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NHL Odds & Pick for Flames vs. Senators: Side With Ottawa’s Superior Goaltending (March 1)

NHL Odds & Pick for Flames vs. Senators: Side With Ottawa’s Superior Goaltending (March 1) article feature image

Andre Ringuette. Pictured: Matt Murray of the Ottawa Senators.

  • Calgary and Ottawa meet again on Monday after the teams split the first two games of the series, each scoring six goals.
  • The Flames' six goals on Saturday was first time in nearly two weeks that Calgary scored more than three goals.
  • Matt Russell explains why Ottawa's better goaltending will likely stop that from happening again.

Flames vs. Senators Odds

Flames Odds -170
Senators Odds +145
Over/Under 6.0
Time | TV 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday night and via PointsBet.

One of the best features of the Action app is the goal notifications. Whether there’s too many games to watch at once or, in the case of the Flames and Senators’ matinee on Saturday, there’s other things going on in the afternoon, the app let’s you know what’s going on from a surface-level. 

Of course, it’s decidedly less fun when before you remember the game has even started, you already get a buzz that the Flames have scored.  Then it happens again. And again. My sarcastic mind always wonders things like, “Are the Senators even using a goalie today?” Then the more level-headed part of my brain kicks in and goes digging for what went wrong.

Calgary Flames

The Flames were overdue for an offensive explosion, but unfortunately when working with predictive metrics, we can only try to go off the most likely result, not what a team is “due” for.

The Flames boosted their offensive creation numbers with a 4-game series versus the Canucks, but in the five games previous to Saturday, their High-Danger Chance totals had dropped. In going 1-4, the Flames averaged just 1.54 even-strength Expected Goals per game in that span, and overall they sat at 1.76 XGF per game 5-on-5. By comparison, the Senators average 1.85 XGF at even strength. 

Getting three quick goals against the Senators had to feel like a dam bursting for the Flames, and they rode that to a 6-3 win, including their first short-handed goal of the season. Simply put, there were a lot of outliers going Calgary’s way. 

One thing the Flames need to go their way sooner than later is the return of Jacob Markstrom. Their big-money offseason acquisition has been out for more than a week, and the results have been predictably inconsistent from backup goaltender David Rittich.

Early on in his relief stint, Rittich looked outstanding in beating the Toronto Maple Leafs once and almost stealing a second win a couple nights later. As the Flames shifted to Ottawa, Rittich didn’t make it out of the second period on Thursday, and then the Senators were able to bury three more on him Saturday.

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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

As usual this season, when things go badly for the Senators it’s for a simple reason. The goaltender isn’t ready to play. The Senators have the most Expected Goals For this season when trailing, not because they’re a juggernaut after going down a goal, but because they’re often trailing early and have plenty of time to accumulate towards this metric. 

If you went back and watched the first 3 goals of the game, you saw a common thread of the Flames taking quick shots and Matt Murray not being squared to the shooter. In fairness to Murray the shots were fortunately placed as well. Through one period of play, despite being down 3-1, the Senators actually had three High-Danger Chances at even-strength, to just two for the Flames. Overall, the Senators finished with an 8-5 advantage in HDC and with 1.44 XGF to Calgary’s 1.6. 

While the Senators have been respectable at even-strength and the goaltending has been a big issue, the power play needs to get better to give themselves a chance to win as well. Their three goals on Saturday all came with the man-advantage which could give them a little confidence even if they much prefer a game like their first matchup that had neither team take a penalty, in a 6-1 win.


Betting Analysis & Pick

For the season, there just isn’t that much between the Flames and Senators. Overall, the Flames have 51.67% of the Expected Goal Share in their games, while the Senators have a 49.47% Expected Goal Share. In my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, the Flames are an exactly average team at even-strength, while the Sens are just 3% below average. 

From a perception standpoint, when it looks bad for Ottawa, it REALLY looks bad like it did on Saturday. That said, as we look to bet this rubber-match game, each team has a blowout win on the scoreboard where the goaltending let the loser down. 

My model’s projected lines make this game CGY -120/OTT +100. Since we’re looking at this game being lined around CGY -160/OTT +140, it looks like we’re going back to the well with the Senators, relying on a better game from Murray that can keep Ottawa in it. 

Pick: Senators (+140 or better)

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