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Colorado Avalanche vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights Odds & Pick: Bet the Avs on Saturday

Colorado Avalanche vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights Odds & Pick: Bet the Avs on Saturday article feature image

Collin Kornfeind/NHLI via Getty Images.

  • The NHL's first or two Lake Tahoe games is a mouthwatering matchup between the Golden Knights and Avalanche.
  • Las Vegas has gotten some stellar goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, but the Colorado defense has complemented its stellar attack.
  • Michael Leboff breaks down the matchup for those tuning in to watch the spectacle.

Golden Knights vs. Avalanche Odds

Golden Knights Odds +100
Avalanche Odds -115
Over/Under 5.5
Time Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via DraftKings.

Lake Tahoe isn’t what you’d normally call a hockey hotspot, but it will be the center of the Hockey Universe this weekend as it plays host to a pair of NHL games, starting with Saturday’s contest between Vegas and Colorado, the two heavyweights in the West Division.

These outdoor games tend to draw more eyeballs than most NHL games and that, in turn, leads to a bigger handle, so you may see this line bounce around a bit before puck drop.

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Vegas Golden Knights

The Knights came into the 2021 season as the second-favorite in the West Division, just slightly behind the Avalanche. It was a fair assessment at the time as Vegas, close as it was to being a complete team, did have a couple of question marks, most notably down the middle since the team lost No. 2 center Paul Stastny.

That left the Knights with William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Nicolas Roy and Cody Glass as the four centers and skeptics wondered if Vegas would be able to contend without a true No. 1 pivot. So far, the Knights have answered those critics with quite a few players stepping into big roles.

Stephenson has grabbed the reins as the team’s No. 1 center between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, giving Vegas one of the league’s best trios. Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud have been terrific as the team’s third pairing, adding more depth to a defense that currently sits second in goals allowed per game.

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.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

That said, there are still a few minor red flags in Sin City. For one, the Knights are winning a lot of close games thanks to their goaltending, more specifically thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been sensational in his nine starts this season. Fleury is fourth in the NHL with a +5.58 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) and a .937 save percentage.

Fleury’s bounce-back season has been a key development for the Knights, who are not dominating the puck like they have been over the past few seasons. The Knights still sit in the top-10 in goal share (GF%), expected goals rate (xG%), high-danger chance rate (HDC%) and shot attempt percentage (CF%), but this team is normally near the very top of the list in all of those categories, so it’s a minor step back for Vegas, especially since their schedule has been pretty soft, thus far.

This is still one of the NHL’s elite teams, and we likely haven’t seen its best yet.

Colorado Avalanche

In a way, the Colorado Avalanche have failed to live up to the hype bestowed on them during the offseason. The Avs have been quite good, but they are the Stanley Cup favorites so an 8-4-1 start that gives them the ninth-best points percentage in the league is not going to have people falling over themselves.

Injuries have certainly played a part in Colorado’s relatively disappointing start. Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky and Samuel Girard have all missed a game or two, but every team has to deal with injuries and the Avs are one of the few teams in the league that have the type of depth to survive injuries to players like MacKinnon and Makar.

The Avs should be pretty close to full strength for Saturday’s game, though Makar is a game-time decision. His status is definitely worth monitoring.

Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance.

GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

A team with this much scoring talent will always be expected to post some crooked numbers, but Colorado’s defense and goaltending has been driving the bus so far this season.

The Avs lead the NHL in goals and shot attempts allowed per game and rank sixth in the NHL in both goals and xG allowed per 60 minutes and 5-on-5. A lot of that success can be chalked up to the play of Philipp Grubauer, who paces the NHL with a +7.95 GSAx in 2021.

Avalanche vs. Golden Knights Best Bet

At some point I’d expect the Avs to start creating more offense than the 2.33 xGF/60 they are currently generating, but they have enough finishing talent to make those numbers stick, especially the way the defense has been playing.

No team allows fewer shot attempts than Colorado, which tells you that this team has the puck a lot. That used to be the case with Vegas, too, but the Knights’ possession and chance-creation numbers have taken a bit of a dip this season.

While both teams have played smothering defense to start the season, Colorado’s expected goals against lead me to believe its defensive play is more sustainable over time. In a game that figures to be pretty tight, I think the Avs have more paths to success than the Knights, so I don’t mind laying a bit of juice on Colorado in this tilt, so long as Makar is good to go.

I’d like to get Colorado at -120, but if you’re going to be watching and are just looking for some guidance, I like the Avs more than the Knights at current price. Should Vegas creep towards +120 that would change, but I doubt that happens.

Pick: Avalanche -125 or better

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