The short answer is probably the Leafs. No one undoes the expectations of the Leafs quite like the Leafs, but we’ll try and answer this question a bit more seriously. After the first three games of the season it’s clear that there’s no such thing as a cake walk for Toronto, and if since they insist on doing things the hard way, it’s worth looking at who will be the toughest opponent for Toronto. Here’s what the TLN crew had to say about who will be the toughest of the Scotia North Division opponents.
While this may be an overreaction to the first game, the Montreal Canadiens proved they will be a very tough opponent for the Leafs all season long. Never mind the fact that these two teams will face off nine more times, the Habs are a well built team that gave Toronto fits all game long. There’s no doubt the other teams will each present their own challenges, beating Montreal will be an accomplishment because they are not going to be an easy outing. Turns out the preseason hype surrounding that team was right all along.
I think Calgary is going to be a handful. They’re a talented team with some offensive threats, a solid defense and Jacob Markstrom in net. Even David Rittich has his moments, such as when he goalied us last year. With players like Matthew Tkachuk and Milan Lucic who are known for borderline cheap antics, no game against the Flames is going to be easy or enjoyable.
In terms of standings, I think Vancouver. They have just enough good offensive talent, probably the best defenseman in Canada, and if they can get just decent goaltending out of Holtby and Demko, their high end guys are skilled enough to drag them toward the top.
Most frustrating team to play will be Ottawa. Bunch of guys that no one (rightfully) believes in who are going to play with a chip on their shoulder all year regardless, and given how they always tend to turn it up a bit against the Leafs, I can see a scenario where the Leafs win the season series 7-2 but we hate every second of each game.
I’m going to be laughed at here but I’m going to say the Senators. Now hear me out. The other Canadian teams are generally known to be solid, at least somewhat. Ottawa is the clear bottom of the pack here. However, the Leafs of yester-season had a very obvious tendency to play down to lesser opponents, or get lax and lazy when playing a clearly less skilled team and suffered more than one trap game loss. Am I hopeful that has changed? Of course. Am I sure it has? Not at all. This Leafs team needs to keep their foot on the gas no matter who they play, and that has been an issue in the past. Not relaxing their motivation to win against a team Like Ottawa might be mentally hard for this group. If they can’t do that, we’re in for a bunch more trap games.
The Flames are probably my biggest concern because they have the fewest question marks out of the Canadian teams. The Oilers have good offense, but bad defense and goaltending. The Canadiens can drive play well, but don’t have the finishing talent and their season will probably waiver on which version of Carey Price shows up. The Jets have the goaltending, but the defense in front of it is atrocious. The Canucks have the star talent, but lack the depth to really compete. The Sens are the Sens.
The Flames biggest question is whether or not the team that finished first in the West two years ago can show up again. They have a similar team, minus Brodie and Hamonic and plus Markstrom and Tanev, so it’s not out of the question, but their previous season was mired in inconsistencies, so they could still struggle. The Leafs easily have the deepest team in this division, but the Flames are probably the only other team with good star talent complimented with good depth. Sure, teams like the Habs are physical and can be annoying, but good teams are what scares me, and the Flames are the best team in this division not named the Leafs.
Ottawa seems like the popular answer here, and from what we’ve seen over the past couple nights that could very well be the case. They’ll have no chance in hell of finishing anywhere but dead last in the division, but I can see them making life hell for the Leafs.
It seems like we’ve all managed to weigh in at least a little on every team in the division as a possibility, except for the Oilers. There’s probably a reason for that. They have no goaltending and decided to address their defensive issues by bringing in Tyson Barrie. We know how that turns out.
In short, it will be the Sens because the Leafs will deny us the simple pleasure of enjoying Ottawa as an easy out.
On Thursday, the Calgary Flames were a team with lofty highs and cringey lows in Winnipeg. On Saturday, they were much more consistent for 60 minutes en route to a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks to kick off the home side of their 2020-21 schedule.
Both teams seemed a bit disjointed at even strength, which led to gaffes, miscues, and penalties. After Juuso Valimaki drew a penalty in the Canucks zone, the Flames took advantage of the power play. A quick passing play ended with Sean Monahan from the slot burying a Matthew Tkachuk feed to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
This passing play *chef's kiss* pic.twitter.com/1Y5jX1aebi
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 17, 2021
After a couple Flames penalties the Canucks got 82 seconds worth of a two man advantage. But the Flames held them to just two shots due to the combined work of Mark Giordano, Chris Tanev, Derek Ryan and Elias Lindholm and got to the intermission with the lead intact.
Shots were 11-7 Canucks in the opening period, but scoring chances were 9-4 Flames.
Almost half of the second period was played with someone from one of the teams in the penalty box, as the two clubs combined for five minors. The Flames got a five-on-three of their own (for 16 seconds), but didn’t score.
Late in the period, the Flames finally cashed in. With their second PP unit on, Dillon Dube hollered to Andrew Mangiapane for a pass. Mangiapane made a nice back-hand pass to Dube, who teed off on the one-timer to give the Flames a 2-0 lead.
with the money pass, Dubs with finish. pic.twitter.com/fBDyD3DDvE
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 17, 2021
Shots were 15-10 Flames and scoring chances 8-4 Flames in the second period.
The Flames carried play throughout much of the third period. After Giordano had the stick hacked out of his hands on a scoring chance, Tkachuk chipped a rebound past Braden Holtby to give the Flames a 3-0 lead.
Shoveling it in. pic.twitter.com/1W0rNo69hO
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 17, 2021
Shots were 13-11 Flames and scoring chance 5-4 Canucks in the third period.
Why the Flames won
This was an odd game, as the frequent penalties killed the flow of the game (and likely made it tough for either team to get momentum going at even strength). The Flames were the better team at five-on-five, but not overwhelmingly so. But they were quite good at special teams – scoring three times and holding the Canucks off the board – and that was enough to tilt the game decidedly in their favour.
The oldest player in the game, Giordano played more than any other Flames played. Only Quinn Hughes played more from either team.
In his first home game as a Flame, Jacob Markstrom was superb and a calming influence in the blue paint. He gets the honourable mention.
The turning point
There were two, really.
The first was the Flames kill of Vancouver’s two man advantage in the first period. The kill gave them momentum and sent them into the intermission with a lead.
The second was the Dube goal. This was a clunky enough game at five-on-five that it seemed probable that one team or the other would give up a weird goal at even strength. A two goal lead gave the Flames a bit of breathing room in a weird game.
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.
This and that
I don't know how it's possible, but the #Flames had 3 shots on a 16-second 5-on-3 while Vancouver had 2 shots on 81 seconds of 5-on-3. Weird.
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) January 17, 2021
The Flames have (a) scored first in both of their games this season and (b) haven’t actually trailed during a game this season.
The Flames (1-0-1) are back in action on Monday night when they host the Canucks once again. (After that game, they’ll be off for six days because 2020-21 is a wacky, weird season.
The Vancouver Canucks travelled into Calgary to take on the Flames on the first Hockey Night in Canada of 2021.
They ran into their former friend turned foe Jacob Markstrom and he was ready for them. Markstrom recorded his first win in a Flames jersey with a 32-save shutout.
All three of Calgary’s goals came on the power play and the Canucks have to make some changes before Monday.
One thing that may not change is the composition of the fourth line.
Jay Beagle, Tyler Motte, and Brandon Sutter did more than hold their own in the first two games of the season. When the line was on the ice together, they controlled 73.3% of shot attempts and out-chanced their opponents 12-4 in 14 minutes of ice time.
They accomplished this while spending roughly 65% of their 5-on-5 ice time against Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid. The
old, slow guys veteran duo with Motte has looked to have some jump at this point of the season. It’s pretty known that Beagle and Sutter come into camp as prepared as any every season. Right now, it’s showing as they have controlled a majority of the pace of play so far in this early season.
The Canucks need to get as much out of their fourth line as possible as this team needs to get some depth scoring or at least depth non-scoring against. For now, that line should be kept together as they are playing with some git-up.
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) January 17, 2021
It was time for Saturday night hockey. The last time we saw the Canucks in action on a Saturday night, Adam Gaudette fought Tyler Motte. Would they do it again? There’s only one way to find out!
P.S: Have you heard that the Calgary Flames have Chris Tanev, Josh Leivo and Jacob Markstrom?
I’m not sure if anyone has talked about it yet…
Braden Holtby and Markstrom got the start for their teams on Saturday night.
The Flames had the first scoring chance of the game but Motte was right there in the crease to break up what looked to be a tap-in goal.
Tanner Pearson took a high sticking penalty after a long shift and the Flames went to work on the power play. It didn’t take much work as Sean Monahan scored just a few seconds into the man advantage to make it 1-0 Flames with 12 minutes remaining in the period.
The Canucks looked sluggish early on. They were playing their third game in four nights and needed something to spark the team.
With 5:17 remaining, the Canucks went to the power play for the first time, as Alex Edler drew a penalty. It couldn’t have come at a better time as colour commentator Cassie Campbell-Pascall said the Canucks were “almost in survival mode” in the first period.
Quinn Hughes took a high stick early in the power play and the Canucks went to the 5-on-3 for 1:22.
They passed the puck around the zone with ease but just like the second Edmonton game, the Flames were all over their shooting lanes. Markstrom made a couple of saves on the shots that made it through.
Tanner Pearson took a Nate Schmidt shot off the foot and went directly to the locker room. He was in visible discomfort as he made his way to the bench.
— Cody Taxivertsquad (@CodySevertson) January 17, 2021
That takes us to the first intermission. The Flames controlled the pace but the Canucks controlled the shot share. Vancouver outshot Calgary 11-7 in the first period but could not get anything past Markstrom.
They couldn’t capitalize on their chances but the chances were there. They needed to find a way how to beat their former teammate and MVP of the past two seasons.
Pearson was back on the ice for the first shift of the period after taking the shot off the foot late in the first.
Nils Hoglander took a penalty just 2:49 into the period when he got called for interference while setting a pick on a faceoff.
After a good job on the 5-on-4, Motte took a hooking call with 16 seconds remaining in the penalty and the Flames received a short 5-on-3. The Canucks killed off the 16 seconds easily as the penalty kill was doing a great job of clearing the puck.
They ended up killing off the second penalty as they limited the Flames’ ability to enter the zone. Just as the penalty expired, the Canucks went right to a power play of their own.
They weren’t able to get anything going on the power play attempt and at the halfway point it was time for some even-strength action.
The parade to the penalty box continued when Motte took another penalty while on the second power play unit.
Yes, Tyler Motte is on the second power play unit.
The Flames scored their second power play goal of the game when Dillon Dube fired a one-timer from the right side past Holtby. 2-0 Flames.
That’s where we stood after 40 minutes of play. The Canucks needed to bring much more intensity in the third period if they wanted back in this game.
The top six had a different look to begin the period as Jake Virtanen and Hoglander swapped linemates.
Boeser and Virtanen were getting some extra ice time as they took double duty on the early shifts of the period.
With 10:52 remaining, Edler took an interference penalty to give the Flames their fifth power play of the game. The Canucks killed off the penalty but now needed to find a gear and get some scoring chances of their own.
Boeser took a slashing penalty with 5:45 remaining and it looked all but over for the Canucks as the Flames received their sixth power play of the game.
Matthew Tkachuk scored with 4:44 remaining to make it 3-0 Flames.
That was all she wrote, as Markstrom picked up the 32-save shutout against his former team.
Quinn Hughes: He moved well in the offensive zone and did a good job creating offence from the back end. Hughes led the team in attempted shots with seven, shots on net with four, and played over 26 minutes on Saturday night.
The Canucks didn’t deserve to win this game. They were outplayed in every facet of the game. They gave up three power play goals and were outplayed at 5-on-5. In the current format, a game like this needs to spark you for the next matchup. The Canucks will play game two of the mini-series on Monday.
Let’s hope for a better one on Monday. Writing about a team getting shutout gets old quick.
That was not fun. Zero. None. No bueno. Final Score: 5-1 Canadiens
Even though the Oilers went 2-2-0 against the Habs last year, my memory kept telling me that this is a team our boys often compete strongly against (14-6 over their last 20GP) and that’s what I was looking for again tonight. As I wrote in this morning’s GDB, Carey Price posts the worst numbers of his career when playing against the Oilers — 3-9-1 with a 3.65 GAA and a .861 save% (before tonight) — and that’s a trend that I desperately wanted to continue, especially since there are nine games between these two clubs on the schedule and getting in his head now could only pay dividends down the line. To me, I wanted to plant an evil seed in his brain with a big win now and lovingly nourishing it as the season goes along will result in a tree being grown in the rent-free apartment the Oilers have been living in. But as we all know, what happened in the past doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes to what happens on game day, and squeezing two points out of the Canadiens wasn’t going to be easy.
As we’ve preached a lot on this website over the years, the most important thing the Oilers could do for themselves was to get a quick start to try and set Montreal back on their heels, maybe popping an early goal if they’re lucky. In the early going, however, it was the Canadiens that were quick on the puck, making plays, and causing all kinds of havoc in the Oilers zone. The fact that the boys were only down by a goal after 20 minutes was a blessing, and while things improved slightly as the frame went on, the Oilers were not playing anywhere near the level they needed to be. In the second period, the effort was better but the results were not, which left the door wide open for the Canadiens to keep the hammer down and extend their lead to a point where we all stopped caring about tonight’s outcome and rather to look ahead at Monday’s rematch. I mean, when the third period started and they were down by four goals, I’ll admit that it was hard to get excited about the idea of a comeback when there were probably going to be beets waiting for me when the final buzzer sounded, ya know?
As it turns out, in spite of everything I wrote above, playing largely sloppy hockey for 60 minutes combined with Carey Price standing on his head can be about as devastating of a combination as one can imagine.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- The game is over now.
- Slater Koekkoek denied Carey Price’s shutout bid with a wrister from the boards that he banked in off the goaltender’s helmet to get his team on the board (5-1) and mark his first goal with the Edmonton Oilers.
- This will probably get old by the time the season ends, but I love Kailer Yamamoto’s tenacity and relentlessness on the puck. Out of all of the forwards, I’d argue that Yamamoto was consistently noticeable and that’s been the case in all three games so far.
- Congratulations to Zack Kassian on becoming a dad again! At least there was some positive news to come out of this Saturday.
- Leon Draisaitl led the team with six shots and goal and must be frustrated as he had some really nice looks on net that Price was able to fight away.
- I thought Tyson Barrie was one of the best defenders for Edmonton tonight — a low bar in this one, I know — and clearly Dave Tippett must have too, moving him up in the pairings and keeping him out for a team-leading 23:43.
- Joakim Nygard made his season debut tonight, slotting in the fourth line, left-wing spot. One thing that was noticeable despite his limited playing time (10:33 TOI) was the speed he brings to the lineup. I feel like because of the injuries he sustained in his first year in North America, we only got a small taste of what he’s capable of.
- Oilers won 60% of the faceoffs, which always makes me happy but maybe not tonight.
- I love me a 5pm start, ya know?
THE FACE PALMERS
- Would you believe that it was Jeff Petry that opened the scoring for Montreal (1-0) after somehow giving himself a hand-pass from behind the net that ended up on his own stick in the slot with only an empty net left to stop him? You probably would believe that, wouldn’t you? Would you believe that Petry added a second goal (3-0) in the middle frame that extended the lead to a field goal? *sigh*
- Early in the second period, Tomas Tatar extended the Habs’ lead (2-0) with a perfect one-timer shot after Darnell Nurse went to throw a big hit and missed, allowing an odd-man rush against that was executed perfectly. Tatar added another goal (5-0) in the third period after he was sprung on a breakaway as a result of another bad pinch that the Habs were able to use to their advantage.
- Jake Evans scored a shorthanded goal to give the Habs four on the night (4-0) only moments after Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins were robbed on a chance moments earlier at the end. How often do we see a good chance at one end get denied only to have the other side cash in their opportunity when the play goes the other way?
- The Oilers had a really rough start to this hockey game and it was painful to watch the Habs basically granted the time and space to do whatever they wanted with the puck, and I honestly think that set the tone for the rest of the night. Cycle in the zone? No problem. Firing range towards the net? Get after it.
- I thought the McNuge line looked frustrated tonight — McDavid had two shots, RNH had four shots — but they just couldn’t get anything going in a sustained way.
- For any of us that were worried about Mikko Koskinen getting enough starts this season, Mike Smith’s injury before even playing a game certainly eliminates the problem for now as the big Finn led his team out for the third straight night. And unlike what he did on Thursday night, Koskinen was unable to stand tall in net for his team, stopping plenty of grade-A chances early on but unable to keep the door closed from there. That’s not to say that he’s solely to blame for this loss, he didn’t get much help for long stretches, but this was not Koskinen’s night by any means, stopping 31 of 36 shots which was good for a .861 save%.
- Ethan Bear struggled a little bit and his TOI reflected it, as he was moved off the top pairing with Nurse and limited to only 16:48, which was a season-low.
- The powerplay could not get anything going in any of its three chances, and it was frustrating to need a goal so badly and not be able to grab on with the man advantage. Such is life, I suppose.
- The penalty kill couldn’t be perfect forever, killing off only one of two opportunities they faced.
- Remember all the stuff I wrote about Carey Price at the beginning of this article? Whoops. Price was ridiculous between the pipes, finishing the night with 34 saves and a .971 save%.
- Jujhar Khaira was loaned to the taxi squad before the game started, and it bums me to see how things have gone over the last couple of years because I think we all had such high hopes for him after the 2017-18 season, and truly felt that he’d keep progressing into something more.
- I’m really starting to get uncomfortable with how often I agree with Kevin Bieksa.
"When one sneaks out in polite company" pic.twitter.com/QHydjIgHiR
— Woodguy (@Woodguy55) January 17, 2021
Shea Weber (pronounced ˈveɪbər’)
— Cam Lewis (@cooom) January 17, 2021
It’s possible for the Oilers to be playing poorly AND Koskinen to be playing poorly.
In fact, that would be a reasonable description/explanation for being down 4 goals after not even two periods.
— Oilers Nerd Alert (@OilersNerdAlert) January 17, 2021
— Maysy Man (@MaysyMan) January 17, 2021
-10 at the moment https://t.co/hfi47FEIaZ
— Erik Sabrowski (@ErikSabrowski) January 17, 2021
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In the first Toronto versus Ottawa matchup of this rivalry hotbed, all Canadian division matchup season, we saw a frustrating battle against a pesky Senators team that is aiming to prove everyone they’re not going to lie down easily this season.
After the Leafs got out to a good start, pressuring the Senators well, they were able to capitalize on this incredible skill play from Zach Hyman to get on the board first:
Zach Hyman goes baseball mode! pic.twitter.com/nDSllmsFTi
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2021
The Senators were quick to respond, though, as Toronto went down two players short in a long 5-on-3 opportunity for Ottawa that they didn’t need long to make the most of:
Thomas Chabot ties it on the 5-on-3 pic.twitter.com/JrWIsTUI9f
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2021
Appearing to not be willing to let the Senators embarass them, Kerfoot takes this 200-IQ shot to put the Leafs back on top in this contest:
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 16, 2021
The lead didn’t last long for Toronto though as the third-best NHL Tkachuk is able to tip a Nikita Zaitsev shot past Andersen to make it a tie game again:
Brady Tkachuk ties it pic.twitter.com/rXTqJcaM8T
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2021
After that, the Senators added two more, making it 4-2 Ottawa, with goals from alleged domestic abuser Austin Watson, and this one from Chris Tierney on a mess in front of the net:
Chris Tierney. 3 straight for the Sens pic.twitter.com/eqvvk2276u
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2021
Heading into the third period, things looked desperate for Toronto, with a healthy lead for an opponent they should be dominating. It only got worse, as Brodie gives up an icing, then gives up the puck behind the net, and then a whiffed puck from Batherson is tucked in by Stepan at the side of the net:
Derek Stepan gives the Senators (+175 ML) a 5-2 lead and cashes the over (6.5)
— Bet The Pucks (@betthepucks) January 16, 2021
But then, just as things couldn’t get any worse, whatever spirt possessed the team in Game 4 against Columbus in the play-ins of the 2020 playoffs, Tavares takes the captaincy on his shirt to its best with a great powerplay sniped goal:
John Tavares! What a shot! pic.twitter.com/ptFQxFzslP
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2021
We even brought the summoning circles out:
Summoning circle, hope this works:
— Michael (@TheLeafsIMO) January 16, 2021
i don’t ask for a lot but
— kait | BLM (@witchmarner) January 16, 2021
— ryan (@RyanDHobart) January 16, 2021
But it was to no avail, I’m afraid. The surge ended with John Tavares, and the Leafs walked away with a disappointing loss.
As I swallow the fact that the Leafs lost to the Senators, after narrowly defeating the Canadiens in overtime, there are certainly some kinks to work out here. In the early goings, with a healthy number of new faces on the ice and behind the bench, there’s a lot of potential for increased cohesion as the season goes on.
However, as the broadcast alluded to, this game highlighted (or lowlighted, as you may) a lot of similar issues the Leafs had last year: a lack of punch when the game was on the line. There’s no one around hockey that would doubt that Toronto has the talent to win this division, or even the Cup, but the urgency that they need they so obviously lack.
Most Valuable Leaf
It’s so hard to pick just one…. in seriousness, the team was terrible tonight in so many facets that it feels wrong to award this to anyone. Kicking off the comeback that went nowhere, I’ll award this night’s Most Valuable Leaf to John Tavares
Least Valuable Leaf
The obvious pick here is Frederik Andersen, and I’m not looking to surprise anyone here, so that’s the direction I’ll go. Frederik Andersen. Least valuable Leaf.
Tweet of the night
The tweet of the night tonight goes to the only positive thing to come out of tonight: Leafs Money on the Board. Put your pledges in and get donating. Charity generates dopamine and serotonin, which I’m sure we’re all lacking right now.
Here is the donation page to use after the game to fulfill pledges. Can also use it for strict donations if pledging isn’t your thing! Thanks to the very generous donor who has already taken this route!https://t.co/fvqhDjEi2e
— Leafs MotB (@MotBLeafs) January 15, 2021
Well, we’re going for round 2 of 10 tomorrow night with a back-to-back contest against the Senators again. Ottawa has proven to be an actual NHL team, which has been in doubt in years past, but the Leafs will aim to prove that they’re the superior NHL team tomorrow.
Same time, same team. See you all there and go Leafs go!
by OddsShark (@OddsShark) – Sponsored Post
It is understandable why the Winnipeg Jets are a home underdog in a season-opening playoff rematch where there is a history of low-scoring games. The Jets are listed as +105 home underdogs while the Calgary Flames are a -125 away favourite with a 5.5-goal total on the NHL odds for Thursday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Prairie rivalry has been defensively oriented, with 10 of the teams’ last 13 matchups finishing UNDER at betting sites. Last season, before the COVID19 stoppage, the Jets were 4-6 in 10 matchups as a home underdog, while the Flames carry an 8-3 record in their last 11 matchups as an away favourite into the long-awaited season.
Flames vs Jets | OddsShark Matchup Report
Although Calgary advanced when the teams met in a qualifying series in August, overall the head-to-head matchup has seen a 5-5 split in the 10 most recent regular-season matchups. The average total has been just 4.7 goals.
The Flames shook off a slow start last season to finish 19th in the NHL with a .564 points percentage and eventually lost against the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. Calgary’s hopes are pegged to a bounce-back season from left wing Johnny Gaudreau (0.82 points per game last season) as it tries to coax more production from a forward corps led by centres Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. They were 20th in scoring in 2019/20 at 2.91 goals per game and 17th in goals against at 3.06. Defensively, veteran Chris Tanev is the most notable addition to a corps headed by veteran Mark Giordano.
Veteran Jacob Markstrom is expected to give Calgary its first bona fide No. 1 goalie in a decade. However, he has a checkered history against Winnipeg, with a 2-9-1 record with a 3.39 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in 12 career games.
The Jets scraped out a 20th-overall finish last season with a .563 points percentage. The quick qualifying-series exit against Calgary in August has probably had an effect on the betting line, but No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele is back after being injured in Game 1 of the series. The Jets also boast one of the NHL’s projected best second lines after reacquiring Paul Stastny to work with wings Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine.
There is enough talent for the Jets to at least maintain an offence that was 17th in scoring last season at 3.00 goals per game. The additions of Derek Forbort and Dylan DeMelo are expected to shore up a defence that has long been far too reliant on goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who was by far the main reason Winnipeg had the league’s 10th-best goals-against record (2.83 per game) in 2019-20.
Hellebuyck, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goalie, has a 5-2-0 record with a 1.97 GAA and .932 save percentage in nine career regular-season games against Calgary.
The Jets have the next three days off before a 3-in-4 road trip next week to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs (Monday) and Ottawa Senators (Tuesday and Thursday).
On Saturday night, the Calgary Flames kick off the home half of their 2020-21 schedule when they host the Vancouver Canucks. It’s likely to be an emotional, hard-hitting game, well in keeping with the tension in their meetings over the past few decades.
The ferocity of their recent games begs the question: are the Canucks or the Edmonton Oilers the Flames biggest rival?
Why it’s the Canucks
First and foremost, the Flames have faced the Canucks more than any other team – regular season or playoffs. The Flames also have had tons of success against Vancouver: they have more regular season wins against them than any other team and one of their best points percentages.
Additionally, their playoff meetings with the Canucks have been important to each franchise. Vancouver’s 1984 trip to the Stanley Cup Final was preceded with a Flames series, as were the Flames’ 1989 and 2004 runs. The two teams also clashed in classic series in 1994 and 2015, both of which represented big steps for each franchise. Simply put: playoff series between these teams have been epic.
If nothing else, though, their rivalry has been defined by mutual respect. Here’s a representative clip:
Why it’s the Oilers
Playoff clashes between the Flames and Canucks are epic. Regular season clashes have been fairly routine, and usually lack the venom of a Battle of Alberta. Maybe it’s because they haven’t met in the playoffs since 1990, but regular season Battles of Alberta are insane.
If the Canucks and Flames bring the best out of each other, the Oilers and Flames have the ability to bring out the worst, too. Here’s a representative clip of recent years:
Who are the Flames’ biggest rivals these days, the Canucks or Oilers? Sound off in the comments!
by OddsShark (@OddsShark) – Sponsored Post
The Vancouver Canucks are 4-11 on the moneyline in their last 15 road games against the Calgary Flames. The Canucks will try to turn things around against the Flames with two road games scheduled against them in the next three nights starting on Saturday night.
Vancouver is a +120 road underdog on the NHL odds in Calgary at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Flames (-140) are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games against the Canucks overall.
Canucks vs Flames | OddsShark Matchup Report
The Canucks split their two games against the Edmonton Oilers with a 5-3 win on Wednesday night and a 5-2 loss on Thursday night. Braden Holtby looked good in his first game in Vancouver making 28 saves on 31 shots en route to the win in the team’s season opener. Quinn Hughes is the Canucks’ leading scorer out of the gate with three assists in the team’s first two games. Hughes was the team’s third leading scorer as a rookie last season with eight goals and 45 assists.
In their last 17 games as a betting underdog, the Canucks are 10-7 on the moneyline per the OddsShark NHL Database.
Calgary got off to a strong start to the 2021 season with three goals in the first period on the road against the Winnipeg Jets, but the Flames went on to lose the game 4-3 in overtime. Former Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom got the start in that one and made 30 saves on 34 shots. The Flames are hoping that Markstrom and fellow former-Canuck defenseman Christopher Tanev will help the team improve on a 3.06 goals-against average that was tied for 16th in the NHL last season.
Saturday night’s total is set at 6.5 goals at online sports betting sites. The OVER is 7-3 in the last 10 games between the Flames and the Canucks.
Last season, the Flames and Canucks had nearly identical records during the regular season as Vancouver went 36-27-6 and Calgary went 36-27-7 before the season was cut short due to COVID-19. Both teams will be looking to set the tone for the rest of the season in the first two games of this head-to-head series, which continues on Monday night.
The Edmonton Oilers have placed goaltender Mike Smith on the long-term injured reserve.
Mike Smith placed on LTIR…Oilers have recalled Olivier Rodrigue from Austria and assigned him to the taxi squad pending quarantine protocols. Expect Holland to add another goalie as well. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) January 16, 2021
While the extent of what’s occurred to Smith hasn’t been reported, the move means that he will be unavailable for at least the 24 days or next 10 games.
The Oilers also announced the recall of goaltender Oliver Rodrigue to the taxi squad. He’s been playing with Graz99ers in the Austrian National League posting a .908 save percentage and a 10-10 record in 23 games.
Rodrigue will be subject to quarantine protocols ahead of joining the Oilers.
On Twitter: @zjlaing
SMITH’S CAREER SO FAR