NHL Betting Picks: Stars vs. Flames Game 1 Odds & Preview (May 3)

NHL Betting Picks: Stars vs. Flames Game 1 Odds & Preview (May 3) article feature image

Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Calgary Flames teammates Matthew Tkachuk, center, celebrates a goal with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm.

  • The Flames are home favorites in Game 1 against the Stars on Tuesday night.
  • Can the up-and-down Stars keep it close or pull the massive upset?
  • Carol Schram breaks down the matchup and shares her best bet below.

Stars vs. Flames Game 1 Odds

Stars Odds+180
Flames Odds-225
Series MoneylineDAL +250/CGY -320
Over/Under5.5 (-120/+100)
Time10 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Dallas Stars have their work cut out for them as they open their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series on the road against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

Under the steady hand of Darryl Sutter, a two-time Stanley Cup winner as coach of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014, the Flames have morphed into a group that's strong in all facets of the game — offensively, defensively and in net. Calgary coasted into the playoffs while finishing the season in fine form, with a record of 10-2-2 over the last 14 games.

Meanwhile, the Stars were an up-and-down bunch that went 8-5-3 in the month of April and didn't secure their playoff berth until the third-to-last game of the season. They're the lowest-scoring team to qualify for the postseason and at minus-8, the only one with a negative Goal Differential.

Finishing 13 points behind the Flames in the standings, the Stars are major underdogs at +250 to win the series and +180 to win Game 1.

Here's the breakdown for both sides and your best bet for Tuesday's opening game.

StatDallas StarsCalgary Flames
Goals For per 60 minutes (5-on-5)2.23
Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5)2.42.1
Expected Goals per 60 (5-on-5)2.52.8
Expected Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5)2.42.3
High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 (5-on-5)12.211.8
High-Danger Scoring Chances Allowed per 60 (5-on-5)10.79.6
Power Play %22.2%23.1%
Penalty Kill %78.9%82.9%
Save Percentage (projected starting goalie).913.920
Goals Saved Above Expectation (projected starting goalie)+0.98+16.1

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 and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

Can the Stars Pull the Upset in Game 1?

None of the Stars' regular-season stats are going to knock your socks off. They sit in the middle of the pack in most categories, with their best marks being a Power-Play rate of 22.4% and 161.17 Expected Goals Against at five-on-five, both good for 11th place in the league.

That being said, Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood have formed a steady-but-not-spectacular tandem in net since the trade deadline, both with positive rates of Goals Saved Above Expected.

One area where the Stars have the edge is in playoff experience. Fifteen current team members plus coach Rick Bowness were part of the group that defied expectations to reach the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton in 2020. Dallas took out Calgary in six games in Round 1 to get that journey started.

Veteran Joe Pavelski continues to be a clutch performer. The Stars have also now added Jason Robertson and his 41 regular-season goals, seen Roope Hintz hit a new career-high with 37, and watched Tyler Seguin make his way back from multiple injuries to put up 24 goals and 49 points this year.

Heading into Game 1, the Stars are healthy.

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Flames Enter the Playoffs Scorching Hot

Like the Stars, the Calgary Flames missed the playoffs last season, and they are now sneaking up on nearly 20 years of playoff futility.

Since the first time Darryl Sutter was behind their bench and got them to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, Calgary has won just two playoff series of any type — a first-round series in Vancouver in 2015 and the best-of-five qualifying round against Winnipeg in the 2020 bubble.

This year's group is built for postseason longevity. Jacob Markstrom has sparkled in net, finishing with 10.8 Goals Saved Above Expected. Calgary's rock-solid blue line helped deliver the third-lowest Goals Against in the league and sixth-best Penalty Kill and has the kind of snarl that will create a rough ride for the opposition. Up front, the Flames finished sixth in goals per game, led by a career year from Hart Trophy candidate Johnny Gaudreau.

All told, four Flames cracked the 30-goal plateau, and Elias Lindholm is earning just as much praise for his two-way game as he is for his 82 points.

The Flames are also essentially healthy. Sean Monahan has been away from the club for the last month after deciding to undergo season-ending hip surgery. Forward Trevor Lewis missed the last two games of the regular season for personal reasons but was at Calgary's practice on Monday.

Stars vs. Flames Pick

On paper, this matchup is about as lopsided as you'll see in these playoffs, and the betting market reflects that. The line for Game 1 opened with the Flames as -175 favorites; by Monday night that number had already moved to -225.

So where does the value lie in this matchup?

All three games of the season series were close, so play the puck line at your peril. And while both teams in this series are strong on home ice, the Stars have the worst regular-season road record of any playoff team, at 19-20-4 this season. That doesn't bode well for a potential Game 1 upset, although they did eke out an overtime victory in Calgary back in November — their only win against the Flames this season.

The Stars can't match Calgary's offensive depth. To succeed in this series, they'll need to tap into the shutdown defense that limited opponents to one goal or fewer 14 times this season.

But they'll face challenges of their own at the other end of the ice. Calgary did the same thing 24 times, and Markstrom had a league-leading nine shutouts.

Even if the game is low scoring, an over/under of 5.5 doesn't offer much room to maneuver. However, the Stars' best chance of making a series out of this is to keep the goals to a minimum and hope a bounce or two lets them escape Calgary with a split.

Add in some possible opening-night jitters for the Flames, and that could add up to a low-scoring battle on Tuesday night.

Pick: Under 5.5 (+100) | play down to -110

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