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Stars vs. Avalanche Odds & Pick: Sell High on Colorado for Game 1

Stars vs. Avalanche Odds & Pick: Sell High on Colorado for Game 1 article feature image

Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan MacKinnon

Stars vs. Avalanche Odds

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Stars Odds+138 [BET NOW]
Avalanche Odds-162 [BET NOW]
Over/Under5 [BET NOW]
Time8 p.m. ET

Odds as of Friday at 11:30 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicks off on Saturday night with a showdown between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche from the Edmonton Bubble.

Colorado is coming off of a five-game trouncing of the Arizona Coyotes in which the Avs outscored the Yotes 22 to 8. Dallas is fresh off a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Calgary.

The Avalanche are -225 (66.4% implied probability) favorites in this series and currently have the second-best odds (+400) to win the Stanley Cup at DraftKings. Dallas is a +185 underdog (33.6%) in the best-of-7 with the Avs and is +1100 to win the Stanley Cup.

The Avalanche were at -195 early in the afternoon on Friday, so they’ve already taken money.

You’ll likely hear a lot about this series being a showdown between an offensive force (Colorado) and a defensive power (Dallas), but that’s not entirely true. Really, this is a matchup between two great defensive teams; one of them just happens to have a really good offense as well.

Check out our free NHL odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every 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.

Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars have built a reputation as a defense-first team that makes life easy on its goaltenders by protecting the house. Muddy up the neutral zone, keep offenses to the outside, let the goalies do their job and chip in a goal here or there.

Priority No. 1 for Dallas will be slowing down Colorado’s top line and most notably, Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon is one of the league’s best game-wreckers and is a problem no matter who is tasked with shutting him down. MacKinnon and his linemates, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, absolutely dominated against the hapless Coyotes.

The Stars play a suffocating style of hockey that can stymie any offense over the course of a game or two, but swaddling a team as deep as Colorado over a best-of-7 is a tall task.

Nonetheless, Dallas does have the weapons to give the Avalanche a series, especially on its blueline with Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg.

Heiskanen has been fabulous since the start of the season, but he’s taken things to a whole new level this summer. You could argue it’s between him and MacKinnon for Round 1 MVP.

Heiskanen isn’t the only elite rearguard on Big D’s defense, either. John Klingberg has found his game during the playoffs and will likely be tasked with shutting down the MacKinnon line when Rick Bowness is able to get the matchups he wants. Klingberg leads the Stars with a 64.8% expected goals rate during the tournament.

Having two legitimate No. 1 options on defense can at least level the playing field a bit against the league’s best 5-on-5 offense.

The Stars defense wasn’t up to its usual standards in Round 1, but make no mistake: This is one of the league’s sturdiest units. Only the Boston Bruins allowed fewer 5-on-5 goals over the regular season.

It speaks volumes about Dallas’ defense and goaltending that the Stars finished with the fourth-best points percentage in the Western Conference despite scoring the second-fewest goals per hour at 5-on-5. Defense and goaltending carried this team to success.

5-on-5 StatResultRank
Goals For Per 60 Minutes1.9630th
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes1.992nd
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes2.4213th
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes2.17T5
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes54.221st
Shot Atttempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes56.0717th
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes11.685th
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes10.1312th

(If you’re wondering why I’m leaning on regular season stats instead of playoff stats, the answer is two-fold. First, the Stars and Avalanche have played eight and nine games, respectively, since the hiatus. That is a very small sample size, so I think their regular season numbers give us a more complete picture of who these teams actually are and how they like to play. Secondly, how Dallas controlled play against Calgary or how Colorado did so against Arizona isn’t all that important to me. Colorado is much better than Calgary. Dallas is much better than Arizona.)

That said, Dallas did find its scoring legs during Round 1, thanks in large part to its second line. Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov were sensational in Round 1 and really carried the load against the Stars.

Pavelski, Gurianov and Roope Hintz will need to stay at that level, but if Dallas wants to make this a series it will need to get more out of its top line. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov have struggled throughout 2019-20 and will need to find their game quickly. The Stars can win games when they score two or three goals, but they will need a balanced attack if they want to slug with Colorado.

Even though Dallas has shown it can score, it would be nonsensical for the Stars to trade chances with the Avalanche. Colorado has much more scoring talent, and its defense is not that far behind Dallas’. If the Stars want to play to their strengths, then they will do whatever it takes to ugly up each game.

There are a few areas of the matchup where the Avs don’t have a decided edge over the Stars. If Pavelski and Gurianov remain on song, the second lines could be a wash. The defenses are pretty much even. And, on paper, the Stars have better goaltending, though goalie-play is so frustrating to project.

All that said, the gap at the top of these rosters is vast enough to make the Avalanche huge favorites in this best-of-7.

Colorado Avalanche

Like any elite team, the Colorado Avalanche can beat you a number of different ways. Colorado’s high-flying offense gets the headlines, but its top-five defense is what it makes it a true contender.

The Avs finished fourth in goals against, seventh in expected goals against and fifth in high-danger chances allowed at 5-on-5 during the regular season. If Colorado’s offense wasn’t so spellbinding, we’d be talking a lot more about this defense, because it is one of the best units in the NHL.

The one player on Colorado’s defense that does get a ton of hype, and deservedly so, is Cale Makar. The 21-year-old wunderkind is the catalyst of Colorado’s rush-heavy offense with his best-in-class puck movement and skating ability.

Makar, Ryan Graves, Erik Johnson, Ian Cole and Samuel Girard give Colorado a deep, dangerous defense that can match the Stars spot for spot.

5-on-5 StatResultRank
Goals For Per 60 Minutes2.96T1
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes2.084th
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes2.339th
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes2.11T7
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes60.333rd
Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes53.6711th
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes10.1422nd
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes9.65th

Colorado created plenty of scoring chances against the overmatched Coyotes, but they actually were not among the league’s best at creating Grade A opportunities during the regular season. The Avs were a bottom-10 team in creating high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 and were “just” ninth in expected goals for per hour.

The Avs’ tepid underlying metrics on offense are no bother, though. There is enough talent on this team that it doesn’t need to generate a ton of Grade A scoring chances to get results. If Colorado has to sacrifice some of its offensive creativity for defensive stability, then so be it. That defense is what separates them from the pack. MacKinnon and Co. will always get their goals regardless.

Betting Analysis

Stepping in front of an elite team that happens to be peaking is nobody’s idea of a fun bet, but these odds are forcing me to look towards Dallas for Game 1.

The Avalanche look like world-beaters at the moment, but the Stars are not cannon fodder. The Colorado hype is deserved, but it has also inflated the Avs’ price against a good team.

At the time of writing (Friday at 11:30 p.m. ET), the Stars are as high as +145 (bet365) for Game 1. That price implies that Dallas has a 39.6% chance of taking the opener. I think that’s a little low, especially in a series opener when teams tend to feel one another out a bit.

The Avs are the more likely team to win, but this is not a mismatch. I’d bet Dallas at +145 or better for Game 1 and would consider betting them to win the series at +180 or better.

Pick: Dallas +145 for Game 1; Dallas +180 or better to win the series.

[Bet Avalanche vs. Stars Game 1 now at bet365. NJ only.]

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