NHL Picks Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs

David Lawrence

Saturday, January 18, 2014 2:28 PM GMT

Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 2:28 PM GMT

It is that time of year again, as “Hockey Day In Canada” features all seven Canadian teams on the ice in the NHL. The highlight of Saturday’s busy slate is another edition of one of the best rivalries in hockey as the Montreal Canadiens visits the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This will be the 713th regular-season meeting between the two and whenever they get together, the stakes are always high.

The Leafs have split their last 10 meetings with the Canadiens, including two so far this season. James Reimer stopped 34 shots in a 4-3 win for Toronto in Montreal in the season opener on October 1st, while Max Pacioretty responded with two goals in a 4-2 victory for the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on November 30th. The Habs have also won five of their last 10 trips to the Air Canada Center in Toronto.

The Montreal Canadiens Can Win Because….

They have Carey Price, who can steal games as he did on Thursday night in Ottawa. The 26-year-old kept the Canadiens in it as he made 40 saves, including several of the spectacular variety in the second period to lead his team to a 5-4 overtime win. Price was out of his mind in the first two periods but the Senators really poured it on the second and even though Price allowed a pair of goals, Ottawa could have scored six or seven if not for the Habs’ netminder. At this point, you’d probably have to make the case that he’s got the inside track for the Canadian Olympic team in goal as Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo has battled injury as of late and Phoenix’s Mike Smith is a longshot.

Price has to be good in goal because the Canadiens are only 21st in the league in goals scored; netting five in Ottawa was actually an outburst for Montreal. The good news is that Toronto leads the league in shots allowed, so the Habs should get plenty of opportunities. That’s why they’re worth a look for our NHL picks.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Can Win Because….

The Leafs have won their last three ahead of hosting the Canadiens, even though they continue to get outshot by the opposition. They managed to outshoot Buffalo 39-30 in a 4-3 shootout win on Wednesday and they are now 5-4 in nine games where they held the upper hand in that category. That usually means the goalies have to stand on their head and both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have looked worn down in recent starts. They’re playing with some confidence these days as they’re getting the job done – even if it isn’t pretty.

The Leafs trail the Candiens by six points in the standings, so that means Saturday affair is quite important. They’ll continue to play with the same focus and get the job done on the NHL odds here.

Outlook & Pick

From front to back, Toronto is a poor defensive team (24th in the league in goals allowed) and that puts pressure on their goaltenders. Jonathan Bernier is expected to be between the pipes on Saturday but he’s got a 3.39 GAA and three losses in his career against Montreal. That being the case, I’ll take a shot with the Habs for my NHL picks. The edge in net will be the difference.

Pick: Canadiens -104 at Pinnacle

[gameodds]7/253079/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

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