It’s been nearly three decades since a franchise from the Great White North triumphantly hoisted the Stanley Cup, but Canada has a couple of legitimate hopes of ending that drought this season.
Those two teams get together Monday night in Calgary as the Flames host the Toronto Maple Leafs in what has all the makings for a high-scoring affair. Each team ranks second in their respective conference when it comes to goals for, and their offenses are the biggest reason they are forces to watch out for when the Stanley Cup playoffs get underway next month.
If you like watching on hockey, you won’t want to miss this one. Even better, I think there’s some money to be made in this game as well. BetOnline’s got the Flames as a -128 favorite on the moneyline, a price that I think is a bit short on Calgary for reasons I’ll explain below.
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down couple of months in Toronto, where the Leafs’ occasional slumps have even caused fans to call for the head of revered coach Mike Babcock. Fortunately for Babcock and company, however, things are on the upswing in T.O. The Leafs have won four of their last five games (the lone defeat came in John Tavares’ chilly homecoming to Long Island last week), and the offense has produced five goals or more in each of those victories.
That explosive attack has masked some slippage in the Leafs’ defensive play, however. Toronto’s allowed 19 goals in its last six games, and the Buds have given up at least 30 shots in six of their last seven. Playing their fourth game in six nights here in Calgary, the Leafs will be in tough as they try to shut down one of the few attacks in the NHL that is even more explosive than theirs.
As hot as the Leafs have been lately, the Flames have been on fire (sorry, couldn’t resist that one.) Well, they were until Saturday, at least, when the Minnesota Wild came into town and handed Calgary a rare home defeat. But even in that 4-2 loss, there were positives for Calgary. The Flames outshot Minnesota 37-23 on the evening and things may have been a lot different if an apparent Calgary goal in the first period wasn’t disallowed for goaltender interference. The Flames may also have come out flat following the jersey retirement of Jarome Iginla, having to wait out a lengthy pre-game ceremony.
Prior to that, Calgary had won seven straight games. The key for Calgary’s most recent success has been play in its own end, where the Flames allowed just eight goals during a six-game stretch before Saturday.
Toronto’s a great road team (19-9-3), but Calgary’s been even better at home (20-6-3-2). The southern Alberta fans always get up for a visit from the Leafs, and the Flames have historically responded, winning 10 of their last 12 home dates versus Toronto. I’ll take the better team here playing with more rest and in better current form. Expect the home team to improve to 21-6 in the last 27 meetings between these Canadian rivals, and for a winner on the Flames moneyline at -128 odds.