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Flames vs. Jets Odds, Picks and Predictions: Back Calgary for Season-Opening Win (Jan. 14)

Flames vs. Jets Odds, Picks and Predictions: Back Calgary for Season-Opening Win (Jan. 14) article feature image

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Gaudreau.

  • Two teams north of the border open their 2021 seasons against each other on Thursday night when Winnipeg hosts Calgary.
  • The Flames are coming off what they will consider a bit of a letdown season, while the Jets will rely heavily on Connor Hellebuyck.
  • Pete Truszkowski explains why he's backing Calgary to start the season with a win.

Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets Odds

Flames Odds -105 [BET NOW]
Jets Odds -110 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 (-105/-115) [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NHL Center Ice

The NHL’s all new Canadian division offers us a smorgasbord of teams with a wide range of potential outcomes.

Most prognosticators expect the Maple Leafs to finish on top, with the Senators bringing up the rear. However, the middle of the division is wide open.

Two of those in the middle will match up on Thursday night as the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets will both look to rebound from relatively disappointing seasons in the opener.

These two teams actually faced off against each other in the qualifying round of the NHL bubble just five months ago. Calgary won the best-of-five series in four. 

Let’s dig in and see if anything changed for these teams since then or whether we can expect more of the same.

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Calgary Flames

Calgary is one season removed from a first-place finish in the Western Conference, and most of the core of that team is still intact. Last year was a disappointing season that failed to meet expectations, and a lot of the blame has to go on the shoulders of the team’s biggest stars. 

Johnny Gaudreau went from posting 84 points in 2018 to 99 in 2019. Johnny Hockey, as he is affectionately known, was on his way to establishing himself as one of the league’s elite but a disappointing ’20 campaign saw him score just 58 points. His linemate Sean Monahan went from 64 points to 82 to 48 in that same timeframe. 

If Calgary gets even 2018 level of production from their top line, they’ll be fine. If they get ’19 production, the Flames will be dangerous. More production like last season will lead to another disappointing season for the Flames. 

Calgary’s big offseason move was on the other end of the ice, signing goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Calgary hopes that Markstrom’s performance last season with the Canucks is a sign of things to come, which would signify an upgrade between the pipes for an organization that hasn’t had stability in net for almost two decades. 

If Markstrom meets expectations and the Flames’ top line rebounds, they can challenge Toronto for the division title. The range of outcomes with this team is wide, so it’ll be interesting to see how they look in its first few games.

Winnipeg Jets

If you look at the analytical profile of the Winnipeg Jets from last season, there is nothing to like. They finished dead last in the league in expected goals rate. Winnipeg was almost a half a goal worse than Detroit, which won just 17 times in 71 games.

Winnipeg was the third-worst team in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes. The other side of the ice wasn’t any better with the Jets finishing ranking third worst in expected goals per hour at 5 on 5. 

Thankfully for Winnipeg, it possesses the two qualities necessary to have any chance of overcoming such disgusting underlying numbers.

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.

Connor Hellebuyck had a tremendous season between the pipes for the Jets in 2020. He won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie with a .922 save percentage and six shutouts and led the NHL with a +19.86 goals saved above expectation. Good goaltending can make a bad defense look passable. 

One way to overcome a lack of offensive zone time and scoring chances is to be very efficient in terms of converting on the opportunities you do get. In order to do that, you need high-end talent which is something Winnipeg possesses.

The Jets’ top line, which features Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, matches up with some of the best lines in the league. Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers should see a boost from the acquisition of Paul Stastny who was brought in to center the second line. Unfortunately, Ehlers will likely miss this game due to COVID-19 protocols. 

New acquisition Dylan DeMelo should help solidify a defense that needs solidifying. The Jets hope youngster Ville Heinola can build on his impressive cameo last year and that Josh Morrissey has a bounce back season. If the defense doesn’t improve, Winnipeg will be in the unenviable position of needing to rely on elite goaltending and its top-end players to carry their team. 

Flames vs. Jets Best Bet

I think we’ll know a lot more about these teams after about a week’s worth of games. With what we saw from Winnipeg in terms of quality of chances and shot generation rates, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt to start this year. 

Just a few months ago, we saw these same teams matchup in a playoff series, and Calgary made pretty quick work of Winnipeg. 

At the current odds, this game is pretty much a pick’em with Calgary a short favorite. The preseason markets expect more success from the Flames than they do from the Jets. With no fans at the games, the home-ice advantage should be minimal.

The loss of Ehlers for this game might not seem like a huge loss, but if Mark Giordano and company can shut down the Jets top line, Ehlers’ absence will be felt. 

I’m pretty bullish on Calgary and think we’ll see a team that can push Toronto for the division title. In this spot, I think the Flames will do a better job in terms of controlling play so I’ll pay the small price to take what in my opinion is the superior team.

BetMGM is hanging a -105 line on Calgary, which I would be all over.

Bet: Flames ML -105 (Bet up to -120)

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