The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks will square off in an all-Canadian matchup in the first round of the playoffs. The two teams split their four regular season matchups and we can expect a similarly tight series in the playoffs, even though the Canucks are favored on the betting lines.
The Calgary Flames Can Win This Series Because…
They’ve been playing playoff hockey for the last two months. While many teams had secured their Stanley Cup Playoffs berth, the Flames had been fighting for their lives. With the Los Angeles Kings hot on their heels, they went out each and every night and played as if it was an elimination game. That means there won’t be much of an adjustment for them come playoffs.
The Flames are playing really well these days as they’ve won five of their last seven heading into the Western Conference playoffs. Goaltender Jonas Hiller has a .926 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA since the All-Star break, and he’s been very steady in net for the Flames down the stretch. The Canucks just got Ryan Miller back from injury in the final regular season game and he got bombed for five goals against Edmonton. It’s unclear how sharp he’ll be in this series as he clearly looked rusty in that game. Vancouver was ranked 10th in goals allowed per game before the All-Star break but allowed the sixth-most after it. That could be a concerned against a Flames offense that was very good down the stretch of the season.
The Vancouver Canucks Can Win This Series Because…
They’ve been on a roll to end the season. Vancouver went 12-5-1 in their final 18 games and that’s mostly because they’ve been finding ways to score at the offensive end. The Canucks were fourth in scored since the All-Star break, averaging 3.08 per game. If they’re going to be scoring at that rate, they shouldn’t have too many problems in this series. And the fact that they’ll be facing Jonas Hiller should be good news for them too. Hiller has a career 2.96 GAA against Vancouver along with a .905 save percentage. That’s not going to cut it against a team that’s scoring really well these days, so keep that in mind when you make your NHL picks.
The Flames are not a very experienced team in terms of playoffs as they are very young and raw. This will be a new experience for a lot of them whereas for Vancouver, this is a team that has some veteran leadership. That could make all the difference.
NHL odds makers realize that this series is going to be a coin flip as neither is particularly strong in net, both have strong offenses, neither really has a decisive home-ice advantage and both teams play well on the road.
The difference could be that Vancouver has played better against teams above .500 as they are 25-16 versus winning teams whereas Calgary is just 15-19. However, with the margins so thin on either side, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to lay this type of juice here. This is far more of a coin flip than the NHL lines indicate. That being the case, take the Flames at +140.
NHL Pick: Flames +140 at 5Dimes