Avalanche vs. Flames Playoff Odds, Betting Preview: Will Calgary’s Goaltending Falter?

Avalanche vs. Flames Playoff Odds, Betting Preview: Will Calgary’s Goaltending Falter? article feature image

Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Mike Smith

  • The Calgary Flames are -200 favorites over the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.
  • Michael Leboff previews the series and wonders if the Flames' goaltending will open the door for the Avs.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Calgary Flames Series Betting Odds

  • Avalanche odds: +170
  • Flames odds: -200

The Calgary Flames were not expected to be bad this season, but they certainly weren’t expected to be this good, either. Bill Peters led the Flames to their first division title since 2005-06 and Calgary finished with the best record in the Western Conference.

The Avalanche exceeded expectations with a worst-to-first season in 2017-18 but were quickly swatted out of the postseason by the Nashville Predators.

This season got off to a rocky start in Colorado, but the Avs turned things around after the All-Star break and were able to beat out Arizona and Minnesota for the final spot in the dismal Western Conference.

Chart provided by MoneyPuck.com

While Colorado did play better down the stretch, a lot of its success came thanks to an uptick in performance from its goaltenders. Over the last 25 games, the Avalanche posted a .939 save percentage at 5v5, the fifth-best mark in the NHL.

Other than that, we have a pretty good idea of who the Avalanche are and what they are capable of accomplishing. They have a couple of stars, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, decent depth and an average defense.

This is a mediocre team and that shows in the numbers.

Calgary is not a mediocre team. The Flames are a legitimate contender but they have a significant flaw.

The Flames do a great job controlling the game. They have rank in the top 10 in high-danger scoring chance rate and in the top five in Goal Share, Shot Share and expected goal percentage. They also have a ton of highly-skilled players who can turn all of that possession and all of those scoring chances into results.

The Flames had five players, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano, record at least 74 points. They also had five players, insert Mikael Backlund and subtract Lindholm from that list, notch 200 shots on goal.

Calgary is a 5-on-5 dynamo and its got enough talent on offense and defense to make up for mediocre goaltending. That’s a good thing, too, because the Flames have a serious problem in goal.

Mike Smith, 37, has been below average this season. The veteran netminder has had success in the playoffs before — seven years ago — but I wouldn’t count on Smith to be the game-stealer he was for the Coyotes during their run to the Western Conference Final in 2012.

The Flames haven’t indicated that Smith will be the Game 1 starter, but he is the “safer” choice over 26-year-old David Rittich, who has come back to earth after a brilliant stretch earlier in the season. No matter who starts Game 1, he will have a short leash.

Calgary does not ask much of its goalies. Over its last 25 games, the Flames have allowed just 8.92 High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 minutes at 5v5. That is the best mark in the NHL in that span.

If the Flames continue to play at that level, they’ll just need middling goaltending to get by. If they hiccup, the Avs will be a live underdog.

Calgary should win this series pretty easily, but in no universe am I comfortable laying that kind of juice on a team with such shaky goaltending. In fact, I wouldn’t argue taking a shot on the Avalanche — especially if this number lengthens.

Odds courtesy of the Westgate SuperBook and current as of Sunday evening.

Data courtesy of Corsica, Evolving Hockey and Natural Stat Trick.

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