The first Friday night of the NHL season goes off tonight with a trio of games. It’s been a couple entertaining opening nights, with plenty of exciting hockey action to take in. Auston Matthews lit the world on fire on Wednesday, and then yesterday, we saw the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning both come from two goals down to secure wins against the Blue Jackets and Red Wings. The Jackets went in as favorites, but came out losers. Remember that atrocious opening stretch that the Blue Jackets had, a 0-8 start to get things going? The ensuing result was a head coach being fired, and John Tortorella taking after behind the bench. Tortorella just guided Team USA to a disaster at the World Cup of Hockey, a result he hopes to avoid in the NHL with the Blue Jackets.
Tonight we get a rematch of a Wednesday night matchup, with the Oilers and Flames completing their home and home tonight in Calgary. The Flames went out and got themselves a proven goaltender, something it seems they’ve been missing for years, ever since Miikka Kiprusoff was in the crease. The Flames felt that enough was enough, and they went and spent money on a capable netminder, a hot commodity in the market. Are they going to feel buyer remorse over signing Brian Elliott?
The first night of action was a debut to forget for Elliott. He was lit up like a Christmas tree by the Edmonton Oilers and torching him for 6 goals on 27 shots. It left Elliott with an abysmal save percentage of 0.778. Not exactly what he had in mind when he signed up to play for the Flames. The defence has shown no signs of improving from their horrendous pace a year ago. It’s early, but you can see what a competent defence can do for a goalie.
Elliott was playing behind one of the best defences in the NHL in St. Louis. He now finds himself playing for one of the worst in the league. One game is no sample size to base a goaltender by, but he was left out to dry against the Oilers on Wednesday. Everybody starts with a clean slate tonight, as the Oilers and Flames do battle in Calgary.
The defensive problems for the Oilers and Flames began way before Wednesday night, which was clearly on full display a 7-4 Edmonton win. Both of these teams ran into all types of issues trying to keep the puck out of their own net for a few years now. Calgary has been searching for a fix on defence, and are thinking that signing Elliott is a good start. Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, and Niklas Backstrom combined for a league worst GAA of 0.892. Elliott started off the season in similar fashion.
Lost in the midst of all this was how bad Cam Talbot played as well. However, he was peppered with 41 shots in total, so his save percentage was saved in his Wednesday night effort. In 2015-16, the Flames finished last in the NHL, 30th, in goals against. They have quickly jumped right back to that spot, after they gave up 7 goals to the Oilers the other night. The Oilers weren’t much better, allowing an average of 2.96 goals per game. I expect there to be some regression here, but all the way back to less than 6 goals scored? I don’t know about that. There should be at least 6 goals scored this evening, which provides another opportunity to cash in on a high scoring Oilers and Flames game.
PICK: OVER 5.5 GOALS (-105)