St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche Game 1 Odds, Prediction, Preview: Colorado Opens as Heavy Favorite (May 17)
Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan MacKinnon.
- Presidents' Trophy winner Colorado starts its playoff journey against the Blues on Monday night.
- The Avalanche are betting favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup, so it's so surprise that oddsmakers expect them to easily beat St. Louis.
- Matt Russell breaks down Game 1 below, as he details how bettors should go about backing Nathan MacKinnon & Co.
Blues vs. Avalanche Odds
|Time||Monday, 10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via PointsBet|
Sometimes you do a double take when you look at the numbers. This can’t be real, can it? Then you double check the stats, and the formula, and then recheck it. It all comes out the same, so you shrug your shoulders and say “Well, I guess this is what it is.”
That was the case when I built out my projections for the St. Louis Blues’ first-round series with the Colorado Avalanche. Then I looked around the internet, comparing what I have with some of hockey’s other analytics-based betting minds.
Turns out, I’m not crazy. The Avalanche should be every bit the heavy favorite that they are against the Blues.
Can Anyone Stop the Avalanche?
The favorite to win the Stanley Cup, the Avalanche’s numbers are off the charts. More than 150 High-Danger Chances than their opponents has led to 34 more goals scored in 56 games this season. Their starting goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, has prevented almost one-half goal per game more than the average NHL netminder. Basically, every time the Avalanche show up to play hockey, they’ve got a one-goal lead before the puck even drops.
From a narrative standpoint, it should be Colorado’s time. With parity being the name of the game in the NHL, each team gets its window of opportunity every few years. The better the organization at filling in the blanks around a star player or two, and the longer that window will last.
Nathan MacKinnon was an easy selection as the clear-cut No. 1 prospect back in 2013 when the Avalanche had the first overall pick in the draft. Now 25 years old with a couple years of good playoff experience under his belt, he has led the Avs to the best record in the league this season. Their window is wide open.
MacKinnon had 65 points in just 48 games this season, but he didn’t lead the team in scoring. Linemate Mikko Rantanen played four more games and edged the Avs star.
The supporting cast is a collection of affordable veteran contributors with playoff experience like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri and Branden Saad, teaming with captain Gabriel Landeskog to give the Avalanche enviable depth.
In defense, the Avalanche have budding superstar Cale Makar, whose play has superseded expectations. Young defensemen are supposed to take longer to develop than Makar has, tallying a point per game this season at just 22 years of age. The Avalanche are going to be a problem for a long time.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
Meanwhile, the St. Blues have their Stanley Cup. A scorching run in 2019 ended with them hoisting the big bowl of silver at the end of the playoffs.
The Blues are the NHL’s standard for being always in the mix but never anyone’s favorite to win, so their catching fire was both a surprise (given that they always had fallen short of the Cup in recent decades) and not a surprise since they consistently have a contending team in the Western Conference.
From a branding standpoint, there’s probably a lot of people who think the Blues have a real chance in this series.
Like every other team that makes the Stanley Cup Final, the Blues have familiar names and faces (or beards) that the common hockey fan associates with deep playoff success.
Jordan Binnington shook off a sloppy second season, to get back above league average in Goals Saved Above Average (+2.43). Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Jaden Schwartz, and Brayden Schenn are all still with the team. However, Tarasenko is questionable after an injury-plagued season and complicating matters more, leading scorer Perron found himself placed on the COVID-19 reserve list over the weekend.
Even at full strength, don’t let the names on the back of the jerseys fool you. From an analytical profile standpoint, this is not the same Blues team. Let’s compare and contrast their 2019 Stanley Cup winning season, with their current one.
|Expected Goals Share 5v5||53.58%||46.09%|
|High-Danger Chances For 5v5||768||370|
|High Danger Chances Against 5v5||626||473|
|Penalty Kill %||81.5||77.8|
|Goals Saved Above Average (Binnington)||13.7||2.43|
The only category that has improved or even come close to equal the output from their championship season is the power play, and that’s been negligible.
Betting Analysis & Pick
My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on “THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast,” grades the Blues as 7% below-average during 5-on-5 play, while the Avalanche are 19.5% above-average in the West Division. The reasons behind these ratings are spelled out below:
|High-Danger Chances For 5v5||370||517|
|High-Danger Chances Against 5v5||473||363|
|High-Danger Conversion Rate 5v5||15.6%||12.7%|
|High-Danger Goals 5v5||58||66|
|Expected Goals Share 5v5||46.09%||59.6%|
|Power Play %||23.2%||22.7%|
|Penalty Kill %||77.8%||83.1%|
|Starting Goaltender GSAA/60 min.||.059||.364|
The model’s ratings for the two teams translate to the Avalanche winning any given game at an average of 76% percent of the time. That translates to a true moneyline of -318 a game at a neutral site. With a small adjustment for home-ice advantage, that number only goes up.
With the Avalanche favored in this game at -250, there’s actually a little value left on them, likely due to the brand name element that the Blues bring to the table.
That price is still a lot to lay for some, so as an alternative you can play this a couple of different ways. The long way is betting the Avalanche to win the series in six or fewer games via the -1.5 game series line at -200, which gives you a little wiggle room should the Blues pull off a surprise in Game 1.
The shorter way to play this game is to take the Avs to win in regulation at a more palatable -150 price on PointsBet.
Pick: Avalanche in regulation -150 (play up to -170) | Avalanche series -1.5 (-200 or better)