Canadiens vs. Hurricanes NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction (Dec. 30)
David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Nick Suzuki
Updated Canadiens vs. Hurricanes Odds
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Montreal will head to Carolina looking to build on one of its best efforts so far in a dreadful season for the Habs. The Canadiens ended up on the losing end, but the team took the Lightning to overtime despite having a depleted lineup.
A similar challenge now awaits Montreal in Carolina as the Habs are nearly 3/1 underdogs against the Hurricanes, who are playing their first game in 12 days.
Montreal’s Defense Is a Mess
Possibly receiving an energy boost from a number of players skating in their NHL debuts, Montreal fought hard in Tampa Bay but ultimately were undone by poor defensive play.
The Habs have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL this season and allowed five goals and 4.7 xG against the Lightning. Montreal allows 2.65 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, which puts the Habs 28th overall in that metric.
Montreal’s offensive numbers have started to trend up — the Canadiens are generating 2.62 xGF per 60 minutes over their last five contests — and that could provide a lifeline against a team playing its first game in nearly two weeks. We’ve seen some defensive lapses from clubs returning from the pause and Carolina already had some weaknesses on the back-end.
The problem is that Montreal needs to provide elite offensive numbers to make up for its porous defense and struggling goaltending. The Habs are allowing 3.6 goals per game in their last five games and that number may tick up against an offensive force like Carolina.
Sam Montembault will likely get the nod for Montreal and he’s struggled to a .892 save percentage (SV%) and a -5.1 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in nine games this season.
The Hurricanes Need to Tidy Up
The NHL’s extended break may have come at a good time for the Hurricanes, who had been playing short-handed before the league paused. That didn’t stop Rod Brind’Amour’s group from producing some strong results though, as the team scraped their way to a 6-1-0 stretch of play to help confirm their status as a Stanley Cup contender.
Carolina’s roster is well-balanced and I think there is room for the club’s offense to move towards the top of the league — the expected goals data agrees.
Carolina rank eighth in xGF per game, but led the NHL with 3.28 xGF/60 in December. Those numbers suggest an uptick could be coming, so I don’t expect this attack to keep underperforming.
The Canes should get Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov back, while it remains to be seen if Frederik Andersen gets the nod in goal, since the NHL shortened the isolation time for Covid-19.
Canadiens vs. Hurricanes Pick
I think there is a pretty good chance that we see Montreal come out with another strong effort in Carolina and find the back of the net against a team that will need to find its legs early on.
That said, I do not think the Canadiens will be able to hold this offense to a low total, especially with Montembault in goal. Carolina’s last five home games have averaged 6.6 total goals and I think this is a good spot for that trend to continue.
The Hurricanes are deserving of their status as a huge favorite, but the price is way too high for my liking and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Habs come out of the gates as the stronger side.
I think it’s worth putting a small play on Montreal to score the first goal at +170, and then possibly open up an avenue for a live-bet on Carolina.
Pick: Over 6; Canadiens to score first (+170)