NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Flames vs. Canadiens (December 12)
Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom
- Overachievers meet underachievers when the Canadiens host the Flames on Monday night.
- Montreal is greatly exceeding expectations this year but remains a big underdog tonight.
- Below, Nicholas Martin explains why – and how – he's backing Calgary to pull off the win.
Flames vs. Canadiens Odds
|Over/Under||6 (-109 / -109)|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Calgary's 90-point pace to start this season makes it one of the league's more notable disappointments, and a playoff miss from a supposed Cup contender coming out of a soft Western Conference would be shocking, to say the least.
A Canadiens win tonight in this matchup would put them on a nearly identical pace as the Flames, in a season that was widely expected to be a complete write-off.
Oddsmakers are not showing any love to the actual process of Montreal's nearly identical record, however, and they price it as a heavy underdog to take this contest at home just a week after besting the Flames in Calgary.
Will the Flames grab some revenge Monday?
A Key Change for Calgary Flames
Calgary is clearly not yet the utterly dominant side it was a year ago, but the Flames would also be looking far more potent with a few more saves from netminder Jacob Markstrom.
Seeing the team's high-danger chances finished off at even a league-average rate would help as well, and those two factors make a good case that Calgary is going to trend up moving forward.
During the last month of play, Calgary has played to a 51.61 xGF% and is still driving more of the play in the right direction overall.
The Flames put together a very reasonable effort in Toronto on Saturday night and made some notable lineup changes that will likely prove fruitful in more reasonable spots moving forward.
Coach Darryl Sutter finally moved away from trotting out the same old tired bottom six, and he injected the AHL's second-leading scorer into the lineup while sitting Milan Lucic.
Over a large sample, this is simply going to be a more effective arrangement, but whether or not Phillips is given a reasonable sample to succeed will be the question.
The Flames' third unit of Mikael Backlund, Matthew Phillips and Adam Ruzicka controlled play to an expected goals share of 65.1% throughout 7:08 of five-on-five play versus Toronto.
That mark is especially impressive considering how Calgary fared the rest of the contest, and it's worth noting that Phillips led the Flames with a 86.98% in that contest.
Calgary's fourth line has regularly had several players post-game score well below 20% this season. If you put any stock in analytics relevance, this is a massive comment that the Flames' new arrangement could make it a significantly deeper team than we have seen thus far.
My lean for this contest is that Calgary will turn back to Markstrom, who was obviously the team's clear No. 1 option entering the year and played well in Columbus.
Markstrom owns a +1.1 goals saved above expected rating this season and an .891 save % throughout 18 appearances.
Montreal Canadiens Playing Above Their Heads?
For one of the NHL's preseason betting favorites to finish dead last to be hanging around the playoff picture in a stacked Eastern Conference is impressive, any way you want to cut it.
Coach Martin St. Louis, captain Nick Suzuki and a number of others deserve a ton of credit for helping this barren roster greatly overachieve expectations in this young season.
However, the cracks in the roster are still showing, and the fact that Montreal has outscored its expected mark by 6.14 goals as a team while receiving some of the best goaltending league-wide is concerning.
Neither of those trends is likely to hold up over a larger sample, and in time it does appear that the Canadiens will trend closer to being a bottom-third team.
Montreal has played to the third-worst xGF% in the league at 41.63% over the last month. The Canadiens' recent defensive play has looked quite concerning to the eye, and that is not surprising analysis considering some of the skaters who are skating reasonable minutes.
Jake Allen will likely make the start for Montreal on Monday. Allen owns a +3.3 GSAx and .896 save % throughout 18 games played this season.
Flames vs. Canadiens Pick
Even as heavy favorites to a Canadiens team that has clearly been quite scrappy, I believe the Flames are the correct betting side in this matchup.
These teams are at polar opposite ends of the spectrum with regards to overachieving vs. underachieving based upon actual gameplay, and evaluating deserved results versus actual ones is the single most important key to handicapping the NHL.
On a number of occasions, the Canadiens have either shot the lights out and finished every reasonable scoring chance, or they've seen the opposition miss a lot of legitimate scoring chances.
That was the exact case when these teams met in Calgary, but it is not a sustainable process to win hockey games.
My expectation is Calgary brings a comparable effort to what we saw in Toronto and secures a better result with a win inside of regulation while controlling far more of the gameplay.
Calgary can still be bet at -132 to win this contest inside of regulation, and I would play the Flames down to -145.
Pick: Calgary Flames 3-Way Moneyline (-132 at BetRivers) | Play to -145