Credit the gutsy Montreal Canadiens for being the hottest team in hockey at the moment.
Against all odds, the Habs have won six straight games. They were underdogs in five of those six contests.
After Montreal destroyed the hapless Winnipeg Jets by a 5-1 score in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series played on Sunday, tonight it's on to Game 4 and a posssible sweep by the unlikeliest of victors.
The Canadiens (24-21-11) limped into the playoffs as the North Division's fourth seed. They were expected by oddsmakers and most fans to go down quickly against Toronto in the first round. But after being down 3-1 in that series, somehow the feisty Habs caught fire. They won each of the remaining three games versus the Maple Leafs and seem to be improving with each game. Certinaly, confidence is at an all-time high. In round two, the Canadiens have outscored the Jets 11-3.
As for the Winnipeg Jets, stick a fork in them and turn out the lights. They're dead. Game 3 was the prime opportunity to rebound in a big way, but the woeful Jets didn't even show up. Winnipeg was whipped in every facet of the game. Their season appears to be just a game or two away from being over.
Despite Montreal's recent dominance, and the outstanding play of goaltender Carey Price, some bettors apparently aren't convinced yet. They're stubborn.
Consider the odds for Game 4. Montreal is only -150, even though they're playing at home, on an incredible winning streak, and are absolutely dominating their opponent. Shouldn't this game be more like -185 or -190?
The O/U is 5.5 goals, shaded heavily to the UNDER. Betting the UNDER requires a lay price of -130.
One major key to their success is – the Canadiens are coming out of the locker room on fire. They are jumping on opponents early and often, with leads. In fact, Montreal has not trailed in 376:14 of action (and counting). That's the fifth-longest streak by any team in NHL postseason history.
Is there any reason to bet on Winnipeg? Well, tonight Montreal is playing its fourth game in six days. They're just 2-5 in the past seven in a 4-in-6 situation. They're also just 2-5 in the past seven as a favorite in the playoffs. However, they have bucked nearly every other trend so far, so don't put too much stock into those intangibles.
The OVER is 8-2 in the past 10 meetings overall between these two teams, and 5-1 in the past six matches played in Montreal. There might be some value in an OVER play here, but can the Jets find the back of the net enough times to push this game OVER? I wouldn't bet on it.
Prediction: Given the way Montreal has dominated this series and how they are scoring goals, the value play is to lay the -1.5 goals on the puckline and play the Canadiens +170. Sure, that's a longer price and risks some chance that the Habs skate to a one-goal win. But we think the number that's most "off" is the puckline. If Winnipeg continues to be flat on all areas of the ice, they'll probably get beat by 2+ goals. We'll wager on that prospect, chasing an attractive payout.
It's time to start believing in Montreal. They're for real.
Final Score Forecast: Montreal 3, Winnipeg 1