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Flames vs. Blackhawks Odds, Preview, Prediction: Calgary is Hugely Undervalued (Jan. 2)

Flames vs. Blackhawks Odds, Preview, Prediction: Calgary is Hugely Undervalued (Jan. 2) article feature image
Credit:

Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jacob Markstrom.

  • The red-hot Flames head to Chicago to face the Blackhawks in Sunday's NHL showdown.
  • Calgary is a big favorite, with Chicago playing on the second consecutive night.
  • Nicholas Martin takes a deep dive into this affair below and delivers his favorite betting selection.

Flames vs. Blackhawks Odds

Flames Odds -150
Blackhawks Odds +125
Over/Under 5.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

After a lengthy 14-day hiatus, Chicago returns to action with a tough back-to-back situation, playing host to an excellent Calgary Flames team on Sunday after a New Year’s matinee on Saturday with Nashville.

Calgary returned to play on Thursday in Seattle, gradually tilting the ice as the game wore on and eventually breaking through for a 6-4 final. Chicago will be hosting a considerably better club, in a back-to-back situation, and quite possibly forced to ice a third-string goaltender.

Is this one priced appropriately?

Flames Posting Strong Offensive Numbers

As expected, the contest wasn’t exactly an oil painting, but the Flames did do a lot well Thursday against the Kraken. Calgary generated 4.10 expected goals to Seattle’s 2.00.

The top trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk came true to form, posting six points. Throughout 350 minutes together, the line has an xGF% of 64.1 and a greater actual goals rate.

The Flames lead a surprisingly potent offense, with some strong two-way defenders helping to drive the play and a breakout performance from Andrew Mangiapane, who has netted 17 goals on the road.

It’s easy to see that Calgary is not a fun team to play against, but it isn’t just playing a down tempo style and looking to clog up the ice. The Flames are generating a lot of looks with a rate of 2.60 xGF per 60 minutes to go alongside their 2.13 xGA 60 mark.

Jacob Markstrom has been very solid in goal, and holds a +8.8 goals saved above expected rating (GSAx), with a .929 save % throughout 22 games played this season, and should likely start here.

Blackhawks Face Goaltending Uncertainty

Chicago will skate Saturday against Nashville, but for the sake of what is an excellent price I am looking to get this out prior to that game’s completion since I truly don’t feel Chicago has the talent to hang around with an in-form Flames team.

Interim coach Derek King has the Blackhawks suppressing high-quality chances and playing a considerably better defensive game, as evidenced by a 2.16 xGA per 60 minutes. They also are generating even less at the other end of the ice, with a 2.11 xGF per 60 minutes, and their strong record has been greatly inflated by a 4-0 record in shootouts and an excellent record in close games.

The team really doesn’t hold much offensive firepower, with several potential contributors such as Jonathan Toews, Dom Kubalik and Dylan Strome all not helping to move the needle much at all.

Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen are both in COVID protocol, however both would be eligible to return tomorrow with a negative test. We’ll likely see Fleury claim the start, but obviously these situations are fluid.

Fleury has bounced back after a tough start to the season in the time since King’s hiring, now sitting with a .913 save percentage with a -4.6 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx).

Flames vs. Blackhawks Pick

With Chicago skating Saturday against Nashville and already unable to generate much for offensive chances at 5-on-5 in ideal situations, I love the chances that we see Calgary control considerably more of the play at even strength here and give Markstrom a great chance to claim another victory in a favorable spot.

Calgary has far more to offer in a number of areas, and we’ll likely see coach Darryl Sutter’s crew control far more of the play. Because of that, it’s quite possible that Chicago is forced into a notably tough goaltending situation here.

Regardless, Calgary should go as a greater favorite than -145, which is the current price available on DraftKings before the Blackhawks play on Saturday, and I think we will see most shops around -180 by puck drop, possibly even more so.

That early line is a gift, and I like backing Calgary early here if you’re going to do so.

Pick: Flames -145 (Play to -180)

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