The Colorado Avalanche are the best team in the NHL Playoffs this season and the favorites to lift the Stanley Cup, rightfully so. I do think the Blues could give them a fun run in this series though.
The Colorado Avalanche had a fantastic regular season, going 56-19-17 and locked up the first seed in the Western Conference. They went 32-5-4 at home this season and will have home ice locked up the entirety of the playoffs unless they match up with the President’s Trophy winning Florida Panthers in the Cup Finals. The Avs have been very good on both ends of the ice this year. They scored an average of 3.76 goals per game, fourth most in the NHL and they had the fourth most shots, an average of 35 per game. They have the seventh most efficient power play in the NHL, converting on 24% of their chances. Colorado improved their goaltending in the offseason bringing in Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper’s been very good this season for them with a 2.54 GAA, .921 save percentage and five shutouts. The Avs have allowed an average of just 2.83 goals per game, tenth fewest in the NHL. Colorado took the twelfth most penalties in the NHL and had a 79.7% penalty kill percentage.
The Nashville Predators didn’t have a shot in hell at knocking off the Avs in the first round and the Avalanche swept them. They proved Calgary head coach Daryl Suter right when he said that whatever Wild Card team in the West that matched up Colorado in the first round would be wasting eight days before hitting the golf courses. The Avs started that series on fire, scoring five goals in the first period on their way to an easy 7-2 win. In Game 2, Connor Ingram, the rookie third string goalie for the Predators had an insane 49 save performance in his first playoff start and the Avs still won 2-1 in overtime. Then in Games 3 and 4 in Nashville, the Avalanche continued to roll with a 7-3 win and 5-3 win to get the brooms out and get a nice eight days of rest before the second round starts tonight. The Avs lead all playoff teams in scoring for the first round, scoring an impressive 5.25 goals per game with an 11.9% shooting percentage. Their power play was lethal, scoring on 43.8% of the chances that they had in those four games. They allowed an average of just 2.25 goals per game. Darcy Kuemper was very good in goal with a 1.63 GAA and .934 save percentage in the three games he played and missed a game with an injury after a stick went in his helmet but he should be good to go again for this series. The Avs killed off 76.9% of the penalties they took in the first round and scored a short handed goal.
The St. Louis Blues, a few years now removed from their miracle run to win the Stanley Cup in 2019 come into the playoffs with a 49-22-11 record, finishing in third place in the Central Division. St. Louis was also very good in the closing stretch of the regular season, going 14-2-2 in their last 18 games (with the two regulation losses coming in their last two games against Vegas and Colorado on Tuesday and Friday). The Blues offense has been one of the best in the NHL this season, scoring a third most in the NHL average of 3.77 goals per game. They haven’t generated many shots, a 15th fewest in the NHL average of 30.4 per game but they’ve been the best team in the NHL in efficiency of scoring on those shots, with a 12.4% shooting percentage. The Blues have deadly power play, scoring on 27% of their opportunities, second best in the NHL behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. St. Louis has been good defensively as well, allowing an eleventh fewest in the NHL average of 2.92 goals per game. After being a liability anytime he started last season, Ville Husso solidified himself above Jordan Binnington (3.13 GAA, .901 save percentage this season) as a solid starting goalie with a 25-7-7 record, 2.56 GAA and .919 save percentage. That goaltending got shaken up quite a bit in the first round of the playoffs for them though against the Wild.
I expected their first round series against the Wild to be the best series of the first round that I thought would go at least six but probably seven games to be fantastic. I thought every game would be quite competitive and that didn’t happen. Although it did go six games, none of the games in the series were great to watch and were pretty much dominant from start to finish for the game winner. The Blues opened the series with a 4-0 shutout win on the road for Husso with a David Perron hat trick. Minnesota answered back with a huge 6-2 win at home in Game 2 with a Karill Kaprizov hat trick. The Wild won 5-1 and dominated the Blues in St. Louis to take a 2-1 series lead. After that game, Craig Berube switched it up with Binnington in goal and St. Louis rattled off three straight wins, 5-2 in Game 4, 5-2 in Game 5 and 5-1 in Game 6 to close out the series in dominant fashion. In the first round the Blues scored an average of 3.67 goals per game with an 11.7% shooting percentage. Their power play, which was quite good in the regular season continued to be good in the first round of the playoffs, scoring on 30.8% of those chances. St. Louis allowed an average of 2.67 goals per game and they killed off 83.3% of their penalties.
After Ville Husso was a bit shaky in his second two playoffs starts, both big losses after opening the series with a shutout, he ended up going 1-2 in the first three games of the series with a 3.02 GAA and .906 save percentage. Jordan Binnington, who wasn’t great in the regular season took over for Game 4 and looked to be in the same form as his incredible run leading the Blues to lifting the Cup in 2019. He had a 1.67 GAA and .934 save percentage in those three wins to close out the series. Binnington will start this series between the pipes, confirmed in goal tonight.
The Blues will be without their top defenseman Torey Krug, who’s out with a lower body injury that he sustained in Game 3 of the first round against Minnesota. Not having him in the lineup will be a big blow to their back end against such a great Colorado offense.
These Central Division teams played three times in the regular season this year with the Avs going 2-1 in those three very entertaining games. The Blues opened the regular season series with a big 5-3 win in Colorado on October 16th, the Avalanche answered back with a 4-3 win in St. Louis on October 28th and then the Avs won 5-3 on April 26th in the last week of the season.
Colorado’s deservingly the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. I think this is actually a closer series than the prices show though. The Blues are a great team that could match up well against the Avs, especially if Binnington plays like he did in the first round against Minnesota and on the Blues cup run in 2019. I do still think the Avalanche win this series, but in no way is it worth betting at -400. That price is ridiculous and there’s immense value in the Blues at +305. I looked at the props on the Blues +2.5 games series outcome and the over 5.5 games prop for this series but don’t really see either of those worth it and think the right move in this series is just to play it game by game. I still some great value with my half unit series bet on the Blues to win the Cup. Although I don’t see them winning this series against the Avs, there’s incredible value on that if they do get past them.
All three games that these teams played in the regular season went over the 6.5, all four of the Avs first round games went over 6.5 and over 6 in the six games in the Blues first round series went 3-1-2. I love the overs trend in this series and for Game 1 tonight, I’ll go with 2 units on the over. Along with that, I’ll go with a unit each on the Avs TT over 3.5 and Blues TT over 2.5, expecting both teams to score.
I think the Avalanche win Game 1 at home but the -285 moneyline isn’t worth betting on but I’ll take the Avs in regulation for a unit.
.5u Blues: Stanley Cup Champions (+2200)
Game 1 Bets
2u Avalanche/Blues over 6.5 (-135)
1u Avalanche TT over 3.5 (-160)
1u Blues TT over 2.5 (-139)
1u Avalanche in regulation (-139)
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