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NHL Odds & Pick for Flames vs. Senators: Back Rested Ottawa as Underdog (February 25)

NHL Odds & Pick for Flames vs. Senators: Back Rested Ottawa as Underdog (February 25) article feature image

Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Drake Batherson.

  • The Flames come into Thursday's game after a tough loss to Toronto on Wednesday.
  • The Senators, on the other hand, had a night off after playing Montreal on Tuesday.
  • The extra day of rest gives the edge to underdog Ottawa, as Matt Russell explains below.

Flames vs. Senators Odds

Flames Odds -175
Senators Odds +150
Over/Under 6.5
Time | TV Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via BetMGM.

More than a month into the season, Calgary had to feel left out as every other team in the newly formed North Division was getting to pad their points against the cellar-dwelling Senators. On Thursday, the two teams finally meet for the first time this season.

Unfortunately for the Flames, they may have missed the boat when it comes to the Senators struggles, as recent results show Ottawa may be ready to give Calgary trouble. 

Calgary Flames

The Flames had to peel themselves up off the ice after taking a stomach punch and then an overhand right in a deflating defeat against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday in the second of two straight against Toronto.

David Rittich started both games with Jacob Markstrom banged up, so it will be interesting to see who gets the call for the crease on Thursday. Rittich was a minute away from back-to-back shutouts, but playing a third game in four nights has to affect performance, especially with some travel mixed in. If Markstrom plays, he better be ready to go as the Senators have hit double digits in even-strength high-danger chances (HDC) eight times this season. 

With the solid backstopping of Rittich in Toronto, it’s easy to ignore that the Flames’ offense probably could have made life easier and avoided the dramatic loss. Calgary managed just six HDCs after creating only three in the first meeting on Monday. 

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

Ottawa Senators

The Senators have been in the scheduling catbird’s seat already once this year. On Thursday, they’ll once again be playing a team on the second half of a back-to-back while they come in after a day off following a win over Montreal on Tuesday. 

In that one, the Senators scored a second straight win over the Montreal Canadiens, but it didn’t come without controversy. Ottawa was the beneficiary of a generous goaltender interference call at the end of regulation that would have given the Habs the win. As it happened, the Sens won it in a shootout, where their high-end young talent could take advantage of the breakaway format. 

After a stretch of losing 12 of 13 games — despite having the better expected goal share (XG%) in five of those games — the Senators have actually seen some positive results. Ottawa’s won four of its last six games, thanks to just average goaltending.

That wasn’t the case early in the season, as the tandem of Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg found themselves together at the bottom of the league in goals saved above average (GSAA). While they haven’t crawled out of that position, they have enabled the Senators to stay in games as one of the best teams in the NHL during the even game state of tied/5-on-5. 

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The Senators’ main problem this season has been giving up early goals. With the Flames coming in late from Toronto, I expect the Senators to have a good chance to stay in the game early. 

Even though the Flames can be content with taking three of four points in Toronto, they have to be concerned with just 2.03 expected goals total in the two games. This isn’t an offense to be afraid of at this point. 

My model makes the true moneyline for this game CGY -115/OTT +115, so in order to back the Senators, I’ll be looking for at least +135 on the underdog. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for based on the usual prices on the Sens, even if they’ve been a problem for much of the North Division lately. 

Pick: Senators (+135 or better)

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