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Thursday NHL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Flames vs. Canadiens Betting Preview

Thursday NHL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Flames vs. Canadiens Betting Preview article feature image

Derek Leung/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Tkachuk

  • The Flames have stood pat as a -140 favorite in Montreal for Thursday's showdown against the Canadiens, with the total at 5.5.
  • Calgary's hot start is backed up by its strong underlying metrics, and Jonny Lazarus is laying it with the Flames on the road Thursday night.
  • Get his full Flames vs. Habs preview and pick below.

Flames vs. Canadiens Odds

Flames Odds-140
Canadiens Odds+120
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Had you skated this matchup a few weeks ago, the Habs would likely be favored. But there’s no ignoring what these teams have done out of the gates.

Just a few months removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the wheels have come off of the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs have skated to a 3-10-1 record and a -20 goal differential through their first 14 games and only one player, Nick Suzuki, has more than 10 points.

The Calgary Flames are one of the league’s pleasant surprises, off to a 7-1-3 start, thanks in large part to a 5-1 record on the road.

The Habs Can’t Score

The Bell Centre should be one of the league’s best home-ice advantages, but it has been anything but that for the Habs this season. Montreal has won just two of seven games at home this season.

There have been issues all over the ice for Montreal this season, but the offense has been truly abysmal. Montreal ranks 31st in goals per game, 28th in 5-on-5 scoring and 31st in shooting percentage. While the Habs’ are underperforming their expected goals considerably and should positively regress, the lack of finishing talent on this roster is a problem.

Montreal’s defense has been mediocre, ranking 13th in 5-on-5 goals allowed and 16th in expected goals allowed, but when the offense isn’t scoring, the defense and goaltending have no margin for error.

Calgary’s Hot Start Is Legitimate

When a team gets off to an unexpected start, we immediately try to poke holes in it to try and figure out if it’s sustainable. Calgary’s impressive opening act seems legitimate.

The Flames rank third in expected goals rate, sixth in goals per game and their goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, has skated to a .940 save percentage.

Perhaps most impressive is that Calgary isn’t just tilting the rink at one end of the ice. The defense is pulling its weight, too, allowing 2.18 expected goals and 9.18 high-danger chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Both of those marks rank inside the top-10.

This is the front-end of a back-to-back for Calgary, so there’s a chance that Dan Vladar deputizes for Jacob Markstrom against the Habs. Vladar hasn’t been great in his two games this season, but it’s such a small sample that it’s almost not worth projecting what he’ll do should he get the nod. He is a significant downgrade from Markstrom, though.

Flames vs. Canadiens Pick

The price on this game could be on the move if Vladar gets the start, but I like the Flames at the listed price. Montreal’s offense has not shown any signs of heating up and Calgary’s defense has been terrific, so the goaltending edge may not be a huge deal should the Flames play at the level we’ve seen from them so far this season.

Paying -140 on a road team may seem pretty steep — especially with the way home teams have played this season — but I think this is a mismatch, so I’m willing to lay the wood.

Pick: Calgary Flames -140

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