NHL Predictions: Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks Odds and Picks
The regular season went extremely well for the Calgary Flames compared to expectations. Fortunately, it went pretty well for us from a betting perspective, too - about three-quarters of a unit profit per game. Now, though, is when it really starts to matter both for us and for the team. The NHL playoffs are a whole different animal than the regular season in so many ways, and they are just brutal - the toughest test in sports. I never for a second expected the Flames would be in the playoffs to start the season. Now, can they make some noise and do some damage? I'll tell you one thing - they certainly have an excited group of fans. The team hasn't been in the playoffs since 2009 and hasn't won a series since their improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004. Fans here in Calgary are starved for playoff action, and they are fully and unquestionably in love with this team and their style of play. Things are already crazy and will get far more so with each successive win.
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I had some issues with the newish playoff format when it was announced. Again this year, though, it has produced some great, emotional first rounds. These two teams truly hate each other - much like Montreal and Ottawa in the East. These teams play particularly hard against each other and often forget their limits - as that crazy brawl between the teams right at the opening whistle last season proved. As much as the matchup is about the players and their comparative strengths, it will be about which team can better manage the emotion and maintain their focus.
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks Betting Storylines
Calgary is a team that gives fans of analytics a headache. They are a really awful possession team, but they have been able to overcome that and get to where they are because they shoot at high efficiency. One of the big reasons for that relates to penalties. Simply, they don't get them - they shattered the modern-era record by having eight games - including three in a row recently - in which they were not penalized. That means that they spend more time on the power play than their opponents oftentimes. On the power play it's easier to get quality shots because of the man advantage. That right there is one of the biggest concerns for the Flames in this perspective. The playing style typically shifts in the playoffs, and penalties are less common. That minimizes some of Calgary's advantage and means that they will likely spend more time at full strength where their shooting edge isn't quite as strong. Not a fatal flaw but one to consider.
Another minor concern for Calgary - which would quickly become a massive one if the status changed - is the health of the top line. Hudler, Monahan and Gaudreau have been the best line in hockey over the last month or so and are absolutely crucial for the Flames to have any success in this series. Jiri Hudler was crosschecked very hard in the arm in the game against the Kings last week. He missed the next, mostly meaningless, game and has been somewhat limited in practice since. Sean Monahan also missed that last game and has twice left practice before it ended since then. If either of those guys were unable to go, or were limited in their effectiveness, it would have a serious impact on the chances. Something to watch.
Also something to watch is a surprising development in net. Like most teams, the Flames will say absolutely nothing truthful about the status of players at this stage or the season. Goalie Karri Ramo has been out of action, and it seemed quite likely that he would be out for the series. That meant that Jonas Hiller was the first and perhaps only option. On Tuesday in practice, though, Joni Ortio, who had been recalled from the AHL, was not on the ice, but Ramo, unexpectedly, was. We won't know until just before game time likely if Ramo is indeed available, but that would certainly provide a bit of a security blanket.
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks Odds and Betting Trends
Vancouver is favored at -145 to win the first game of the series at BetOnline, with Calgary at +131. The total sits at 5, with the "over" solidly favored. For the series, Vancouver is favored at -135, with Calgary at +115.
The two teams split their four-game series this year - Vancouver won the first two, with Calgary winning the final two. Each team won once in the opposing building. The most recent game, though, was back on Valentine's Day, so it might not be that relevant for what we can expect here. The home team has won five of the last seven meetings between the teams.
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks Predictions and Picks
This is a tight, tough matchup. Ultimately, though, I side with the Flames for three key reasons. First, Bob Hartley has been the coach for three years while Willie Desjardins is in his first year in Vancouver. Chemistry and trust are so important in the playoffs, and I have more faith in what we will see in Calgary. Second, while the Sedins have been very quietly excellent this year, I still give the edge to the top line for Calgary given their recent form. Finally, it just feels like Calgary has the edge in desire right now. For Vancouver they have been in the playoffs a lot in recent years, and their mini-rebuilding phase means they know they don't have the chance they have had before. Calgary, meanwhile, is playing with house money and has been playing with controlled recklessness for weeks now. Keep that up, and they will emerge victorious.
3-Unit Play #7 Take Calgary Flames (+131) at Vancouver Canucks (10:05 p.m. ET Wednesday)
2-Unit Play #687 Take Calgary (+115) to win the series
Year-to-date Flames picks: 11-9, +12 Units, +$1495.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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