A couple of Pacific Division clubs heading in opposite directions clash tonight in the City of Angels.
It’s the red-hot Calgary Flames who continue to surprise in winning five of their last six games and continue to nip at the heels of the first-place Edmonton Oilers while the Los Angeles Kings have dropped six of their last seven to drop to sixth in the division despite owning at least one game in hand on all five clubs ahead of them.
Let’s dive into this matchup with a Flames vs. Kings NHL Pick from Los Angeles!
Flames vs. Kings Betting Odds
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
|Flames||-138||-1.5 (+165)||Over 5.5 (+122)|
|Kings||+125||-190||Under 5.5 (-134)|
Offense and Defense
The Flames have surprised to the upside pretty much across the board after a lousy 2020-21 season and the offense has been no exception.
The Flames enter this one ranked ninth with 3.23 goals per game on the season and the underlying metrics agree with the strong body of work. While they sit 17th in high-danger chances for/60 at 5v5, they also sit seventh in expected goals for/60 at 5v5 while their 2.55 goals/60 matched up nicely with their expected 2.46 mark. In other words, it appears they’re deserving of their even-strength offensive fate.
Not only that, but the Flames have been the NHL’s highest-scoring road team with 3.46 goals per game away from home. That being said, they’ve been held to just two goals in each of their last two games after averaging 4.75 goals per game over a four-game stretch, all of which resulted in wins.
While the offense has certainly done its part, the Flames’ defense is the cream of the NHL crop right now in allowing just 1.95 goals per game on the season. However, I’m wildly skeptical that they can sustain such a pace.
For one, the best defense in the NHL last season was the Vegas Golden Knights at 2.18 goals against per game. The year before that it was the Boston Bruins with a mark of 2.39 and the last 82-game NHL season saw the Islanders lead the league with 2.33 goals against per game in the 2018-19 season.
From a more analytical standpoint, their even-strength defense should be where the regression hits hardest. The Flames lead the league with an eye-popping 1.30 goals against/60 at 5v5 more than a half-goal better than second-place Carolina. However, their expected mark in that department is 2.02, and while very good, it’s three-fourths of a goal-per-game worse. Their current 5v5 defensive pace is wildly unsustainable.
With all that nerdy stuff being said, they’ve still allowed two goals or fewer in eight of their last nine, so they’re certainly doing something right.
The Kings went on a seven-game winning streak, but have since fallen on hard times in winning just one of seven since and the offense needs to field its fair share of the blame.
The Kings have averaged just 2.38 goals per game over their last eight contests, but if you’re looking for a silver lining they have scored four times in each of their last two games and in three of their last five.
They’ll enter this one ranked 25th, however, with just 2.67 goals per game on the season despite sitting sixth in high-danger chances for/6o and 13th in expected goals for/60 at 5v5. Their 2.25 goals/60 at 5v5 is only slightly inferior to their 2.36 expected mark, however, so it would appear that positive regression in that area is anything but certain despite generating their fair share of dangerous opportunities.
WE ARE NOT OKAY.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 1, 2021
The defense has been the better of the two on the season as they are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 11th with 2.76 goals against per game on the season. That said, they sit 27th in high-danger chances against/60 and 29th in expected goals against/60 on the season. their 2.13 goals against/60 at 5v5 is notably below their 2.48 expected mark, so regression in this area is in the cards moving forward.
Despite getting No. 1 defenseman Drew Doughty back from a long-term knee injury on Tuesday the Kings allowed four regulation goals to the Ducks before losing in a shootout, the third time in their last five games they’ve allowed at least four regulation tallies.
We don’t have a confirmed netminder for the road side as of the time of this writing, and with the team back in action tomorrow night it could be either Jacob Markstrom or Dan Vladar getting the nod tonight in L.A.
If it’s Markstrom, the Flames have a Vezina candidate going. If it weren’t for the Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell, it would be Markstrom leading the Vezina race thanks to a 1.75 GAA and .938 Sv% across 17 games, all starts. Hockey Reference credits Markstrom with 12.42 goals saved above average (GSAA), the second-best mark in the NHL next to Campbell (16.84).
Markstrom has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last six starts.
If it’s not Markstrom, Vladar makes his sixth start of the season and he’s been fantastic as well. Through his first five starts, Vladar has posted an outrageous 1.57 GAA and .946 Sv% while posting a 4.86 GSAA that ranks him 11th despite playing in just five games.
It’s a big bounce back in a small sample after he was torched for a 3.40 GAA and .886 Sv% in five starts with the Bruins last season, although he was excellent with a 2.19 GAA and .923 Sv% across 10 AHL games and also posted a 1.29 GAA and .955 Sv% at the outset of the 2020-21 season in the top Czech league.
No wonder why the Flames lead the NHL — by a mile — with a .953 Sv% at 5v5 this season, although I’d strongly suggest that figure is wildly unsustainable and directly tied to their 1.95 goals against per game.
Although not confirmed as of yet, Daily Faceoff has Cal Petersen as the likely netminder for the home side tonight.
It’s been an uneven season for the American netminder as he’s worked to a 3.00 GAA and .895 Sv% in nine games — all starts — going 5-3-1 in the process. Petersen owns a weak -4.52 GSAA that ranks 55th among qualified netminders.
It’s a disappointing season for a guy that was supposed to supplant veteran Jonathan Quick as the No. 1 option in goal, but Quick has greatly out-performed his junior. Petersen dominated for Team USA at the World Championships last spring, but has been unable to sustain that success of far in the 2021-22 NHL season.
As noted, the Flames have surprised pretty much across the board and special teams have been right there.
The power play sits seventh in the NHL with a 24.6% clip on the campaign but interestingly hasn’t gotten an opportunity in two of its last three games. Nonetheless, they’re still 4 for 12 (33.3%) over their last six games but should probably start drawing more penalties to take full advantage of the damage they’re doing.
Not to be outdone, the Flames’ PK has been among the best in the league. They rank fifth with an 87% mark on the season, although they surrendered a power-play goal on their lone short-handed situation their last time on Monday against the Penguins. That said, a zoomed-out look shows they’re still 26 for 28 (92.3%) over their last nine games.
Special teams haven’t been nearly as kind to the Kings.
The Los Angeles power play has been effective at times in recent years, but sits in a three-way tie for 17th with an 18.3% mark on the season. That unit gets a boost with Doughty back in the fold, and while they didn’t capitalize on their lone opportunity in his return on Tuesday, they have picked it up and gone 3 for 8 over their last three games.
The penalty kill has been a problem as the Kings sit tied with the Avalanche for 27th with a 76.5% mark on the season. That unit has struggled in going just 4 for 6 over their last three games after going a clean 12 for 12 over their previous six games.
- Flames are 4-1 in their last five games as a favorite
- Flames are 4-1 in their last five road games
- Under is 5-1 in the Flames’ last six road games
- Kings are 4-13 in their last 17 games as an underdog
- Kings are 1-5 in their last six home games
- Over is 4-1 in the Kings’ last five overall (all at home)
Head to Head
- Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings
- Kings are 3-1 in the last four meetings
Flames vs. Kings NHL Pick
The Flames have clearly been the superior team this season pretty much right across the board. The offense, defense, special teams, goaltending and many of the underlying numbers are superior to those of tonight’s opponent.
So naturally, I’ll take the Kings.
Folks, the Flames are going to regress defensively at even strength with authority at some point. Their goaltending has been outrageous, but wildly unsustainable at even strength. Of course, we don’t know and cannot predict when that will happen, but it’s going to happen.
Frankly, I see value in it happening against a Kings team that has found some offense with eight goals over their last two games. They’ve got their best defenseman and power play anchor back into the lineup and their leader Anze Kopitar has been a monster producer on home ice this season.
I could certainly understand the hesitation here, especially when I’m basing my pick on advanced data rather than bottom-line results. Not everyone is on board with that. However, the surface number on defense is also an unsustainable one when we look at the leaders of that department in the past.
I’m willing to roll the dice on the Kings as notable home favorites this evening.