NHL Betting Preview: Montreal at Boston Bruins

By: David Schwab | Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two key games are on Thursday's NHL slate with the Habs at
the Bruins and Pens in Philly to face the Flyers.
The Montreal Canadiens travel to TD Garden this Thursday to face the Boston Bruins in what could very well be a preview of a first-round matchup in this year’s NHL playoffs. Game time is set for 4 p.m. (PT) and will be broadcast locally.

Montreal finds itself in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference standings with a three-point lead over seventh-place New York and two points behind fifth-place Tampa. It is only three points behind Boston in the Northeast Division with an overall record 40-27-7 straight-up (34-40 against the spread) and 87 total points, but the Bruins have two games in hand.

The Canadiens have struggled to play with any consistency lately and have lost three of their last five games. Their offense exploded in an 8-1 romp over Minnesota this past Sunday as a 108 road underdog but fell completely flat in a 2-0 shutout as home against Buffalo as a 119 favorite on Tuesday night.

Right winger Brian Gionta leads the team in goals this season with 26, but Montreal could still be without point’s leader Tomas Plekanec. He has been out since March 15 with a lower body injury and is listed as questionable for this game along with Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche. The injury situation will certainly not help a Canadien team that is ranked 22nd in the NHL in scoring with an average of 2.66 goals a game.

Carey Price should get the start in goal against Boston. He has started 63 of Montreal’s 74 games this season and has a goals-against-average of 2.35 and a .922 save percentage.

Boston has been up and down as well with a 4-3-3 SU record in its last 10 games. This past Saturday the Bruins lost to Toronto 5-2 as a 125 road favorite, but were able to bounce back with a 4-1 victory over New Jersey as a 130 home favorite on Tuesday. They are currently 40-33-10 SU (34-38 ATS) and clinging to third-place in the East with 90 points.

Scoring has been an issue for Boston over this recent rough patch with just 23 goals in its last 10 games as opposed to a season average of 2.99 goals a game, which is fifth-best in the league. A good sign for Bruin fans is that left winger Milan Lucic, who leads the team with 30 goals and is second in total points with 55, broke out of his scoring slump with a goal and assist against New Jersey and Patrice Bergeron added two assists after recording just one point in his previous four games.

Tim Thomas, who looked especially sharp in goal against the Devils, is expected to get the call for Thursday’s game. He has a 2.06 GGA and a .937 save percentage in 48 starts this season.

Montreal is 22-18 as a favorite this season and 18-16 as an underdog. The total has gone ‘over’ in three of its last five games but has stayed ‘under’ in 54 percent of its games overall.

Boston is 29-22 as a favorite and 11-10 as an underdog. The total has gone ‘over’ in five of its last seven games and is 27-35-10 for the year.

Head-to-head, the Canadiens have won eight of the last 10 games including a 4-1 victory on March 8 as a slight 105 home underdog. This followed a 3-2 OT win on Jan. 8 as a 109 home favorite and an 8-6 loss as a 163 road underdog on Feb. 9. The total was 1-0-2 in those three games.

This time around stick with Boston to tie the season series as a home favorite in a game that stays ‘under’ a projected total line of five.

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