Winnipeg Jets (20-23-5)
Currently propping the Central Division with 45 points and registering 12th in the Western Conference race for a playoff spot, Winnipeg’s prospects are grim indeed. To get a sense of just how grim, a glance at futures betting markets where the Jets are listed as the whopping +17500 underdogs (the largest of the lot) should suffice. While the price tag pertains to winning the Conference alone, the implications are far reaching, namely suggesting that even a playoff spot is beyond them this season according to sportsbooks.
As if to echoing with that sentiment, the franchise went about making wholesale changes at the weekend beginning with the swift decision to fire Claude Noel on Sunday. The Jets 6-3 defeat to the Blue Jackets on Saturday and the ensuing boos that followed the team off the ice on that unmemorable night probably hastened along the decision.
Paul Maurice replaced Noel and in his first game at the helm on Monday night his Jets trounced the Phoenix Coyotes 5-1, in what was an auspicious start for the new coach. But a game doesn’t make a season. Nor does it mean that a turnaround is in the making, no matter how convincing in victory.
This is not to discredit the Jets or their win over the Coyotes, which improved their L10 record to 4-6-0 and snapped a five-game losing skid that included defeats to Ottawa, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Columbus. But the fact of the matter is they are ten points back of a playoff spot. A mountain to climb that doesn’t only rely on their ability to recover lost ground but also their rivals' facility to give away ground gained.
Calgary Flames (16-25-6)
If Winnipeg Jets are bad, Calgary Flames are worse. Halfway through the season (and then some) the Flames are sputtering on an abysmal 16-25-6 mark and 38 points, which puts them 17 points back of a playoffs spot. The season is all but a write off for the Flames; winning the Conference isn’t possible and playoff hopes hang on a Hail Mary.
The Flames are 2-8-0 in their last ten games, a mark that includes two wins in their last seven games and three shutout defeats. Clearly, up-and-down offense is the most worrisome aspect over this poor stretch of form but that clearly went on a walkabout in back-to-back shutout defeats to Phoenix and St. Louis (6-0 and 5-0, respectively).
The Flames are flush off a 4-2 defeat to the Nashville Predators, marking the end of a two-game road trip that saw them go 1-1-0.
NHL Game betting tips and Picks:
While the Jets are coming off a win and the Flames are coming off a loss, sportsbooks are making no distinction between the pair for their upcoming date tipping both at -110 to win outright at BetOnline. Where a distinction is conspicuous is on the handicap that sees the Jets disadvantaged at +1.5 (-320) and the Flames favoured at -1.5 (+260).
The Flames have the home advantage and the edge in the series having beaten the Jets 5-4 on November 18 in Winnipeg. That said the Flames are wholly off colour and form right now and strike an unconvincing pose. Meanwhile the Jets are flourishing under new coach Maurice, who has made an immediate impact and with whom their honeymoon is only just getting started. It’s quite possible that it would extend through this game against a beatable Calgary Flames. On balance, this game could go either way but we’re leaning towards the Jets for the win at -110 at Bet365 as our recommended NHL pick.
NHL Picks: Winnipeg Jets to win outright at -110