Buffalo Sabres @ Calgary Flames – Scotiabank Saddledome at 02:00
My first NHL Handicap Betting preview of the week focuses on the inter-divisional match-up between the Sabres and the Flames. Both teams will be looking to get their campaigns up and running after both teams had losing records last season.
Next chapter in Buffalo
It’s hasn’t been a pretty spectacle for a Buffalo fan over the past couple of seasons with losing seasons becoming a recurring theme. However last season was a glimmer of hope in western New York as the Sabres maintained .500 in points percentage, although they finished 7th in the Atlantic division.
Spearheading the revival in Buffalo is Jack Eichel. The sophomore will not be in western Canada for this game as he is out with a long-term injury. Eichel has been the poster boy of the Sabres since being drafted by them last year. The team seem to have the perfect blend of youth and experience as replicated by the average age of the squad being 25.33. Brian Gionta still remains captain of Buffalo. Although the captain in waiting Ryan O’ Reilly plays a more prominent role in the side. O’ Reilly scored 4 points in the 6-2 emphatic win over the Edmonton Oilers and scored 60 points in 71 games last season. He seems to be justifying his large $7.5 million annual salary.
Head coach Dan Bylsma is building a team that can potentially reach the playoffs in the next two years. However, there are a couple of issues that need to be confirmed. Is Robin Lehner a legitimate no.1 goalie. The big Swede had an injury-ravaged campaign last year that saw him limited to just 24 games. He did put up strong numbers though, (9.24 save percentage). Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen also fascinates me. The Finn tailed off in the latter part off the season, however his potential ceiling remains high. He signed a six-year contract worth $32.4 million contract as the Sabres will be hoping to build their defence around the talented two-way defender.
The Calgary Flames have started as they ended their last season. Unfortunately for them it’s not been good. Last season was disappointing for Calgary as they didn’t make the playoffs, having made the semis in the preceding season. They remain winless having lost back-to-back games against rivals Edmonton and a narrow defeat to Vancouver. In their games against the Oilers they conceded 10 goals. One of the major concerns last year was their goaltending, with Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo struggling in front of the posts. Both have seeked pastures new and the Flames acquired Brian Elliott in the summer. He was considered an upgrade on the duo and had a fantastic regular season with the Blues last year with a .930 save percentage.
Calgary had personnel changes off the ice too. Bob Hartley was fired as head coach and maintained the curse of the Jack Adams Award recipients being fired the following year. The biggest news for the Flames in the offseason was the re-signing of star winger Johnny Gaudreau. He will be pivotal to any success that the Flames achieve this year. The positive news for Calgary Flames is that their youngsters are producing. From Sean Monahan to Sam Bennett and the aforementioned Gaudreau. The future is looking up for them. Although they’ll want to see results as soon as possible.
Looking at both teams form this season, It would be easy to write off Calgary. However I’m thinking that they’ll get their first win of the season to give their fans something to cheer about. With the value given, it would be wrong not to side with the Flames being the victors.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Calgary -0.5 at 2.16
Prices correct at time of writing.
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