On paper there would seem to be some value in taking the Calgary Flames for the 3/19 NHL free pick. The Flames have 80 points on the year, trailing the final playoff spot by four but with two teams to leapfrog. If anything is must win, it would be tonight’s matchup against the leagues worst team, Arizona. Then again, that’s probably what the Flames have said the last 10 games – when they’ve gone just 3-6-1 over that span. The Coyotes aren’t playing bad either, going 5-4-1 over their last 10. Late season NHL hockey is definitely love/hate.
Calgary Mounting a Last Ditch Effort at the Postseason
Another major disadvantage working against the Flames in the 3/19 NHL free pick is the fact that they’ll be playing their third game in four nights on Monday. Not only that, last night’s contest was in Vegas, a 0-4 shutout after falling 4-7 to San Jose on Friday. The loss knocked the Flames record over the last month to 5-10, not ideal for a team chasing the playoffs. On one downside, Calgary is a bit road weary – on the other they’re playing a Coyotes team who they’ve gone 2-0 against this season by a combined score of 8-2.
In net on Monday for Calgary is Mike Smith, who has extra motivation against the team that he played with for six seasons in Arizona. Smith was traded to the Flames the past offseason and has had moderate success going 24-19-6 on the year. The 13-year veteran has struggled a bit lately, going just 4-6 in his last 10 starts. Smith has also allowed 10 goals in his past two games – which followed a shutout and is very evident of the netminders inconsistency this season. Perhaps revenge is what it takes to get Smith back to his winning ways.
Arizona Skating Without Tocchet Tonight
One reason that Arizona may be slight underdogs in tonight’s tilt is because they’ll be without head coach Rich Tocchet who will miss the game to attend his mother’s funeral. John Maclean coached the team last week while Tocchet cared for his mother and he’ll be manning the team again tonight. Prior to their current two game losing streak, the last place Coyotes had actually been playing some really good hockey. Arizona was an eye-popping 11-3-2 over a 16 game span before falling to Nashville on Thursday and Minnesota on Saturday.
The big problem with Arizona lately – and all year – has been scoring goals. Out of their last 10 games, they’ve scored 2 goals or less in 7 of them. Arizona is actually dead last in the league in goals scored per game at 2.4. One thing you can say about that low scoring 10 game run is that their results haven’t been absolutely horrible with a 5-4-1 record. This is a testament in part to Darcy Kuemper going 3-3-1 while Antti Raanta missed some time with a lower body injury. Raanta is back in the net for the 3/19 NHL free pick for just his second games since coming off the injury list. He popped right back into form the last time out, stopping 32 of 34 shots against the Wild although it was an Arizona loss.
3/19 NHL Free Pick
Even though Arizona’s offense struggles, Calgary is simply playing no defense lately after surrendering 16 goals in their past four games. When you take into account the fact that the Flames are playing in their third game in four nights – and may have unofficially checked out for the year this game is looking more and more like an Arizona win. There’s good value on either team, but it’s been the last place Coyotes that have actually been playing better hockey lately than the team supposedly vying for a postseason berth.
Pick: Arizona Coyotes +105