energy around the Canadiens since the hiring of NHL legend Martin St. Louis has been palpable, and the result has been an above .500 record. The Canadiens had a five-game win streak snapped in a sloppy 8-4 affair Tuesday against Winnipeg.
They will look to get back to playing the role of spoiler on Thursday and will be in for a very stiff challenge playing against a Flames team that has won 11 consecutive games on home ice by an average of 3.45 goals.
Canadiens Building Momentum Under St. Louis
The Canadiens have quickly become a very watchable group again, ignited by a new presence behind the bench in St. Louis, who seems to be bringing some new-age takes to the team's style of play.
The Canadies have managed a 5-4-0 record with a 50.27 Expected Goals rate in the nine games since his addition. Considering how treacherous things had gotten, that's a pretty firm comment on how much he's inspired his group.
The main point behind this beyond even X's and O's seems to simply be that the team is enjoying coming to the rink again, as opposed to skating through a nightmare season waiting for game 82 to finish.
The duo of Josh Anderson and Cole Caufield is the most obvious example, with both now red-hot skating on a legitimate top line alongside Nick Suzuki. This trio has combined for 28 points in those nine games under St. Louis.
Defensively, the Habs have been considerably sharper but will face a very stiff test against a Flames team averaging 4.81 Goals For per game over the 11-game home winning streak.
Expect Andrew Hammond to start here for Montreal, who has been excellent this season over a tiny sample size of slightly over two games (came in late in relief Tuesday), posting a +3.0 Goals Saved Above Expected rating with a .939 Save %.
However Hammond is a 34-year-old who has posted steady numbers in the AHL the last two years. While it's easy to be happy for a likable guy finding success again after numerous seasons between starts at the NHL level, it's more likely he trends toward below average play.
Flames Offense on Fire
The Flames have been in wildly dominant form for over a month, and the recent home-and-home set with the Wild proved that. The Flames won on aggregate by 12-3, and all indications out of Minnesota's camp Tuesday indicate that the Wild were looking at the contest with a near playoff-level urgency.
The offense has been absolutely humming along, generating 3.52 Expected Goals per Game over their last eight and greatly outscoring that mark where it matters with 4.37 Goals For per Game.
Depth pieces behind the top trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm (who may compose the league's best unit) have continued to chip in more of late.
Tyler Toffoli has been the seamless fit many expected, with seven points in seven games with the Flames. He figures to be up for this one against his former mates.
This contest offers a great spot to start backup goaltender Dan Vladar for the Flames, who sit with a five-point lead atop the Pacific Division with two games in hand. I would argue playoff positioning is less crucial than overworking their clear top netminder in Jacob Markstrom.
Vladar has been more of a reliable backup this season than a -3.2 Goals Saved Above Expected rating and .903 Save % suggest. Both of those numbers were gashed by a couple awful team performances on an East Coast trip.
Canadiens vs. Flames Pick
Games in Calgary have produced relatively high combined totals recently, with the over going 5-2-1 with a combined 6.62 goals on average. I would sometimes argue that such a small sample could simply be statistical "noise", but the Flames offense is a juggernaut, and this spot should allow the trend to continue.
Hammond has been a great story, but it's hard for me to see him posting league average numbers big picture this season, even if that would be such a likable narrative.
Montreal has seen a number of offensive stars receive a notable boost under coach St. Louis, and the power play has looked much sharper altogether. Expect them to score a few goals in this one.
Calgary sits as a gigantic favorite against a Canadiens team that has played much better hockey since St. Louis came in and gave a shot of life to its painful season. The most value lies on Over 6 at -110 (play to -130), than to back Calgary -1.5 at -155 here.
Pick: Over 6 -110 (Play to -130)