Tonight at 10:00, the Vancouver Canucks visit Calgary to face off against the Flames in the Scotiabank Saddledome for the first of four matchups between these two Pacific Division teams out of Western Canada this season. Neither of these teams have been spectacular this season and sit just four points apart in the standings going into tonight’s game.
The Canucks are 12-13-3 on the season. They’re coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at home to the Minnesota Wild (easy winner for me to close my night on the Wild ML where I loved the value on that game at a -110 pick em) on Saturday night where they actually outshot Minnesota 35-33 and outhit the Wild 24-13. They didn’t play all that great though and the Wild outplayed them throughout. In that game, they had an expected goal rate of 2.99 goals against the Wild’s 3.94. The loss to Minnesota ended their their three game win streak, all of which needed overtime as they beat the Sharks 6-5 in San Jose on Wednesday, got a 7-6 win at home against the Habs on Monday and a 3-2 win at home against the Coyotes on the 3rd. Vancouver has played pretty well as of late, winning eight of their last twelve games. Their offense has been pretty good this season scoring a ninth most in the NHL average of 3.46 goals per game but they’ve essentially been on the right end of lucky bounces to score that much with way this team has played. They’re sixth last in expected goals percentage this season at just 45.82%. They’ve only averaged 30.2 shots per game and they are seventh fewest in the NHL in expected goals per 60 minutes (2.82) and they’re just 24th in high danger shots. Defensively they’ve been brutal this year, which is definitely what’s to blame for most of their losses. They’ve allowed an average of 3.86 goals per game, third most in the NHL on an average of 32.7 shots allowed per game. The Canucks have allowed the third most expected goals against per 60 minutes (3.81) in the league only behind Anaheim and Columbus with the sixth most high danger shots against. Tonight the Canucks are projected to start backup Spencer Martin in goal with Thatcher Demko on the IR with a lower body injury and expected to be out for six weeks. Martin’s 8-3-1 on the season with a 3.45 GAA and .891 save percentage. Not great.
Going into this season the Calgary Flames were my pick to win the Stanley Cup. That obviously hasn’t panned out quite as well as I expected. The Flames are 13-11-5 on the season and come into tonight’s game on a three game losing streak. On Monday night in Montreal with Calgary as a -215 favorite on the road, after a scoreless first period, the Flames got on the board first with a Jonathan Huberdeau power play goal 5:04 into the second but gave up the lead with the Habs tying it up 1:40 into the third period and the Canadiens going on to beat the Flames 2-1 in a shootout. Grind of a game with Calgary getting outshot 38-35 and outplayed by an expected goal rate of 5.92-2.93. The way the Flames have played this season has been highly disappointing after their preseason expectations but they have been much better at home this year where they have a 10-5-1 record compared to their terrible 3-6-4 record on the road. They’re tenth last in the NHL in expected goals percentage at 48.53%. They’ve scored an average of just 2.93 goals per game, eleventh fewest in the league on an average of 33.9 shots per game. They’re only generating a ninth fewest rate of expected goals per 60 minutes (2.92) in the NHL and they’re 16th in high danger shots. Calgary’s been a mid tier team defensively this year, a sharp drop off from last season, allowing a 14th fewest in the NHL average of 3 goals per game on an average of just 28.5 shots allowed. They’re 15th in expected goals against per 60 (2.95) and 16th in high danger shots against. Jacob Markstrom was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL last season as a Vezina finalist but he hasn’t been great for the Flames this year with an 8-7-3 record, 2.81 GAA and .897 save percentage. He’s projected to start tonight.
In the four matchups between these teams last season, the Flames who finished the season much better than Vancouver did, went 3-1 on the year against the Canucks. In Calgary on January 29th in the first game they played the Canucks won 1-0 in overtime of a double shutout, the Canucks answered back with a 7-1 blowout at home on February 24th and then Calgary won the last two games with a 5-2 win in Vancouver on March 19th and a 6-3 win at home on April 2rd.
The Flames have been much better on home ice this season and I’d expect them to be able to outplay the Canucks tonight. Neither of these teams have been great but I think the talent for Calgary is good enough that they should be able to get a win tonight. I think the -180 price on the moneyline for Calgary is a bit high so my pick on this game would be the Flames in regulation at the much better -110 price. I also considered the Flames team total over, but don’t quite trust them to score four goals to hit the 3.5 but don’t see value in laying the -200 juice on the over 3.
The under is 16-12-1 in Flames games this season and the over is 16-11 in Canucks games this season. Three of the four matchups between these teams last went over with a total of 9 goals, 7 goals, 8 goals in the three games that hit the over and a 1-0 shutout for the Flames in the one that stayed way under. I’d slightly lean the over on this game but not enough to bet on it, so I would stay off the total in this matchup.
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