Blackhawks vs. Avalanche Odds, Pick, Preview: Chicago Has Value as Big Underdog (October 13)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Toews.
- The Blackhawks open their season as big underdogs against the Avalanche on Tuesday night.
- Jonathan Toews is back for Chicago, although Colorado is one of the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup this season.
- Carol Schram breaks down the matchups and makes her betting pick below.
Blackhawks vs. Avalanche Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
With the weight of Stanley Cup expectations heavy on their shoulders, the Colorado Avalanche will be missing some key members of their team when they open their 2021-22 season on Wednesday.
Here’s why a bet on the underdog Chicago Blackhawks could pay off for savvy bettors.
Blackhawks Made Big Offseason Moves
This ain’t last season’s Blackhawks, the team that finished second-last in the NHL in expected goals against (xGA) and eighth-worst in actual goals allowed.
The offseason renovation for general manager Stan Bowman started with the addition of 27-year-old star defenseman Seth Jones. He is known for playing big minutes and slots in on the right side in place of Duncan Keith, the two-time Norris Trophy winner who, at age 37, was still the Blackhawks’ ice-time leader last season.
While they got younger on the blue line, Chicago got older in net — and that’s just fine, when the goaltender in question is Marc-Andre Fleury. Coming off a season where he put up a career-best .928 save percentage and earned his first Vezina Trophy, the 36-year-old has something to prove once again after he was traded away from Vegas.
When Pittsburgh moved on from Fleury in 2017, he promptly anchored the Golden Knights on a trip all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. He’ll provide Chicago with a strong last line of defense this season.
Fleury has three Stanley Cup rings. Also, forward Tyler Johnson just won back-to-back titles with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was snapped up by Chicago in an under-the-radar salary-cap dump this summer. Buried a bit on a deep Lightning roster, Johnson is expected to start the season centering the Blackhawks’ first line, between proven snipers Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.
Center ice is a strength for Chicago this year — they’re as talented as any club in the league down the middle. Johnson is slotting in ahead of team captain Jonathan Toews, who missed all of last season due to health issues but has looked like his old self since rejoining the team at training camp. In the third-line center spot, there’s 20-year-old Kirby Dach — the budding star who was limited to just 18 games last season after breaking his wrist during training camp for the World Junior Championship.
Colorado Favored to Hoist Cup
No matter where you look, the Avalanche are heading into the 2021-22 season as the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup (Consensus: +524).
With their high-octane playing style, MVP-in-waiting Nathan MacKinnon and elite new-school defenseman Cale Makar leading the charge, there’s a lot to love about Colorado, even though they’ve flamed out in the second round of the playoffs for three consecutive years.
But is this year’s Avalanche roster weaker than last season? Captain Gabriel Landeskog is back with a new eight-year contract and Makar is now signed long term, but Vezina finalist Philipp Grubauer decided to walk to Seattle in free agency.
Darcy Kuemper should be a capable replacement for Grubauer in net. He brings a career .917 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average, despite playing behind a sub-optimal lineup in Arizona for the last three-plus seasons.
But between the expansion draft and a salary-cap squeeze, the Avs also lost Brandon Saad and Joonas Donskoi up front this summer, along with Ryan Graves on defense. And key blueliner Devon Toews remains sidelined after offseason shoulder surgery.
To make matters worse, MacKinnon will be absent on opening night — sidelined on Tuesday after a positive test for COVID-19. That moves Nazem Kadri up to the first-line center spot between Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
Head coach Jared Bednar also won’t be behind the bench on Wednesday. After a positive test of his own, he missed the Avs’ last two preseason games and remains in COVID protocol.
Make no mistake — the Avalanche are still a very good team. But they’re not as deep as they were last season, and missing MacKinnon and Bednar on opening night is far from ideal, particularly against a team that’s hungry to play spoiler.
While the Avalanche are looking to parlay their promise into a championship this season, the Blackhawks have been there. Toews and Kane are now the only holdovers from those three Stanley Cups in the first half of the 2010s, but they’ll be hungry to get back to the postseason, and have a re-tooled collection of talent around them that’s poised to turn some heads.
At +188, bookmakers are giving the Blackhawks about a 35% chance of starting their season in the win column on Wednesday night. If the pieces do come together, you may not get underdog odds like these on Chicago as the season rolls along.
Why not have some fun and see if the Blackhawks can get tongues wagging about whether the Avs have been overestimated?
Pick: Chicago Blackhawks +188 (play down to +170)