Welcome to the first edition of my NHL Pick of the Week feature for the 2018-19 season! In this weekly article, I’ll look to highlight games on the NHL schedule that offer the best of both worlds for bettors – plenty of value, but also strong potential for a winner. These picks will generally come out on Tuesday, which is regularly one of the busiest nights on the NHL schedule, so make sure to look for them throughout the season!
Handicapping early-season action in any sport can be extremely difficult without having seen much of the teams in action. Hockey can take that to an even greater extreme, since so many results in the NHL can be misleading. When identifying the best value in hockey, you have to look past the scoreboard and standings, instead digging into advanced metrics, scheduling and motivational factors.
With that in mind, I think we have ourselves an opportunity in tonight’s Calgary/Nashville game. Let’s check out the odds for this matchup, take a close look at each team and then decide the best way to bet this clash of Western Conference squads.
Calgary Flames vs Nashville Predators Betting Odds
Nashville has been a powerhouse in the Western Conference for the past two years, and the Preds began this seasons favored to come out of the West and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years. So it’s no surprise to see the Preds as a pretty steep favorite over the visiting Flames here, especially with Calgary coming off a non-playoff campaign in 2017-18.
Early action in this game has been on Calgary, however. After opening as -173 moneyline chalk at BetOnline, the Preds dipped as cheap as -145 Tuesday morning before ticking up to a -156 price at the time of writing. That’s bad news for anyone looking to bet on the Flames, who offered +156 at the open but were down to +141 early Tuesday afternoon. The Over/Under has held steady at 6, but the juice on the Over has slowly trickled down from an opener of +108 to the current +101 return.
If you’re interested in backing the Predators on the -1.5 puck line (requiring them to win by two goals or more), you’ll be rewarded with a +180 return. Bettors considering the conservative route and taking the Flames +1.5 (ensuring themselves a victory in a one-goal game, which are very common in hockey) will have to lay steep -200 juice for the added peace of mind.
All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 1 p.m eastern on October 9, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.
Flames have had success in Nashville
The scoreboard has produced mixed results for Calgary through two games of the 2018-19 campaign. After opening the season with a 5-2 loss at Vancouver, the Flames returned home Saturday to avenge that loss with a 7-3 rout of the Canucks. Calgary has to be happy with the offense it’s generated so far, but I’m sure Flames head coach Bill Peters is much more concerned with the eight goals his team has surrendered through two games, especially against the offensively-challenged Canucks.
Struggling in your own end isn’t exactly the way you want to go into Nashville, where the Preds play a high-tempo, high-intensity style that can expose a team’s defensive inefficiencies in a hurry. However, the Music City has been a very comfortable place to visit for the Flames in recent years. Calgary is 6-1 in its last seven games in Nashville, including a pair of victories last season that each paid better than +140 on the moneyline.
Predators playing home opener
It’s hard enough for opponents to win in Nashville at the best of times. The Predators were the fifth-best home team in the NHL last year and suffered just nine regulation-time losses on home ice in each of the past two seasons.
But it could be especially difficult for the Flames to pull one out tonight in Nashville’s home opener. Fans haven’t seen their Predators in live action at home since last year’s playoffs, so we can be sure the crowd will be rockin’ early and often in this one. It’s certainly worth noting that the Predators have won their last five home openers and are 5-0-1 in their last six.
Given Calgary’s defensive issues through two games, it seems like a safe bet that the Predators will score at least three goals tonight. The greater question I have about this game is whether the Preds can stop Calgary’s offense, and I’m not so sure. Nashville has allowed five goals through two games, but the biggest issue is the 65 combined shots the Preds allowed in those two games – against the Islanders and Rangers, two teams not likely to challenge for the playoffs this season. With Calgary’s offense clicking early and the Flames’ history of success in Nashville, I think the Flames are able to generate enough offense to keep this game competitive throughout.
Flames vs. Predators Betting Pick
By now, you can probably see where I’m going with this game. But just to recap, I like the Predators’ chances of scoring at least three goals and Calgary to generate enough offense to stay close throughout the night.
Those two ingredients add up to a bet on the Over 6, and that’s the play I’m going with tonight. Betting Over 6 isn’t the greatest way to make a living in the NHL, but we’ve already seen a lot of high-scoring games in the early season and it usually takes a few weeks before defenses (and goalies) round into form.
As much as Nashville’s known as a defensive team, the Preds do consistently play a more wide-open, aggressive style on home ice. That’s why they’ve gone 8-2 to the Over in their last 10 games at home, a stat that I expect to improve to 9-2 after tonight. For the first NHL pick of the week in 2018-19, I’m going with the Flames/Predators Over 6 at +101 odds.