NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Canadiens vs. Predators (January 3)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Duchene
- The Nashville Predators host the Montreal Canadiens in a Tuesday night NHL tilt.
- Nashville is a strong favorite given Montreal's form, but both teams have been struggling to score the puck of late.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of this matchup, including a betting pick.
Canadiens vs. Predators Odds
|Over/Under||6 (-118 / -104)|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
The Canadiens exceeded expectations early in the season, but have been in a free fall lately. They’ve lost eight of their last nine games, and it’s only gotten worse recently. Florida beat them 7-2 on Thursday, and rather than use that embarrassing loss as inspiration to battle back, they suffered a 9-2 defeat to Washington on Sunday.
The only real silver lining for Montreal is that the Predators have had a rough run recently as well, posting a 3-5-4 record over their last 12 contests. So is there a reasonable chance that Montreal might end the slump Tuesday, or are the Canadiens in for another bad night?
Let’s put into context just how bad things have gotten in Montreal. The Canadiens have only averaged 1.78 goals over their past nine games, which is terrible on its own, but what makes it even more discouraging is the fact that the offensive slump has claimed nearly the entire team.
Nick Suzuki had been one of the bright spots for Montreal in the early season, scoring 14 goals and 29 points through 26 contests, but he has just a goal and three points in his last 11 games.
Similarly, the transition from Chicago to Montreal initially seemed to do Kirby Dach a lot of good, but that’s changed. He had four goals and 17 points in his first 20 contests after recording just 26 points in 70 games with Chicago last season. However, Dach is caught in a prolonged cold spell, contributing just a goal and six points in his last 17 games.
Montreal’s also dealing with some injuries. Sean Monahan had six goals and 17 points through 25 contests, putting him on track to have a resurgence season, but he hasn’t played since Dec. 5 because of a lower-body injury. Mike Matheson has shown signs that he could be a key defenseman for Montreal, recording a goal and six points in 10 games while averaging 24:14 of ice time, but an abdomen injury and more recently a lower-body injury have kept him out of the lineup for most of the campaign.
It’s rare to find a completely healthy team, of course, especially this deep into the campaign, but Montreal doesn’t have the depth needed to overcome those losses.
If there’s any silver lining to be found from Montreal’s recent slump, it’s been Cole Caufield. He was held off the scoresheet for four straight games from Dec. 21-29, but he provided both of the Canadiens’ goals in their 9-2 loss to Washington, putting him up to 21 markers and 30 points in 37 contests this season.
Still, Caufield can’t do it all alone, and the offense isn’t even Montreal’s biggest issue. Jake Allen has a 9-15-1 record, 3.52 GAA and .894 save percentage in 25 contests this season and has been even worse lately, posting an ugly .869 save percentage over his last five games.
Backup Sam Montembeault, who is projected to start Tuesday, hasn’t fared much better with a 6-4-2 record, 3.23 GAA and .904 save percentage. He’s had two seven-goal games over his last four contests.
To be fair to the netminders, Montreal’s expected goals per game this season is 145.33, per Moneypuck, which is both the worst in the NHL and greater than the Canadiens’ actual goals against of 138. That suggests that the Canadiens’ blueliners have been part of the problem, and the defensive woes shouldn’t simply be put exclusively at the goaltenders’ feet.
Really, though, there’s plenty of blame to go around. To put it simply, this is a clearly rebuilding team stuck in a horrendous stretch.
Predators Also Scuffling
Nashville hasn’t been particularly good of late either, though it is worth noting that the Predators might have turned a corner. Nashville has won three of its last six contests and has only suffered one regulation loss over that span.
Matt Duchene has helped in that resurgence. He endured a four-game scoring drought from Dec. 8-13, but he’s only been held off the scoresheet once in his last seven games. Filip Forsberg has been even hotter recently, scoring five goals and seven points in his last three contests after going through an eight-game stretch from Dec. 10-23 where he had just a goal and an assist.
The fact that those two are producing right now is critical for Nashville given that they’re the core of the Predators’ offense. Unfortunately for the Predators, it’s not that Duchene and Forsberg, who have 27 and 32 points, respectively, are having amazing seasons, it’s just that they don’t really have anything better.
After those two, Nashville’s next best forward is Mikael Granlund with four goals and 22 points in 35 games. The team also has just five forwards in total with at least 15 points.
Roman Josi is one of the league’s best offensive defensemen with eight goals and 28 points in 35 contests, but even with him, Nashville has the 29th-ranked offense with 2.63 goals per game. Contrast that with the Rangers, which are in the middle-of-the-pack at 16th with 3.18 goals per game. The Rangers’ top three scorers — Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox — all have more points than Forsberg. New York also has 10 players with at least 15 points compared to Nashville’s six.
And again, the Rangers are just average — this is the gap between Nashville and mere mediocrity.
The Predators’ defense has been bad too. They have 123.91 expected goals against, per Moneypuck, which is the ninth-most in the league. At least the goaltending has managed to hold the team somewhat together. Juuse Saros is 12-10-5 with a 2.75 GAA and .916 save percentage in 27 starts while Kevin Lankinen is 3-4-1 with a 2.91 GAA and .916 save percentage in nine contests.
Those GAAs aren’t awe-inspiring, but their save percentages are solid, and when Nashville’s defense is factored in, the Predators’ goaltending seems to be fine.
Saros has also been hot lately. Although he has just a 3-2-3 record over his last eight games, he’s recorded a 2.08 GAA and .938 save percentage over that span. Given the Canadiens’ offensive woes, it will be tough for them to get much of anything by him with the way he’s been playing.
Canadiens vs. Predators Pick
Montreal’s struggles have led to Nashville being billed as the heavy favorites. At the time of writing, you’d get just a -210 potential payout by taking Nashville on FanDuel’s moneyline and even on the puck line, taking Nashville offers +118 odds. The odds for taking Montreal on the puck line is -140 via BetMGM, so going that route isn’t too exciting.
The reason why taking Montreal on the puck line comes with that low of a potential payout is because there’s a good chance this will be a low-scoring game, given the Predators and Canadiens’ poor offenses. After all, if Nashville only manages two or three goals in the game, then Montreal finishing within a goal of them is a reasonable possibility.
In that context, what I’m really interested in is the Over/Under of 6 goals. Taking the under on BetMGM currently offers a potential payout of -105, so you’re not getting quite as much as you would if you took Nashville on the puck line, but I’m willing to accept a smaller potential return for what I see as a significantly better bet.
It’s true that Montreal’s defense has been really bad, but Nashville’s poor offense isn’t well positioned to take advantage of it in the same way that Florida and Washington could. Then at the other end of the ice, you likely have Saros, who should be more than a match for the Canadiens’ cold forwards, starting.
If you’re feeling bold, you could still grab Nashville on the puck line. With how good Saros has been, it’s possible that the Predators will squeak past the spread, but personally I’d feel more comfortable with the under.
Pick: Under 6 (-120 or Better)