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Nicholas Martin’s Favorite NHL Plays for Saturday: Expect Flames to Dominate at Home (December 31)

Nicholas Martin’s Favorite NHL Plays for Saturday: Expect Flames to Dominate at Home (December 31) article feature image
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Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Andrew Mangiapane of the Calgary Flames

New Year’s Eve’s stellar 12-game NHL slate features a ton of intriguing matchups and should be a fun way to head into the new year.

Let’s dive into my favorite NHL angles and the logic behind each one.

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Calgary Flames in Regulation (-115)

Flames @ Canucks, 10 p.m. ET

At the price of -115 (Bet365), the Calgary Flames to win in regulation is my favorite play of the slate, and I would still get involved for a unit down to a price of -140.

Calgary is a considerably more well-rounded team than the Canucks and is going to keep allowing significantly fewer high-danger chances than Vancouver moving forward this season.

The Flames own one of the Western Conference’s more well-constructed defensive cores top to bottom while the Canucks hold arguably the worst blue-line of any team even remotely near a playoff berth.

Over its last 10 games, the Canucks have allowed 3.60 xGA/60, which is the eighth-worst mark over that span. Such lowly defensive play is likely to be replicated moving forward considering the roster composition.

Meanwhile, over Calgary’s last 10 games it has been dominating the competition with a 55.88% expected goals rate and has also looked just as dominant to the eye.

Calgary has posted a 7-4-3 record over its last 14 games and crawled back into the postseason picture – despite owning the league’s 12th-lowest shooting percentage over that span.

Vancouver’s 6-4-0 record over the last 10 also appears impressive. However, it has come while owning the league’s highest shooting percentage at even strength, and moving forward it is very clear which of these teams’ processes is more likely to lead to better results.

Which is surely not completely lost by oddsmakers. Calgary is -220 to win the game, but two months from now, this price could easily be -255 once the gulf between these teams is more apparent in the actual results.

We’ll go ahead and back them to get it done in regulation, though, at -115.


Andrew Mangiapane to Score Point (-102)

Flames @ Canucks, 10 p.m. ET

One of the key reasons Calgary has owned significantly more of the play in its recent outings has been the dominant form displayed by the line of Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman.

Over the last five games, this trio has combined to put 48 shots on target. That does not count the post hit by Mangiapane in Los Angeles, or the post hit by Backlund in the final seconds of Calgary’s matchup against Edmonton.

Throughout those five games, this unit has attempted a ridiculous 91 attempts on goal but has combined for just one goal coming from Backlund.

A shooting percentage of 2.08% is completely unheard of, and when the shots start falling at even a somewhat average rate, Calgary’s unit is due for a massive uptick in production.

Vancouver allows the third most goals against in the league at 3.83 per game, which makes tonight’s matchup such an enticing time to back the breakthrough.

Mangiapane was a logical regression candidate after his career season in 2021-22, but next to nobody would have expected he would play to a lower point-per-game average than he has posted since the 2018-19 season.

And his play has not warranted such a dropoff, which is why attacking this number before he starts producing at a higher clip is logical. So, we’ll take Mangiapane over 0.5 points (-102 at FanDuel).

For those with the option of same game parlays involving a combination of Mangiapane/Backlund to score and each to go over 2.5 shots is another logical way to attack this spot.

The trio also projects to hold strong value as a stack in DFS, and that could be another strong option to get involved with the breakthrough that is inevitably coming from this unit.


Steven Stamkos Anytime Goalscorer (+132) 

Coyotes @ Lightning, 5 p.m. ET

Arizona has allowed 3.56 goals against per game this season – despite the fact that goaltender Karel Vejmelka has actually been in incredibly dominant form.

The Coyotes have allowed 3.90 xGA/60 over its last 10 games, and abnormally strong goaltending as well as a ridiculously high shooting percentage have hidden the fact that this team has still been quite poor.

Arizona has killed off just 74.1% of penalties this season, which is another appealing note for our guy here in Stamkos.

Recently, teams have been overplaying Stamkos on the penalty kill, which has allowed Brayden Point to thrive in the bumper spot. Eventually NHL coaches should see that leaving the high slot open is still worse than a one-timer from the left hash and make the adjustment, even if it is coming from Stamkos.

We’ll go with the Lightning Captain to snap his six-game goal drought in this matchup, which FanDuel has at +132.

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