Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 Betting Predictions, Odds and Expert Best Bets
Best Bet: Over 88.5 points (-110)
Worst Bet: To Win the Atlantic Division (+2500)
The Montreal Canadiens have missed the playoffs two years in a row and they have not won a postseason series since 2014-15. That isn’t to say this franchise has been entirely hopeless of late. Montreal compiled 103 points in 2016-17 before falling in round one to the Rangers. Following last season’s 71-point debacle, the Canadiens righted the ship in a major way to finish the 2018-19 campaign with 96 points while contending the entire time. They were not eliminated until the second-to-last day of the regular season. The Habs were certainly in position for the playoffs when they found themselves at 31-18-6 in early February, but playing sub-.500 hockey (13-12-2) the rest of the way proved to be costly.
Montreal did nothing especially great or terrible last season. It was simply a decent team with an okay offense and serviceable blue line and goalie play that finished in the middle of the pack in both goals scored and goals allowed. No one individual completely stood out, either. At a somewhat modest (by team-leader standards) 72 points, Max Domi was the main offense weapon. Seven different players accrued at least 46 points, so the depth was there even though the start power was lacking. Primary goalie Carey Price was stellar, going 35-24-6 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Not too much has changed as head coach Claude Julien enters his fourth season at the helm. At least the Canadiens swung during free agency this summer, but they swung and missed. Carolina matched an offer sheet for Sebastian Aho and Matt Duchene considered going north of the border before signing with Nashville once the Predators’ cleared P.K. Subban’s cap space. Thus the Habs were left with center Nick Cousins, defenseman Ben Chiarot, and goalie Keith Kinkaid–all on one-year deals–as the main newcomers. Center Andrew Shaw (19 goals, 28 assists) is gone, having been shipped back to Chicago for a trio of future draft picks. In other words, Montreal’s offseason was nothing to write home about.
Total Season Points: O/U 88.5 points
It’s hard to see the Habs having a better season than they did in 2018-19–which is not saying a lot! Another year will likely come and go without one of the NHL’s most storied franchises being a part of the playoffs. From a betting standpoint, the most pressing question is: can Montreal avoid a step back of less than eight points? That’s about four wins, for those counting. Can this team come within three wins–or some similar combination of wins and ties–of last season’s total? It’s definitely within the realm of possibility. Julien’s crew is by no means bad; and it won’t be bad in 2019-20. It just isn’t great. Price’s statistics deserved a better record than what he was left with, and although he cannot star every game he will surely start lot. The 32-year-old, who is obviously still in his prime, should log just as much action as he did this past year because Kinkaid is not any better than former backup Antti Niemi. Price is the man in Montreal, and the price is often right. The offensive depth behind Domi combined with a defensive core led by veteran Shea Weber protecting Price should be enough to keep this squad respectable. To say these are not the Canadiens of the 1970s would be an exorbitant understatement, but they will likely chalk up at least 89 points.
To win the Atlantic Division: +2500
Like many other pretenders in the Atlantic, Montreal is less likely to win its own division than it is to triumph in the entire Eastern Conference. And why not? This loaded division is headlined by Tampa Bay–which dominated the 2018-19 regular season to the tune of a Presidents’ Trophy-winning 128 points–in addition to Boston (the defending conference champion) and Toronto. The Canadiens should be able to beat up head-to-head on the likes of Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, and Ottawa to help them rack up their fair share of points, but that won’t help them come out on top of the whole division. Over an 82-game slate, the Lightning, Bruins, and Maple Leafs are simply going to be too good. Even though +2500 is appropriately long odds, avoid this bet like the plague.
To win the Eastern Conference: +2000
It’s true that anything can happen once you get into the playoffs. In 2019-20, for example, eight-seeded Columbus knocked off Tampa Bay in the very first round–with a sweep, no less! Carolina beat the Capitals, while in the Western Conference you saw Nashville, Winnipeg, and Calgary exit right away. The Stanley Cup Finals between Boston against St. Louis was nothing short of improbable. Unfortunately for Montreal, it is no lock to even make it into the postseason. And if it does, its chances of being the next Columbus or Carolina or Boston/St. Louis is slim. Price is stellar, but does he have the take-over-a-series capability that Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets (now with Florida) showcased last season? Probably not. And the offensive firepower behind Domi just is not there. Tomas Tatar (58 points in 2018-19), Phillip Danault (53), Jonathan Drouin (53), and Brendan Gallagher (52 points) are nice pieces but not exactly the caliber of forwards and centers that can take you all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Montreal’s shortcomings in free agency mean it cannot make the jump to contend for any kind of title in 2019-20.
To win the Stanley Cup: +3300
Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups in NHL history–and by a country mile, too, with 24. As mentioned earlier, however, the 1970s ain’t walkin’ through that door. The Canadiens are no slouch, but even if everything goes perfectly in 2019-20 they are not a top-three team in the East. And they certainly are not as talented as Western Conference contenders such as Calgary, Nashville, Winnipeg, St. Louis, and San Jose. If Domi catches fire and Price minds the net better than he ever has in his career, winning one or two playoff series is not entirely out of the question. But the Stanley Cup is not being lifted by Montreal this year and probably not for at least a few more years.