NHL Odds & Pick for Flames vs. Oilers: Does Calgary Have Value as Underdog in Season Opener? (October 16)
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images. Pictured: Oilers teammates celebrate.
- Calgary begins its season in Edmonton on Saturday night.
- The Oilers are off to a 1-0 season and were 4-1 at home last season against the Flames.
- Carol Schram breaks down the game and gives her top pick, below.
Flames at Oilers Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Fans are back in the stands in Canada’s NHL arenas. That should give the favored Edmonton Oilers an additional boost as they host the Calgary Flames for this year’s first installment of the Battle of Alberta on Saturday night.
In one of the NHL’s most savage rivalries, the Oilers are looking to prove that they have the right stuff to contend for a Stanley Cup. Their lineup boasts league MVPs Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the group is stinging from a first-round sweep in the 2021 postseason.
After a playoff miss, the Flames are aiming to move beyond mediocrity by being harder to play against in their first full season under reinstated head coach Darryl Sutter.
Flames Begin New Season On the Road
The Flames play their first game of the 2021-22 season Saturday, with a few additions to a mostly familiar lineup. With Darryl Sutter back in charge, Calgary has added some grit on the back end with hard-hitting Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson. But two-time Stanley Cup winner Blake Coleman, the Flames’ marquee offseason acquisition, will miss Saturday’s game. He’s finishing up a two-game suspension for boarding Jansen Harkins of the Winnipeg Jets during preseason.
The Flames were one of the better teams in the league defensively last season, limiting opponents to just 28.2 shots per game. But the loss of captain Mark Giordano to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft has left a big hole, both on the blue line and in the leadership department.
With the club seemingly on the cusp of transition — and Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane all one year away from needing new contracts — the captaincy question remains very much up for debate.
During preseason, Tkachuk told the media that he’s tired of seeing his team get off to slow starts. Even if the Flames have taken that message to heart, they’ll have a tough time skating out of Edmonton with two points on Saturday.
Oilers Look to Build Off Opening Win
The Oilers opened their season on home ice on Wednesday, with a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks. Last season’s runaway scoring leader, Connor McDavid, quietly picked up two points with a pair of secondary assists, and 39-year-old netminder Mike Smith was busy with a 36-save performance.
The Canucks earned a point by erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period. The tying goal wasn’t a great look on Smith, but he stuck with it and gave his team the opportunity to pick up the shootout win despite being outshot 15-2 through the last 14 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime.
Despite questions about his age, Smith looks like he has come to play once again, after an outstanding campaign in 2020-21.
In addition to the cast of regulars, the Oilers have added veteran defenseman Duncan Keith, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, with Cody Ceci and rookie Evan Bouchard also new on the blue line.
Up front, additions include two-way forwards Zach Hyman and Derek Ryan — who spent the last three years in Calgary. And journeyman forward Brendan Perlini led the NHL with six goals in six preseason games, but saw just 5:37 of ice time in Game 1 against Vancouver.
On the injury front, Edmonton will be missing one of its toughest players. Zack Kassian is in concussion protocol after hitting his head on the ice during a preseason skirmish.
Flames vs. Oilers Pick
Preseason results must be taken with a grain of salt, but Edmonton won both matchups against Calgary this year — 4-0 at the Saddledome, then 4-3 at Rogers Place.
We don’t have any data on the Flames yet from the new season. But in 10 matchups against the Oilers last year, Edmonton went 6-4, including 4-1 on home ice.
In that season series, the Flames were the better team at 5-on-5, with an expected goals rate of 2.29/60 minutes (xGF/60) compared to 1.79 against (xGA/60). But that ignores the Oilers’ league-best power play, which went 10-for-31 against the Flames last season, while Calgary was 5-for-30 with their man-advantage opportunities.
In a rivalry as fierce as the Battle of Alberta, power plays are an inevitability. Added to their already-powerful home-ice advantage, special teams are another element that gives Edmonton the edge.
At -140, PointsBet is giving the Oilers a 58.3% chance of prevailing on Saturday night. The data suggests that’s a bet worth taking, although with three of six wins last season coming by one goal, it’s best to stick with the moneyline.
Pick: Edmonton Oilers -140 (play to -150)
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