The Flames return to the Bell Centre on Friday night to try to replicate their winning effort from two nights ago when they handed the Canadiens a 4-1 defeat. Let’s analyze this North Division matchup and determine which side will have us cashing tickets in our NHL picks on Friday night.
Calgary Flames vs. Montreal Canadiens
Friday, April 16, 2021 – 6:00 PM ET at Bell Centre, Montreal, Canada
The Flames have now won three straight and are looking for another after skating by the Canadiens, 4-1, on Wednesday night. Noah Hanifin got things started in the opening period with his fourth goal of the season while Mark Giordano tallied in the second, followed by third-period goals, courtesy of Josh Leivo and Sean Monahan.
Jacob Markstrom has been handling the lion’s share of the workload between the pipes for the Flames and he sparkled in Wednesday night’s victory, turning aside 26 of 27 shots in the victory. It was his second win in as many nights after a sterling performance the previous night when he backstopped the Flames to a 3-2 overtime upset against the Maple Leafs.
Markstrom’s load won’t lighten anytime soon after his backup, David Rittich, was shipped to Toronto for a third-round pick. That leaves Calgary with journeyman, Louis Domingue, as Markstrom’s new backup, and one who has yet to make a start this season. As long as the Flames continue to win and close the gap on the Canadiens for the final playoff spot in the North, Markstrom will continue to start.
Head coach Darryl Sutter has no issues working Markstrom like a rented mule, “Well, we only have what, 13 games, you look at our schedule, it’s not that hard. Even if he did play every game, put it this way, he’d still be the same as what he played last year. That’s not a big deal.”
Habs Struggling to Remain in Playoff Position
Montreal has lost four of their last five, including their 4-1 setback to Calgary on Wednesday night. But they will get a chance to avenge their loss when they host the Flames again tonight.
These clubs will be seeing plenty of each other as the Canadiens will travel to Calgary next week for three games in four nights starting a week from today. In the meantime, they will need something to kickstart their offense as they have averaged only 1.8 goals per game over their last five contests.
“Creating offense comes with playing the game the right way,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. “We spent way too much time in our zone, we were not strong enough on puck battles, our execution on small plays was not good enough.”
The Canadiens realize these next four games with the Flames will be crucial to their participation in the postseason parade. “We’re fighting for the playoff spot too,” Canadiens center Nick Suzuki said. “They’re (Calgary) right behind us and these games coming up are going to be huge. We really need to be desperate if we want to be in that playoff run.”
Wanna Make a Bet?
Calgary has won four of the five games against Montreal this season but their three-goal margin of victory on Wednesday night was the largest of the four. Those who backed the Flames were rewarded for their efforts, yielding a return of about +143 depending on where they shopped.
As we scan the NHL odds approximately 24 hours in advance of this game, we can see that many of the best online sportsbooks are dealing the Canadiens as -140 home ice favorites while the rest have yet to offer a line as of this writing.
Montreal netminder, Carey Price, is still sidelined with an upper-body injury and it appears as though his backup, Jake Allen, will make his sixth consecutive start in his absence. Is it mere coincidence that the Habs started tanking once Allen replaced Price between the pipes or is their 1-4 streak during that time simply a manifestation of poor play and little offense to speak of?
Well, the verdict is out on that count but what I do know is that the Flames have one of the best goalies on the planet, and the team in front of him is playing like their playoff lives depend on it – because they do. Let’s ride the hot hand and grab what I believe is a live road pup with the Calgary Flames on Friday night!
NHL Pick: Flames +120 at SugarHouse