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Well that was certainly not the way I wanted to start after the Christmas break at all. I was winless with my two picks for last night’s games, which is always frustrating on a 12-game evening where there is a lot to choose from. I also suffered my most frustrating defeat of the season in the Rangers/Stars contest that I had going OVER the 5.5 total. The night began with a loss due to the injury ravaged Bruins knocking off the Detroit Red Wings by a 5-2 score. I liked Detroit, who sits well ahead of Boston in the Eastern Conference standings to win at a +115 price, however Boston showed up to play on their home ice and the game was never really close for Detroit. The bitter loss was suffered later in the evening as the Rangers and Stars combined for four goals in the first period, and stood at five goals just a minute in to the second period, therefore I needed just one more goal over the next 39 minutes of hockey. It did not come, and the Stars had at least six attempts at an empty net that were either blocked or missed the net. The Stars were buzzing around the empty Rangers net for the final minute and a half and could not deposit the biscuit in to the gaping cage. Unbelievable. Certainly a demoralizing return to my NHL picks, however tonight’s four-game schedule still offers some chance for redemption.
Montreal Canadiens @ Florida Panthers
My Pick – CANADIENS (-105)
I will be focusing on an Eastern Conference matchup for my only pick this evening as the Montreal Canadiens travel to Sunrise, Florida for tonight’s tilt against the hometown Florida Panthers. This is the first of five meetings between Florida and Montreal and for once the hometown Panthers will likely see a sellout crowd on hand as the Canadiens fans always travel well, especially snowbirds that spend their winters in the Sunrise area. Montreal defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 last night behind a once again solid Carey Price in their second game of a five-game road trip while the Panthers most recently knocked off the Maple Leafs by a 6-4 score on Sunday night. Roberto Luongo, who is confirmed as tonight’s starter for Florida surrendered four goals on just 22 shots against the Leafs and does not usually fare well against the Canadiens. Roberto is just 1-6-0 with a 3.30 goals against average in his last seven starts against the Habs while Carey Price is 5-1-1 with a miniscule 0.99 goals against average over his last seven starts against the Panthers. Backup Dustin Tokarski may get the nod tonight for Montreal as this is the second half of back-to-back games for Montreal, but those career numbers for Price against the Panthers may earn him back-to-back starts. Either way, the Habs special teams outweigh the Panthers’ in both powerplay and penalty kill, and Montreal has surrendered just nine goals over their last seven games, thanks in part to both Price and solid team defense. Montreal should be able to score some goals tonight as Florida has surrendered seven goals in their two post-Christmas break games. Although they are scoring goals lately, the Panthers still manage just 2.24 per game on the season and as mentioned, are running in to a defensively sound Montreal team who gives up just 2.33 per contest. I usually feel comfortable with taking the better team as an underdog and that is once again the case this evening. The arena should be packed with Habs fans tonight, making it less of a road game and more of a rowdy home crowd for Montreal. Take the Habs to continue their solid road play and knock off the hometown Florida Panthers tonight.