The Montreal Canadiens travel to Pittsburgh tonight in a game that should showcase a couple of clubs trying to shake their Sochi hangovers.
It’s been a few days since the closing ceremonies, but most squads have only had time to squeeze in one full practice. The Canadiens hopped on a plane to Pittsburgh Wednesday night after a tough 2-1 overtime loss to Detroit and are right back at it against Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and the high-flying Penguins.
What’s worse for you Habs supporters is that they’re heading into one of the toughest road rinks in the league without No. 1 goalie Carey Price. Word has it he aggravated a lower-body injury at the Olympics and tweaked it again at Wednesday’s morning skate.
So while that takes the spice out of what could have been a Crosby/Kunitz vs. Price matchup, it’s an interesting game nonetheless. Montreal sits tied for second in the Atlantic while Pittsburgh tops the Metropolitan Division.
Sports Interaction has the Penguins listed as a -240 favorite with the total at 5.5.
Sports Interaction links of note:
A quick look at the NHL futures tells me Pittsburgh is a big +496 favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Hard to argue that any time The Kid is your captain, but I’m not so sure the Penguins have the blue line to make that kind of a run. Terrible news about Kris Letang. The scariest part about his stroke is that his wife found him on the floor, still conscious, but unable to move. Hope his health takes a turn for the better.
Further down that list you’ll see the Montreal Canadiens at +2200. That in itself isn’t crazy but the fact that the Leafs have shorter odds to win the jug (+1600) sure is. I’m not sure the Habs have a club that can get out of the first round unless Price steals the show.
Crosby is at +135 to score. Not much value there but he always destroys Montreal and will be out to get off on the right foot after the break.
This week’s NHL Revealed is a 2-hour special of Canada winning gold in Sochi. I NEED MORE TELEVISIONS.
– Bold move, Habs supporters. You’ve lined up to back you club and we’ve been forced to move the line 20 cents. This morning Pittsburgh was -240 now they’re -220.
– Another odds move. Penguins now -205. As George Michael once said, gotta have faith, Habs supporters.
– Not often you’ll see a team playing a back-to-back with an early advantage, but this is a good spot for Montreal. Great jump early after playing the Doctor of Laws, Mike Babcock, and his Red Wings.
– Brendan Gallagher! 1-0 Habs.
– He’s going to be a fantasy stud for those of you into that sort of thing. Checks in at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds and makes out with the blue paint every night. Favorite Habs player next to Prust.
– NEAL SCORES. 1-1. And there’s the Real Deal James Neal going short side on Budaj after a nice setup from Geno.
– As great as it was to see Canada dominate the Olympics and go golden again, it sure is nice to see a couple pucks hit the twine. Defence may still rule when you’re one of the best teams ever like Canada had (no James Neal?), but give us some goals. Nice to have smaller ice and NHL back.
– Penguins just two points back of Anaheim for top spot in the league. Considering their injuries, that’s insanity.
– Neal hits the post. Looks like he’s been itching to go after that Olympic break. Apparently Neal uses an 85 flex. I used a 90 back in the day and am easily 15 pounds lighter than him. That’s where he gets that release.
– GOAL Pittsburgh. Deryk Engelland buries one over the shoulder, proving that he can use his hands for more than punching.
– That said, I’d wager dollars to donuts Engelland and Parros get into a face-punching contest by the end of this one.
– Late PP for the Pens and they’re looking for blood. Time runs out.
First Period Summary: Penguins 2, Canadiens 1.
– Mostly Penguins after Habs jumped out to a quick start. Budaj doesn’t look comfortable and Subban has been completely invisible so far. Montreal doesn’t have the depth to deal with Sid/Kunitz and Malkin/Neal. Pens lead in the shot count 12-9.
– Subban looks like a guy who hasn’t played in two weeks – slow first step, tentative on his first reads. Might be a while until he’s back to top form, but watch out of Montreal gets a PP early. He’ll be itching for that one-timer.
– Going out on a limb to say Brendan Prust is the next captain of the Canadiens. Gionta has served well. His time has passed.
– GOAL CANADIENS. 2-2. Danny Briere turns back the clock to shelf one over Fleury coming out from the side of the net.
– Penguins head to Chicago to play the Blackhawks at Soldier Field this weekend. I posted Fleury’s Steelers mask earlier here.
– Pittsburgh PP here midway through the second. Not a stretch to say this is a better power play than any we saw at Sochi.
– GOAL PENGUINS. Mattaa makes it 3-2 Pittsburgh with a cannon from the point.
– GOAL HABS. 3-3. Another PP goal this time from the Habs. Pacioretty destroys one top shelf.
– Life is hard, friends. Like, it’s really hard to keep up with a goal-scoring frenzy that we’re seeing tonight. This is something you should take advantage of with your wagering. More on that in the period summary coming up.
– Another Penguins PP coming up as the Habs chop Crosby down on a rush. Not the greatest idea in the world.
– This game is getting a little nasty. Malkin and Georges had a strongly-worded conversation and Crosby came in to take a run at Murray. OLD TIME HOCKEY? Parros vs. whoever. Let’s go.
Period 2 Summary: Canadiens 3, Penguins 3
This is what you get when you take almost three weeks off for the Olympics – GOALS. Teams have to have another training camp midway through the season and then have the Olympians join in as they go. It’s far from ideal. Far from ideal if you’re betting the under, anyway. Lean to the over for the next couple days until everything settles down.
– Apart for a couple good chances for Montreal in the second, this is Pittsburgh’s game to lose despite the score. As I type this, Murray takes a bonehead penalty less than a minute into the third.
– This game is going to be decided by a stupid mistake, you can see it already in missed coverages five minutes into the third. Only a matter of time to see which team blinks first.
– Subban suckers Malkin into a retaliation penalty. Geno’s still Sochi angry.
– Brandon Sutter with a beauty shorthanded breakaway goal after Subban coughs it up. There’s your mistake, folks. FRANK DOYLE, PROPHET. For those of you (me) who wondered why Subban didn’t see any ice for Team Canada, there you go.
– EW. 4-4 after Habs answer. Emelin answers with a stinker through a screen seconds after Sutter’s goal.
– Murray and Crosby off for minors. Good trade there for the Habs.
– Another PP for the Pens. Gotta think Therien is going to flip his lid after this one after giving Pittsburgh so many chances to put this one away.
– Sidney Crosby makes it 5-4! Buries a rebound after Budaj stopped him with a huge save moments earlier. Cash those wagers if you bet The Kid to tickle the twine. You’re welcome, friends.
– And that could be one of the worst calls you’ll see. Tanner Glass throws a clean hit and the Habs player hits himself in the face with his own stick. Result: 5-minute Habs power play.
– Goal Habs 5-5. Briere tucks it in at the side of the net for his second of the night. You knew that was coming, but what’s next? Habs still have more than three minutes left on the power play.
– This is a great game for the fans, but a terribly sloppy hockey game. Again, bet the over for the next while, especially with team who are missing guys on the blue line.
Period 3 Recap: Montreal 5, Pittsburgh 5
This should have been a Pittsburgh win if it weren’t for a terrible call on that Tanner Glass penalty. Still, lots of mistakes on both sides and hopefully we see this one end in four-on-four play instead of a shootout.
– Both teams content to play with the puck midway through OT. One point apiece and playing for the shootout unless an opportunity presents itself.
– Remember when Crosby’s big weakness was in the face-off circle? Seems like a long time ago. That’s why he’s the best.
– James Neal: Stopped on a quick shot blocker side.
– Lars Eller: Stopped on a deke.
– Sidney Crosby: Stopped on a deke.
– David Desharnais: Scores on a deke.
– Evgeni Malkin: Stopped on a SLAPSHOT FROM FIVE FEET OUT.
Final Score: Montreal 6, Pittsburgh 5.