Tracking the Calgary Flames: Season-Long NHL Picks and Handicapping for Hockey
by Trevor Whenham - 11/12/2014
NHL Predictions: Arizona Coyotes at Calgary Flames Odds and Picks
This is a very pivotal game for the Flames - a potential turning point for what has been an almost impossibly strong season to date. Calgary has been playing way beyond expectations for the last month, but on Monday night they suffered their first truly bad loss since their third game of the season. They scored the first goal of the game at Carolina, but then it was as if they felt they had done enough. Their discipline and effort were clearly a step or three below what they have long been, their goaltending wasn't sharp, and for the first time in a long time they looked like the offensively-challenged team which, on paper, they should have been all year.
It's only one game, so there is no reason to panic just yet. If they were to put together another substandard performance in another very winnable situation, though, then it would really be a concern that the positive momentum they have enjoyed early in this season could be lost and that they could revert much closer to the low expectations heading into the season. They need a strong performance here to prove that what we have seen so far from them can be real.
Arizona Coyotes at Calgary Flames Betting Storylines
The Flames are returning home after a five-game road trip - their 11th road game in 17 games this year. That should be a huge boost to them, but the warm confines of the Saddledome have not treated them well so far. In their six home games they are just 2-2-2. That is well below the 7-4 road mark that is among the best in the league. When they returned home from their initial six-game road trip they lost their first game in overtime and failed to win three of their first four at home. We can't rely on a home boost here.
For the first time in a long time, the net is an area of mild concern heading into this game. Karri Ramo was the starter two games back in Florida, but he was yanked after allowing four goals. Jonas Hiller took over and posted a shutout the rest of the way in that comeback win. Next time out, though, he was sloppy against Carolina and had his worst outing of the season. Hiller has been given the nod again in this one. Despite the rough outing last time, there is reason to be confident about his form. Twice before this season he has allowed four goals. The last time came in Tampa Bay, and he came back next time out with the 26+ shutout minutes in relief in Florida. The first time was far more impressive. After giving up four in St. Louis in a game in which the team was just overwhelmed, Hiller bounced back with one of the best games by any goalie in the league all season. He stopped 49 shots to absolutely steal a 2-1 victory in Chicago.
While Calgary has some issues coming into this one, Arizona is surely not coming into the game in a position of strength. On Tuesday night they opened up a 2-0 lead at home against a Dallas team that is playing well below their expectations. After that, though, they faltered. Dallas scored three straight to take the lead. Phoenix tied it up late but then let it slip away for good less than two minutes later with a very sloppy shorthanded goal. After losing six of seven, the team looked to be showing some life with three straight wins capped by a big victory at Anaheim, but they have since lost two in a row at home to drop two games below .500, and they limp into this one, the first of three games on a short Western Canada road swing.
This will be an interesting test for the Flames in another sense - to see how they measure up with the Western Conference. Through an odd quirk of scheduling this is just the second Western opponent that the team has faced in their last 11 games. The West is unquestionably deeper and tougher than the East, and Arizona is just the kind of opponent that Calgary needs to be able to handle if they want to continue this unlikely push for a playoff spot. Calgary is 5-2 overall against the West so far compared to just 4-4-2 against the East. It would be hard to convincingly argue that the record against the East isn't the more accurate representation of what this team should be overall.
This doesn't pertain to this game in particular, but I can't help but be struck by the youth of this Calgary team - especially up front. The Flames have 11 forwards currently with the big club who are 25 or younger. Five of them started the season in the AHL, and six of them are in their first or second year in the league. T.J. Brodie, their second best defenseman, is just 24 as well. You can't look at the youth this team is relying on and truly expect them to maintain this level of play all year. They have played like a playoff team all year, but that is just not what they are.
Arizona Coyotes at Calgary Flames NHL Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Calgary favored at -149, which quickly shifted to -145. The Coyotes opened at +125. The total is set at the standard 5.5, with the "under" slightly favored to start.
The Coyotes are 0-5 the last five times that they have played in Calgary. The home team 16-5 the last 21 times the teams have played. The Flames are 4-0 in their last four against the West. Arizona is 0-4 in their last four Thursday night games.
Arizona Coyotes at Calgary Flames Predictions and Picks
I am not really bullish on the Flames long term, but they should be well positioned to pull off a win here. Hiller should bounce back well, and the team has had a couple of days off since their last game to tighten things up in practice and return to top form after a disappointing game. Arizona is not playing particularly well lately, so it's hard to be too optimistic about them.
5-Unit Play #14 Take Calgary vs. Arizona (-145) (7:05 p.m. ET Thursday)
Year-to-date Flames picks: 1-2, -5 Units, -$560.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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