NHL Predictions: Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Odds and Picks
Well, what a strange trip it has been so far. The Flames were expected by many - including me - to be serious contenders in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. The playoffs seemed, back in September, to not only be unlikely but impossible. Yet here we are. Calgary not only made the postseason, but they won a series - and did it in reasonably commanding fashion with a crazy eventual blowout in Game 6 against Vancouver. I live about 10 minutes from the Saddledome where the team plays, and I can certainly tell you that the city is fully embracing this run - like they haven't had reason to in more than a decade since they made an unlikely run to the finals in 2004. It's been a wild, fun ride. But can the team keep it rolling? That's what we are here to figure out.
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Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Betting Storylines
Anaheim: We can't talk about this series without addressing a huge geographical advantage. Maybe the Flames get too excited about being close to Disneyland to play well. Whatever the reason, their lack of recent success in Anaheim is startling. Actually, we aren't talking about a particularly recent trend - the Flames have lost their last 20 regular-season games in Anaheim. 20! Needless to say, they struggle in this building and against this team more than any other in the league. That's a problem, though history doesn't by itself mean anything here. In Calgary it has been a different story - the Flames won two of three this year and one of two last year.
Calgary needs to find a way to overcome a big disadvantage and get off to a strong early start in this series to offset home-ice advantage. However, isn't that true of pretty much every series ever played in the NHL?
Hiller: The Ducks let Jonas Hiller leave the team last year to go with younger goaltending. At this point they would love to have him back. Their goalkeeping has been fine, but Hiller has been mostly excellent in these playoffs. Now he is going to have the added motivation of facing a team that didn't want him anymore - and the comfort of playing in a building he knows so well. If he can channel all that emotion positively - and this season and his even-keeled nature gives us reason to believe that he can - then he makes this series interesting.
Rust or rest?: The Ducks may have forgotten how to skate. They have been out of action since clinching their series against the Jets in Game 4 way back on April 22. That's three more days of inactivity than the Flames have had. Time to heal is always valued this time of year, but at some point a good break becomes too much and you are duller than you would like to be when you return. Will Anaheim be at a disadvantage in this first game?
Getzlaf: It's a bit of a homecoming for the Anaheim captain. He played his junior hockey for the Calgary Hitmen in the Saddledome and returned just this season to have his number retired. He's obviously a popular player at times in Calgary, but these surely won't be among those times.
Calgary's top line: The top three of Calgary - veteran Jiri Hudler, sophomore Sean Monahan and Rookie of the Year candidate Johnny Gaudreau - have been just spectacular all year and are the biggest reason this team is where it is. At first glance, the fact that they had seven of the team's 18 goals in the opening round was a good sign. That's skewed, though - they had 10 combined points in the last, crazy game, and had struggled collectively for much of the series before that. For Calgary to have any chance at all those three will have to be back at full force. The health of both Hudler and Monahan have been concerns, though the team obviously isn't saying anything. Hopefully the break helped them get right.
Comebacks: No lead will be safe in this one. The Ducks led the NHL in a key category - wins when trailing after two periods. They had 12. Calgary was right behind them with 10. Calgary came back twice in the Vancouver series - including a wild win after trailing 3-0 early in the final game.
Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Odds and Betting Trends
At Bovada , the Flames are big +165 underdogs in the opening game, with the Ducks favored at -190 at home. The total is set at 5.5, with the "under" getting the significant play at this point. The series line is set with the Ducks at -240 to win and the Flames at +200. The line opened with Anaheim at -174, so it's clear where the public sentiment is in the series.
The home team is 41-11-1 in the last 53 meetings between these teams, but that is obviously skewed by Calgary's issues in Anaheim - they are just 2-26-3 in their last 31 in Orange County. The teams have gone "over" the total in four of their last five.
Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Predictions and Picks
Tough to find a bet in this one. The Ducks are the better team overall and should win, but the series price is just horrible. The only place I can find anything attractive here is to make a small bet on the Flames in the opener. The Ducks won't have the sense of urgency that Calgary does and could be rusty. Calgary is feisty and physical and could catch them off guard. At this price it's worth a shot.
2-Unit Play #51 Take Calgary Flames (+165) at Anaheim Ducks (10:05 pm ET Thursday)
Year-to-date Flames picks: 13-10, +13 Units, +$1718.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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