Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Huberdeau.
Flames vs. Panthers Odds
|Time||2 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Calgary and Florida will meet Saturday afternoon for the first time since exchanging three superstar-caliber players in a blockbuster trade this summer.
Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar were both very open about the level of surprise they felt after the move.
That added drama should play into what would already be a high-quality matchup at the FLA Live Arena. Saturday’s matinee should be a can’t miss showdown between two elite sides.
Some growing pains were to be expected for the Flames after some serious roster turnover this summer. Calgary switched out two pieces from arguably the best line in hockey last year (Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau), but brought in the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and Mackenzie Weegar.
Over the past 10 games, we have seen that narrative come to fruition as Calgary has struggled to a record of just 2-6-2. However, a look under the hood at the underlying numbers suggests this group isn’t playing nearly as bad as that record implies.
Calgary has controlled play to a 53.34 xGF% rating during this 10-game lull, which has come against an extremely tough slate of competition.
The teams Calgary has faced off against over those games average a ridiculously high 7.9th place in the standings, and even still, the Flames are controlling play at a well-above-average rate.
On top of that, Chris Tanev has had an extremely positive impact when on the ice at five-on-five this season.
Huberdeau was also sidelined for a number of those contests, and while he hasn’t lived up to the hype to start this season, it’s still fair to say his return moves the needle in the right direction.
Jacob Markstrom, who has not been nearly as strong as he was last season, has posted an .887 save % and +2.5 goals saved above expected.
In the early going, Florida appears to be winning the Matthew Tkachuk trade, which seems crazy, considering the quality of pieces it gave up.
Tkachuk has played at an extremely high level this season, managing 20 points in just 14 games.
However, at least for me, the question was never about Tkachuk as we knew he was an utterly dominant power forward and would likely surpass a point-per-game total again this season.
The question was more about how Florida’s thin blue-line would manage in the absence of MacKenzie Weegar.
Analytically, Florida still appears to be playing the same style as it was a season ago, which makes a lot of sense considering the strengths and deficiencies of the roster.
The Panthers have generated a league-leading 4.57 xGF/60 rating this season, yet are owners of the league’s sixth-highest xGA/60 rating (3.64).
That’s exactly what we saw from Florida a season ago, and while it appears statistically due to better results offensively, it’s suspect defensive play could be quite a concern in matchups with teams like the Calgary Flames.
Florida has split starts between Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight to this point, but Knight has clearly been the better of the two options and will likely get this start after Bobrovsky was lit up versus Dallas on Thursday.
Knight has played to a +3.0 goals saved above expected rating with a .923 save % in eight games played this season and still holds some serious upside.
Flames vs. Panthers Pick
Being a sucker for a good narrative is fun and I am willing to do so on a couple angles in what should be one of the better contests on Saturday’s slate.
Calgary’s roster will certainly feel a degree of anger towards Tkachuk, who wanted no part of sticking around to see if the team could break through in the postseason, even if that was a completely valid decision.
We can expect a fast-paced and exciting game and I’m counting on Calgary playing one of its better contests of the season, considering that narrative and its underachieving record.
The Flames may not have the same quality of elite offensive talents as Florida, but they do have a considerably deeper defensive core and are capable of turning any game into a tightly contested affair.
If anything, both of these sides could be undervalued moving forward and are teams I will be looking to back often over the next month. At +110, I see value backing the Flames.
Player props involving the trio of traded players all sound appealing to me as well. If you check my Action in the morning, I will be sure to add my favorite props with additional notes.