NHL Western Conference Finals Preview: Avalanche vs. Oilers

This should be a real fun series between the best team in hockey, the Colorado Avalanche and the best hockey player in the world, Connor McDavid and his Edmonton Oilers. Neither of these team have been in the Western Conference Finals for quite a long time, with the Avs making their first appearance since 2002 and the Oilers making their first appearance since 2006. Both teams lead the playoffs in scoring, which should make for some electric games.

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 have home ice locked up the entirety of the playoffs. 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 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. 

After they cruised through the first round, pretty easily sweeping the Nashville Predators, the Avs struggled a bit more in the second round against the Blues but still beat them out in six games. Colorado needed overtime in Game 1 to beat the Blues 3-2 with an incredible 51 save performance from Jordan Binnington. In Game 2 in Colorado, the Blues got a 4-1 win on the road. The Avs bounced back with a 5-2 win in Game 3 with Jordan Binnington got injured after a collision with Nazim Kadri. At that point I figured the series would be over in five games. I bet the Avs to win the series in exactly five games. Game 4 was an easy 6-3 blowout win for the Avalanche on the road. Game 5 looked great for the Avs, who were up 3-0 just 24 minutes into the game. They blew that lead and then with less than three minutes left, Nathan MacKinnon scored the go ahead goal to complete his hat trick on the night. That lead still wasn’t safe, as the Avs allowed the tying goal again with 56 seconds left before losing in overtime and losing all my bets that I had already pretty much celebrating. Colorado grinded out a solid Game 6 in St. Louis with Darren Helm scoring the series winning goal with a buzzer beater with six seconds to go to end the series with a 3-2 win.

The Avalanche are second in the playoffs in scoring trailing only the Oilers and averaging 4.3 goals per game with a 10.8% shooting percentage. They’ve generated a ton of shots, an average of 39.8 per game. Colorado’s offense has been lead by Nathan MacKinnon, who has 13 points and 8 goals in their ten games and defenseman Cale Makar with 13 points and 10 assists. The Avs power play has been the best unit of the playoffs, scoring on 34.5% of their chances. Their penalty kill has killed off 71.8% of their penalties and added to that with a shorthanded goal. Colorado has allowed an average of 27 shots on goal per game. Darcy Kuemper hasn’t been terrible statistically, with a 2.44 GAA and .904 save percentage in his nine games in the playoffs but some of the goals he’s allowed have been pretty soft, like the tying goal in Game 5 against the Blues. So I don’t have a ton of confidence in him.

The Oilers finished the regular season in second place in the Pacific with a 49-27-6 record. They had lots of swings throughout the season, going on runs where they looked fantastic and others where they looked like shit, even firing head coach Dave Tippett in February. Under new interim head coach Jay Woodcroft, they’ve played much better and improved in every facet of the game. Edmonton played great heading into the postseason with a 19-4-2 record in their last 25 games of the regular season.  They are lead by two of the best offense players in the NHL, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid is a generational player and the best in the NHL, leading with 123 points and second in assists with 79 (behind Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau). Draisaitl’s right behind him scoring a fourth most in the NHL 110 points and he was second in goals behind Toronto’s Auston Matthews (60) with 55 goals this season. They haven’t gotten a ton of production out of the depth in their lineup behind those two besides Evander Kane, who’s had almost a point per game (39 points, 22 goals in 43 games) since being traded to the Oilers. Despite that lack of depth, the Oilers offense is still one of the best in the NHL. They’re scoring an average of 3.48 goals per game, seventh most in the NHL. They’ve generated the tenth most shots per game, an average of 24 per game and have the 11th highest shooting percentage in the NHL, scoring on 10.2% of their shots. The Oilers power play is very good, third best in the NHL, scoring on 26% of those opportunities. Defensively, Edmonton has struggled pretty bad at points this season and on the year they’ve allowed an average of 3.06 goals per game, 14th most in the NHL. They’ve cleaned a lot of those issues up in the second half of the season though, especially goaltending which was awful early in the year. They have allowed the twelfth most shots against them in the league, an average of 32.3 per game. Mike Smith has a 2.81 GAA, .915 save percentage, 2 shutouts this season. That doesn’t show how high of a level he was playing coming into the playoffs with a NHL leading eight wins in a row, allowing only 1.25 goals per game in those eight starts. He had been incredible and had the best form for a goalie going into the postseason. The Oilers penalty kill hasn’t been great at 79.4%, ranking 17th in the NHL. They did score eleven short handed goals though, third most in the NHL. 

Going into the playoffs, my expectations for the Oilers was that the LA Kings were a solid matchup for them in the first round and that they should get past them but wouldn’t get much farther than that. I wasn’t impressed by their performance in that series which took them seven games but they really turned it around and impressed me, proving me wrong in the Battle of Alberta in the second round. I bet the Flames to win the series think they were much deeper of a team and better in every facet of the game. Game 1 in Calgary was easily the best game of the easily, a 9-6 Flames win that saw the Oilers come back from down 5-1 and 6-2 to turn it into a game that was tied 6-6 early in the third period. The Oilers didn’t look back from there, rattling off four straight dominant wins to close out the series in five games with a 5-4 overtime game winner in Game 5 from none other than Connor McDavid. Although I lost on my series bets, I cashed in on the overs, which hit easily in four out of the five games.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s offense has lead the playoffs with an average of 4.33 goals per game. Draisaitl and McDavid lead the playoffs with 26 points and 19 assists each and Evander Kane isn’t far behind them with 15 points and an NHL leading 12 goals, averaging a goal per game. Edmonton has averaged 34.92 shots per game and have had an NHL leading 12.4% shooting percentage in the playoffs. Their power play has capitalized on 28.2% of their chances. The Oilers have allowed 37.5 shots per game. Their penalty kill has been decent killing off 85.4% of their penalties and scoring three shorthanded goals in the playoffs. Mike Smith has had a few bad games in the playoffs but has a 2.7 GAA and .927 in his twelve playoff games. 

These teams played three times in the regular season this year with the Avs winning two of the three games. In Colorado on March 21st, the Avalanche won 3-2 in overtime on March 21st. They then won 2-1 in a shootout in Edmonton on April 9th with the Oilers answering back with a 6-3 win at home on April 22nd. 

I’d expect the Oilers run to come to an end against the deadly Colorado Avalanche, likely in six games. I think the moneyline for this series at -250 is a bit too expensive but I will go with the Avs to win the series in six games or less for 2 units.

To start off the series with Game 1 tonight, I’ll take the Avs ML for 2 units and the Avs TT over 3.5 for a unit. I’d lean the over but not enough to bet on it in Game 1 but will likely jump on the overs in Game 2.

Series Bets

2u Avalanche in six games or less (-132)

Game 1 Bets

2u Avalanche ML (-194)

1u Avalanche TT over 3.5 (-155)

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