The Pittsburgh Penguins entered their Stanley Cup qualifying series with the Montreal Canadiens as huge favorites. However, the Canadiens managed to pull off a couple of upsets, so they will try to clinch the first round Friday, August 7, when Montreal and Pittsburgh face off in Game 4 of this best-of-five series.
The Penguins won two of their three encounters with the Canadiens this past regular season. They are 9-5 in the last 14 matchups with Montreal, while the under has hit in six of the previous seven meetings between these two Eastern Conference foes, so let’s see what can we expect from Game 4 on Friday.
The Penguins are without Nick Bjugstad (back) and Dominik Simon (shoulder). The Canadiens could miss Jake Evans (unfit), but both teams can count on their key players.
Pittsburg is a firm -155 fave to win Game 4 on William Hill, while you can take the Penguins to cover the puckline at +165 on the same platform. The Canadiens are +140 underdogs on BetAmerica, and the total has been set at 5.5 goals on Sugarhouse.
What’s at Stake?
Surprisingly, the Penguins are in a win or go home situation. They finished the regular season with 86 points on their tally, while the Canadiens had 71.
On paper, Montreal was the worst of all teams that entered the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Now, the Canadiens are one game away from the first round and will be fired up to finish the series. On the other side, the Penguins need to calm down and put on a strong performance after a tough loss in Game 3.
The Penguins blew a two-goal lead Wednesday night. They were leading 3-1 midway the second period when the Canadiens launched their streak of three unanswered goals. Montreal took two shots fewer than Pittsburgh, but the Canadiens had 16 hits more than the Penguins (39-23) and fully deserved the victory.
Matt Murray had a poor game, allowing four goals on 31 shots. He was excellent in a 3-1 win in Game 2 while surrendering three goals on 35 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss in the opener. Murray went 20-11-5 with a 2.87 GAA and a .899 save percentage this past regular season.
On the other side, Carey Price has been terrific through this series, posting 39 saves in the opener, 35 in Game 2, and 30 in Game 3. Price was 27-25-6 with a 2.79 GAA and a .909 save percentage in the regular season.
The Penguins desperately need more from Evgeni Malkin, as the 34-year-old center had only an assist over the first three games. Furthermore, defenseman Khris Letang is scoreless while having a minus-4 rating.
Defenseman Jeff Petry leads the way for the Canadiens with a couple of goals and a dish. His partner at the back, Shea Webber, added a goal and a pair of dishes, while center Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored two goals.
The NHL Bets
The Penguins will be under huge pressure in Game 4, but they are an experienced bunch, so I expect them to prove their worth and force Game 5. The Canadians are playing well, but they still have a lot of flaws in their defensive game.
Therefore, my top pick here is Pittsburgh to win straight up, but if you want to take the risk, I suggest you go with the Penguins to cover at +165 on BetAmerica. If they take the lead at some point, I believe the Penguins will hold on and eventually get a chance to score late in the game and cover.
Betting on the totals looks like a tricky job. With the line at 5.5 goals, I might go with the over, but Carey Price is playing in a terrific form, while Matt Murray is a top-notch goalie despite his mediocre form.