After a big win Thursday evening with the Montreal Canadiens, we’ll go back to the red-hot Habs in what promises to be a stellar clash on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. It’s a true rivalry match-up as the playoff-bound Leafs host the Canadiens, in what could well be a first-round series at the end of April.
Our featured selections enter the evening 33-19 thus far in 2013, with a 65-46 overall record on all picks.
Montreal Canadiens (-110) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (-110)
Simply put, this game really should not be listed at a pick’em price. The Habs are about as deep and as well-coached as any team in the NHL, and they enter the much healthier and hungrier group for Saturday night’s pivotal showdown. Montreal has their eyes firmly set on capturing the Northeast division title, and for a team that plays so well at home, that could be hugely beneficial in the latter stages of the playoffs. Though they have lost Alexei Emelin for the year, stud rookie Nathan Beaulieu has filled in admirably.
With Boston hot on the tails of the Habs, Montreal knows they cannot avoid any slip-ups if they’re to secure the division title. Montreal is very disciplined right now, and their speed could pose problems for the slower members of the Leafs’ defensive group. Toronto is fresh off a shootout loss against New York on Wednesday evening, a game which saw them routinely dominated in terms of territorial play and puck possession. Expect the Buds to be without both Mikhail Grabovski and Joffrey Lupul for tonight’s encounter. Those two players are two of the Leafs most important forwards, and their depth will get tested by a potent three-line attack from the Habs.
The last time these two teams square off, Montreal responded brilliantly to a 6-0 beatdown in early February. The Habs came into Toronto and dominated all facets of the game, ultimately winning by a 5-2 scoreline. Expect more of the same tonight for Montreal against a banged-up Leafs squad. Montreal will not rest on their laurels now that a playoff spot has been secured. This is a big opportunity to send a stern message to a potential first-round opponent, and look for Carey Price and his teammates to do just that.
The Habs are currently playing a staunch defensive system, and an amazing team game. They clog up the neutral zone like none other, and that style will give the free-flowing Leafs a ton of trouble. Expect a comfortable Habs win on Saturday night.
PICK = Montreal (-110)
Just one bonus pick on what will be a busy Saturday evening. As we enter the final few games of the regular season, the betting lines are typically sharper and heavier on favourites needing to win. We’ll tread carefully from here on out, but for this evening, one game does stand out.
Bonus Pick #1: San Jose (-135) Though Dallas has been playing very well of late, their lack of depth will catch up with them tonight. San Jose is in desperation mode, especially when you consider they do have a legitimate shot at securing home ice for the first-round of the playoffs. The Sharks are the NHL’s best team in the league at home, so playing in front of their fans at the HP Pavillion would be a huge boon for their playoff success. The Stars meanwhile shipped off a plethora of key players at the deadline, and no longer have the depth or talent to stick with a veteran-laden group like the Sharks. San Jose has been around long enough to know not to let games like this slip away, and expect a workmanlike outing from the Sharks tonight. This is a generous road price on San Jose, and expect a convincing victory tonight.