Free NHL Picks: Flyers at Canadiens Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/5/2013
The Philadelphia Flyers were easily one of the NHL's biggest disappointments last season. They finished just above .500, but their 49 points weren't enough to reach the playoffs, which is unacceptable for one of the NHL's biggest spenders. It was the first time the Flyers didn't play extra hockey since the 2006-07 campaign and just the second time since 1994.
The team didn't stand pat. Giving a $51 million contract to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was a mammoth mistake as it turned out, and he was bought out this offseason, saving the team nearly $6 million in cap money in the next seven years. Don't feel sorry for Bryzgalov as he still gets $23 million (he recently signed a tryout contract with the ECHL's Las Vegas team in hopes of staying sharp if an NHL team comes calling). That handed the starting job presumably to former Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason. He was acquired from Columbus before last season's trade deadline and was 4-2 with a 1.90 ERA in his limited time in Philly. The Flyers used their other amnesty buyout on forward Daniel Briere. He had 16 points in 34 games last year and was minus-13.
The two big additions were Vincent Lecavalier, who essentially replaces Briere, and Mark Streit. Lecavalier had 10 goals and 22 assists over 39 games during the 2012-13 season with Tampa Bay before the Lightning bought out the 1998 No. 1 overall pick. At $4.5 million a year, it's not a terrible signing as Lecavalier was making much more than that in Tampa and was perhaps the most overpaid player in the NHL. Streit, the Islanders' captain last year, was acquired for next to nothing as Philly got him solely to get exclusive negotiating rights -- he was due to become an unrestricted free agent in July. Philly signed him to a four-year, $21 million deal. Streit had six goals, 21 points and was a minus-15 in 48 games last season.
Montreal was last in the East in 2011-12 and finished second last season. Unfortunately, all the good karma was lost quickly in a five-game conference quarterfinals loss to Ottawa in which both Carey Price and Peter Budaj struggled in net. Really, Montreal fell apart when a big hit on Lars Eller seemed to unnerve the team in Game 1 and going forward. The Canadiens' biggest offseason addition was Briere, who essentially replaced the departed Michael Ryder.
Flyers at Canadiens Betting Story Lines
Both clubs started the season with a loss. Montreal was beaten 4-3 at home by Toronto on Tuesday. Eller scored twice, and Brendan Gallagher (2013 Calder Trophy finalist) had the other goal for the Canadiens, who were 0-for-4 on the power play and allowed 38 Leafs shots. That Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Eller third line was dominant, and the oldest guy among the trio is the 24-year-old Eller, who also assisted on Gallacher's goal. Galchenyuk, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, looks like a future star at age 19.
The big news from that fight-filled opener was a scary injury suffered by Montreal tough guy George Parros, another offseason addition. He was accidentally pulled down by his jersey in a fight with Colin Orr, their second of the game. Parros landed face first on the ice, was knocked out and taken off on a stretcher. He was released from the hospital on Wednesday but is out indefinitely with a concussion. It's a miracle he didn't have multiple facial fractures.
The Flyers lost 3-1 at home to Toronto on Wednesday as the Leafs were the first team to play back-to-back nights. Brendan Schenn got Philly the lead, with Streit and Lecavalier assisting, before Toronto scored three straight. Wayne Simmonds missed a penalty shot for the Flyers late in the second period. Philadelphia outshot the Leafs, 32-25.
Mason and new addition Ray Emery likely will have some sort of time-share thing going in the net. Mason started the opener, but it's possible Emery, who was fantastic last year as the Blackhawks' No. 2, could start Saturday because Philly plays again Sunday at Carolina.
Flyers at Canadiens NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, the Habs opened as -135 favorites and the Flyers +115 with a total of 6. Philadelphia is 3-7 in its past 10 after scoring two goals or fewer in its previous game. The Flyers are 8-19 in their past 27 road games. They are 1-5 in their past six against teams with a losing record. The Habs are 1-4 in their past five home games. They are 0-5 in their past five when their opponent scores two goals or fewer in its previous game. The “under” is 6-1 in Philadelphia's past seven Saturday games. The “over” is 4-1 in Montreal's past five home games. Philly is 5-1 in the past six meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five in Montreal.
Free NHL Picks: Flyers at Canadiens Betting Predictions
Montreal goes on a four-game road swing through Canada after this game, and you know it doesn't want to start 0-2 at home. The Flyers won two of three meetings last season. The most recent was April 15 in Montreal, a 7-3 Philly rout. Scott Hartnell had a hat trick for the Flyers. Price was pulled at the end of the second period after allowing six goals on 29 shots. Price finished last season 0-2 with a 6.05 GAA against the Flyers in 2013. I think Emery gets the call for Philly, and he didn't face the Habs last season. Thus, I will lean Philly as solid value as an underdog. Also the under.
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