On Monday night, the eighth-seeded Avalanche skated past the Predators, 5-3, to avoid an 0-3 hole and make their best-of-7 series interesting. For a team that came into the season at 125-1, just winning a playoff game against the Predators — who came into the series as -580 (85% implied probability) favorites — is a feat to make Colorado fans proud.

But there’s more to the first three games of this set than meets the eye, and the Avalanche are working on something pretty interesting here.


Beyond the Box Score

In Game 1, the Avalanche held — and blew — a pair of one-goal leads before ultimately falling, 5-2, in Tennessee. The game was tied with less than 14 minutes left in the third period. Nashville broke the stalemate with a deflection, and then Filip Forsberg doubled the lead with a moment of magic with eight minutes to go. One empty-netter later and you’ve got yourselves a 5-2 scoreline that falls in line with how everyone thought this series would go. This game was a lot closer than that. 

In all situations, the Avalanche generated 2.09 expected goals (xG) in Game 1 while the Predators produced 1.78. At 5v5 (score + venue adjusted*) Colorado  won the xG battle 1.58 to 1.4 and created 11 more scoring chances than Nashville did. In terms of possession, the Predators attempted two more shots than the Avs did. In other words, this tilt was pretty close to a coin flip despite the -300 (75% implied probability) price tag on the Predators for the game.

Nashville closed at -300 again for Game 2, which it won, 5-4, despite falling behind, 1-0. The Predators were better in the second game and controlled the shot attempts (53.55%) and scoring chances at 5v5. In all situations the Predators produced 2.76 xG and allowed 2.55. However, at 5v5 (score + venue adjusted) the Avs put up better xG numbers, 1.32-1.04. It was a pretty close game, but the Predators could claim that they were deserved winners without much blowback.

Game 3 saw Nashville close as a -157 (~61%) favorite on the road. It wasn’t long before chalk bettors were eating their tickets as the Avs jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the second period. Once again, the Predators controlled the shot share at 5v5 (51.36%) but the Avs produced more 5v5 scoring chances and won the xG battle 3.32-2.6 (all situations) and 2.67-1.07 (5v5, adjusted). Even though Colorado shot the lights out this wasn’t a lucky win; the Avalanche put on a show.

What Now?

Over a much larger sample size, the Predators are the better team. Their peripheral numbers are really strong while the Avs’ metrics leave something to be desired. Yet, you could argue that the Avalanche have just as much of a right to be up 2-1 in this series as the Predators do.

The general consensus before this series opened was that the Predators would make quick work of the Avalanche, and maybe Colorado could steal a game and earn itself a pat on the back. It feels as if the betting public is having a hard time adjusting to the notion that the Avs are very much in this thing and it’s creating some value on Colorado.

There are multiple books hanging the Avalanche at +140 (~41.7%). You lose the bet more often than not, but it’s hard to argue against the value residing with Colorado in Game 4.


Photo: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Gabriel Landeskog. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports

All stats provided by MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

*- Score Adjustment is a correction made to account for changes in possession or scoring chances that occur due to the current score of the game. When teams are ahead, they generally fall into a small defensive shell to protect their lead and end up shooting less. Likewise when teams are behind they tend to take more risks and shoot more to try to catch up. This effect becomes more pronounced when the score difference increases. Because of this, events that happen when teams are trailing or leading by different amounts aren’t entirely equitable to each other since the frequency of those shot attempts change.

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