Tracking the Calgary Flames: Season-Long NHL Picks and Handicapping for Hockey
by Trevor Whenham - 11/18/2014
NHL Predictions: Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames Odds and Picks
Since we last checked in on the Flames, they have beaten both Arizona and Ottawa at home, and neither win has been particularly tough for them. Now, though, they are taking a step up in class. A big one. The fact of the matter is that, as impressive as the 11-6-2 start is for this team, there is something more than a little false about it all. They have played just two games against Western Conference teams that made the playoffs last year - they beat Chicago and lost badly to St. Louis. That's it. In the East they have played solid contenders Montreal and Tampa Bay twice each, but the rest of their opponents have not been in the top tier.
This team has done a very good job of taking care of business, but that business has not been nearly as tough as it could be thanks to the largesse of the schedule makers. Well, that changes starting now. Anaheim is tops in the West. Chicago, who hits town on Thursday, has been flat to start the season, but they were one of the preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup and will turn things around. This game begins a two-game stretch of the most important and arguably toughest games that the team has played all year. We should know more about this team by late Thursday night than we do now.
Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames Betting Storylines
Jonas Hiller gets the start in net for Calgary, and it is a good bet that he will be very motivated for the opportunity. He was with the Ducks until this year, and he surely can't help but feel that he was forced out because of younger goalies. It was the way the business works, but it wasn't the fairest thing that has ever happened. The challenge for handicappers in these situations is to try to figure out who has the edge. The goalie has faced all the shooters countless times in practice, but they have also faced him and watched him enough to know his strengths and weaknesses. There are no secrets and surprises in these spots, so it all comes down to two things - motivation and form. One thing that makes it even more difficult is that we haven't yet seen this type of rest period for Hiller. He and Karri Ramo alternated starts for the first 11 games of the year. Since then, though, Ramo has made just two starts, and he was yanked in the second period in the other. This is the first time since Hiller became the No. 1 keeper that he has played after taking a game off, so we don't know for sure how well he will bounce back.
Sixty minutes just has not been long enough for the Ducks lately. Their five games before Sunday night all went into overtime. They obviously got a point in each game, but they won only once - against the Kings in a shootout. They lost twice in overtime and two more times in a shootout. They had been to overtime just twice in their first 13 games, and they won both, so this streak - while impressive - likely has more to do with coincidence than anything else. Calgary hasn't gone into overtime since Nov. 4, but they are 3-2 in extra time this year. All three wins have come on the road, though, while both losses have been at home.
The last game Anaheim played further complicates things here. Florida is young and raw team that had lost four of five coming into their visit to Anaheim. They had scored four goals just three times in 14 games and had two or fewer goals in 10 games. They should not have been a test for the Ducks at all. So, of course, the Panthers won 6-2 in a complete shellacking. So, were the Ducks just having a bad day they can easily shake off? Or do they have bigger issues right now than has seemed evident? Will they play angry, or defeated?
One thing you'll want to keep an eye on heading into this one is the health status of Mark Giordano. He is the Flames leading scorer and has been the best defenseman in the league to date. He took a stick above the eye in the first period against Ottawa on Saturday. It looked like it could have been bad, and he left the ice, but he returned in the second period after having received four stitches. He was also wearing a visor, which he normally doesn't do. If he is not at or near his best then the team is going to struggle to keep up with the Ducks.
Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Calgary at -105 and Anaheim slightly favored at -115 . The total opened at the standard 5.5.
The home team is a dominant 40-11-1 in the last 52 meetings between these teams. The Ducks are 11-4 in the last 15 games.
Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames Predictions and Picks
Momentum plays a bit more of a factor in the NHL than in other sports, so we will go with the momentum here. Calgary has won two in a row at home and is playing well. Anaheim is coming off their worst game of the year, has struggled recently, has goaltending concerns, and is dealing with injuries and illness. At their best the Ducks are clearly the better team, but they are far from their best right now. They are vulnerable, and we'll look to take advantage of it.
4-Unit Play #68 Take Calgary over Anaheim (-105) (9:00 pm ET Tuesday)
Year-to-date Flames picks: 2-2, +0 Units, -$60.
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