Canadiens at Lightning Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 2/12/2013
This is a game that both of these teams need to win. After getting off to a strong 6-1 start, the Lightning have lost their last four, including all three games of a recent road trip. With every game coming against your own conference this year, a team can barely afford that kind of streak when they are fighting for a lower playoff spot anyway. Montreal has also struggled, losing their last three. The last one, against hated rival Toronto, was a humiliating 6-0 loss that wasn’t even as close as the score would suggest. They are an even more marginal playoff team than the Lightning, and two of the losses came at home, so they need to get their confidence back in a big hurry.
Canadiens at Lightning Betting storylines
Playing in the state of Florida is a unique experience for the Canadiens. They are a public team that has fans in a lot of cities they play in — especially the Canadian ones. In Florida it is different, though. A large number of Quebec snowbirds head south to Florida for the winter, so games in Tampa Bay or Miami are as close to home games as the Habs can have away from the cozy confines of Montreal. The Lightning will still have a home-ice edge — they are the ones sleeping in their own beds after all — but it won’t be as big as it normally is.
Tampa has the top offense in the league, averaging 3.9 points per game. You would never guess it given their last four games, though. They are averaging just 1.5 points per game over that stretch and have looked hesitant when previously they looked invincible. The formula is really simple on this front. When the Lightning score three or fewer goals they lose, and when they score four or more they win. That has been the case in all of their 11 games. In other words, their success is entirely driven by their offense. That means that handicapping this game comes down to one thing above all else — if you think that Montreal can contain the Lightning then they can be trusted, but if Tampa Bay seems likely to have a good offensive day then they are the choice.
For much of this season Carey Price has been better than seemed likely. He’s immensely talented but too inconsistent to truly trust over his career. His 2.21 goals against average and .919 save percentage in nine games is more than solid, though. If he could keep that up all year this team could do real damage. He has allowed just one goal in four of nine starts and two goals in two others. The problem is, though, that Price allowed all six goals in the nightmare of a game against Toronto on Saturday, and he only faced 28 shots. Price isn’t necessarily the most mentally tough player on the planet, so it can’t be certain how he will bounce back from that or when he will get the chance (starters haven’t been named as I write this). He’s at the core of this team, so whether he plays or not he can have an impact on how this team mentally faces this game. It certainly doesn’t help that backup Peter Budaj is marginal at this point and has been lousy in his two starts.
The Lightning power play has been a tale of two extremes this year. At home the unit has been unstoppable — an incredible 12-for-27, or 44.44 percent. On the road, though, they are just 1-for-19. In this game we will have to watch closely to see if home ice makes the difference, or if more than geography was impacting the struggles.
Canadiens at Lightning NHL Odds and Betting Trends
The Canadiens are 4-1 in their last five against the Southeast Division. The home team is 5-0 in their last five meetings. The Habs have lost four of their last five in Tampa Bay.
Canadiens at Lightning Picks and Betting Predictions
It’s all about the Lightning for me in this one. Tampa Bay has struggled recently, but home cooking should make a difference for them. Montreal is reeling and looked terrible against the Maple Leafs. Their goaltending is a concern and will be tested mightily in this one because Tampa is so deep offensively. I think the Lightning will win reasonably easily, and I would consider adding the puck line (currently -1.5 +235) into the mix as well.
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