3 Saturday w/analysis


EOG Member
Calgary +103 over VANCOUVER
OT included. 10:05 EST. The hockey universe had mixed reactions about the signing of Loui Eriksson. On the bright side, the Canucks landed one of the top free agents available and someone who can seamlessly slot into the top line alongside the Sedins. Eriksson just had his most productive season since 2011-12, and he hit the 30-goal mark for the first time since 2008-2009. He is one of the most underrated players in the game and has the chance to put up career numbers while playing with the Sedins. That doesn’t mean the Canucks deserve to be favored.

With the Canucks not having played a game yet, it’s possible to envision a scenario where things go right for them. Their top line remains elite and their goaltending has the potential to be solid. If Erik Gudbranson comes as advertised and Ben Hutton takes a step forward, their defense will improve. Secondary scoring remains a big question mark, but those questions will dissipate if a combination of Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat, Jannick Hansen, Jake Virtanen and Anton Rodin become middle-six contributors. The first four players mentioned all have 20-goal potential, but there are too many ifs right now to trust the Canucks spotting a tag. We also have to figure the Canucks are favored here because the Flames come in 0-2 after allowing 12 goals in their first two games.

The Flames will be glad to see anyone besides Connor McDavid here. The market tends to overvalue the toll the second night of a back-to-back can take on a team and that applies here. This is also Calgary’s third game in four nights but we see that as a positive and not a negative, as it allows the Flames to work on and/or address their flaws. In the offseason, the Flames brought in two new goaltenders. Brian Elliot has gotten a look in the first two games but Chad Johnson who came over from Buffalo is very capable as well and he's been told he'll have every opportunity to start. Well, a great performance tonight could go a long way to making that a reality as Elliott hasn't been sharp to start the season. The Flames were slow out of the gate last season and it killed any chances they had to make the playoffs. They are very mindful of that here so expect a big effort in an attempt to get off the mattress. Furthermore, it’s not like Calgary has been dominated. They clearly outplayed Edmonton in its opener and they still have seven goals in two games. Weak goaltending has plagued them again so far but there is no question we get the vastly superior team here with a win at all costs mindset.

Nashville +120 over CHICAGO
OT included. 8:35 PM EST. The Blackhawks have pedigree and market appeal coming out of the pores of their body. They have been a true powerhouse in this league for years and the Madhouse on Madison only adds to their appeal. That puts the Blackhawks high on our fade list to start the season because this is a team in trouble that is likely going to fighting for a playoff spot come April. This is not the same Blackhawks team after a massive exodus of role and secondary players over the past two seasons. That leaves the Blackhawks with their core of Kane, Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Hossa and Crawford to go along with Panarin, Panik and Anisimov but it gets real thin from that point outward. St. Louis dominating Chicago on Wednesday night and beat them, 5-2. Last night in Nashville, Chicago played better but still lost 3-2. The Blackhawks have only created 19 and 24 shots on net respectively in two games while being outscored 8-4. One cannot attribute Chicago’s slow beginning to just getting out of the gate slowly. The Blackhawks’ core has a ton of mileage on them and their secondary group makes them a fringe playoff team.

Meanwhile, the Preds are anything but a fringe playoff team. Nashville is absolutely stacked from top to bottom with unquestionably the best puck-moving defensemen in the league. Last night was their first game of the year with excitement and nerves being high but they figure to be more relaxed here and even better. Mike Fisher, in his new role as Captain, had a terrific opening night and he is one of many skilled producers that make the Preds one of the best balanced teams in the NHL. It’s not rocket science. Nashville is too live a pooch to ignore, especially when playing a team whose perception in the market is still strong. Give Nashville at least a 50% chance of winning here and probably more than that and then give us the price tag attached to it and it becomes an easy choice for us based strictly on value.

COLORADO +111 over Dallas
OT included. 9:05 EST. The Stars escaped opening night with a 4-2 win over Anaheim but Dallas was not the better team on the ice that night after being outshot 35-20. Antti Niemi had a solid game but the Stars did not and while one game means nothing, we are not going to ignore backing a home pooch that has great potential and that comes into the new season with a brand new attitude. Dallas is Dallas, a team that will win and lose a lot of 5-4 and 6-4 games and that interests us when they are being offered a tag. As road chalk, we say no thank you for now.

The Avalanche are the only team in the Central division that hasn't laced their skates up yet but its lineup is loaded with new faces. Former head coach Patrick Roy quit in the offseason and as far as we are concerned, he did the Avs a huge favor. HUGE. Colorado has added a bunch of new faces to the lineup including defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch, as well as forwards Ben Smith, Joe Colborne, Rene Bourque and Gabriel Bourque. The Bourque boys both made the team after coming to camp on a pair of player tryouts, which reflects just how hard they worked. The core of this team is intact, which is a good thing with great players like Matt Duchene, Nathan McKinnon, Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog. Mikhail Grigorenko, who was also acquired in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, has buckets of talent and just needs more time in the NHL. He could very well become a solid top six forward. The Avs have gotten rid of all their unwanted parts and replaced them with younger options with more potential. They also started concentrating more on analytics, which can only benefit the team as yet another tool to use for evaluating the players and the team itself. You cannot ignore these “fancy-stats” and coach Jared Bednar is of the same opinion. Every player should be fired up to play for the new coach, using their disappointment over the past two seasons to fuel their desire to compete and succeed as a team once again. The Avs have a chance to thrive in certain spots and figure to be a live dog all season long.

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