These are the kind of games that you simply have to win in order to challenge for National Hockey League glory. The Stanley Cup, the greatest accolade in ice hockey, is now a realistic objective for the Calgary Flames – something that you probably wouldn’t have said at the start of the 2017/18 campaign.
Calgary, at 28/1 with Bet365 in the Stanley Cup outrights, are now second in the Pacific Division and while they trail the Vegas Golden Knights by a considerable margin, the Flames will be quietly confident of holding that spot for the remainder of the regular season. A third playoff appearance in nine years beckons if Calgary can maintain their current momentum.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the New York Rangers. Currently rooted to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, the four-time Stanley Cup winners are in serious need of help if they are to compete in the postseason. Alain Vigneault’s side have failed to build any sort of form in recent months and the Rangers have now lost seven of their previous 10 league games. This could get ugly for the Madison Square Garden outfit…
Rangers Destined To Fall Short?
Realistically, New York are probably going to miss out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2009/10 campaign – and that tells its own story. The Rangers have been woeful for most of the season, scoring just 154 points whilst conceding 168; the second worst defense in the Metropolitan Division. A hit-and-miss offense mixed with a leaky back line is the recipe for disaster.
Nobody expected the Rangers to be rooted to the bottom of the division though, least of all head coach Vigneault. Bizarrely, New York have won more games (25) than they’ve lost (24) but just five overtime defeats has hindered their progress. Currently six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers in fourth spot, the Rangers have it all to do as the postseason race begins to heat up.
KEY MAN: Mats Zuccarello. For regular readers of our website and avid ice hockey fans, this is why New York have struggled. Zuccarello leads the team with 38 points and that is a poor return at this stage of the season. With eight goals and 30 assists, he could be the man to unlock Calgary’s defensive unit but it is hard to place too much confidence in this mis-firing Rangers side.
Flames: Serious Playoff Contenders?
It would be foolish to write Calgary off in their pursuit of glory. Often dismissed, the Flames have made a living of being regarded as the underdogs and plenty of punters will be keen to back the Canadian side at 33/1 in Stanley Cup betting markets. With three wins on the spin heading into this contest, you wouldn’t back against the Flames on current form.
With an exact goal differential of 0, Calgary have been fairly consistent across the board this year – losing just 18 games during the regulation period whilst winning 28. Their road form has been decent too, two of their previous three victories have come away from Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary are certainly dark horses in the race for hockey’s ultimate prize.
KEY MAN: Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has 61 points so far this year – an incredible return to say the least. With 16 goals and 45 assists, he is an integral part of Calgary’s attacking unit and fans will be expecting more of the same from Gaudreau here. With four points in four February encounters, he is the one to watch.
The New York Rangers will have plenty of huff and puff but this one is Calgary’s to lose. Back the Flames to win in what could turn out to be a relatively straightforward encounter…
RANGERS 2-4 FLAMES