The Stanley Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche get set to take on the St. Louis Blues, who have the longest NHL odds of all remaining teams, in the second round of the playoffs.
Before the playoffs started, the Avs were +350 favorites to win the Stanley Cup. With one victorious series behind them, Colorado’s NHL playoff odds have since shortened to +200.
Colorado swept Nashville in the first round, the only team to win four successive games in the opening series. They won most of the final two games without No. 1 netminder Darcy Kuemper, who suffered an injury after taking a stick to the eye.
Avs fans and anyone who backed the favorites to win the Stanley Cup will be elated to hear that Kuemper will be back for the start of Game 1.
It’s a potentially series-defining bit of news for the Avs, who cannot afford to have their No. 1 netminder sidelined for a series against the NHL’s hottest team to close out the regular season.
Starting the postseason as +2500 outsiders, the Blues’ NHL betting lines have since shifted to +1600.
For the upcoming series, the Blues are +275 underdogs. The Avs are -345 favorites going into the series opener in Colorado on Tuesday evening.
Colorado Won Two of Three Regular Season Matchups
We picked the St. Louis Blues as a solid sleeper pick for a number of reasons, none of which included their ability to match the high-octane Avs.
Might as well add it to the list, as the prodigious Avs outscored the experienced Blues by just a single goal in three regular-season contests. St. Louis, aside from three middle stanzas in which the Avs outscored the Blues 6-3, had the beating of Colorado.
St. Louis edged the Avs by a single goal in both the first and third periods. However, all but one first and third period resulted in a tie, highlighting the near-negligible disparity between the Central Division rivals.
Each team won in the other’s building, with the Avs taking the third and decisive game at home on April 26.
The Avs, who had the fourth-most shots on goal per game in the regular season, outshot the Blues in every game, highlighting the integral role Jordan Binnington will have to play.
Why Avalanche Have the Advantage
Even after their NHL playoff odds shortened, Colorado still represents excellent futures value. As a team without any glaring weaknesses, a lot rides on how Darcy Kuemper acquits himself.
It’s the first time in a decade-long career that Kuemper will take part in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That shouldn’t be an issue for Colorado as long as Kuemper maintains his regular-season form.
The Avs will invariably enjoy the shots-on-goal advantage in this series, but, like any goaltender who is called upon less frequently, it will be up to Kuemper to hold his own and shut the door at pivotal moments.
If Kuemper preserves his fifth-best regular-season save percentage (.921), the Avs should win this series.
Along with a bottomless well of depth and imposing leadership presence, the Avs, who scored the fourth-most goals per game (3.76) in the regular season and most in the first round (5.25), have too many weapons for the Blues to cope with.
Gabriel Landeskog, who returned to the Avs lineup against Nashville after a long injury absence, swiftly answered the questions about his readiness. He scored three goals and added as many helpers in the four-game series against Nashville. Only Cale Makar, who notched 10 points, contributed more offensively.
Norris Trophy frontrunner Makar is another key variable to Colorado’s success in this series. He is a generational talent and has the ability to make the opposing team’s top players look average.
Nathan MacKinnon matched his captain’s six-point haul in the opening round and is a man possessed. He will not allow his team to go out in the second round in consecutive seasons. MacKinnon, along with the rest of the Avs’ contingent, has clearly learned from previous playoff failures.
After banishing Nashville in four straight, the Avs are also incredibly well rested, which doesn’t bode well for St. Louis.
Blues Chances to Upend Avalanche Rests on One Factor
The Blues’ chances of upending the Western Conference’s top seed rest squarely on Binnington’s shoulders.
Binnington replaced Ville Husso, who played in Games 1 and 2 against Minnesota and won all three games he started. The 28-year-old netminder had lost nine straight playoff games prior to entering the fray in Game 3. He hadn’t won a postseason outing since lifting the Cup in Boston in 2019.
His redemptive performances in the final three games of the first round series against the Wild were reminiscent of his otherworldly play during the Blues’ 2019 Cup-winning run.
Binnington had a paltry 1.67 goals against average and a .943 save percentage versus Minnesota.
For St. Louis to have any chance of overcoming the Avs, Binnington must maintain those exceptional numbers. Even for a vintage Binnington, the task at hand should prove slightly too burdensome for the Blues.
The Avs should advance in six games and qualify for the Western Conference Final for the first time in 20 years.
Blues vs. Avalanche Predictions
Series Winner: Colorado Avalanche (-345)
Correct Series Result: Colorado 4-2 (+950)
Series Top Goalscorer: Nathan MacKinnon (+600)