NHL Odds, Picks and Predictions: Avalanche, Blues Open Season With Heavyweight Battle
Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan MacKinnon
St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche Odds
|Blues Odds||+125 [BET NOW]|
|Avalanche Odds||-152 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET|
The Hockey World is ready to be mesmerized by the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are the preseason Cup favorite at +700 and are considered to be the most talented team in the NHL, top to bottom.
Colorado is deserving of the accolades. The depth chart Joe Sakic has built for Jared Bednar has dynasty potential, and skeptics will be hard-pressed to find a true weakness in the Mile High City.
But this is hockey, a sport played on iced using sticks to swat at vulcanized rubber, so the unexpected is expected. At +700 the Avalanche have a 12.5% chance of winning the Stanley Cup, according to implied win probability. That means that there’s an 87.5% chance we’ll see someone else twirling around the rink with Lord Stanley above their head in the summer.
One of those teams could be the St. Louis Blues, just one season removed from their first-ever Stanley Cup. While everyone can’t stop talking about the Avs, the Blues are not receiving all that much hype, relatively speaking.
The Avalanche can beat you in a number of ways, but most people associate them with their high-flying offense, led by MVP-frontrunner Nathan MacKinnon.
Colorado’s offensive reputation is well-earned — the Avs paced the NHL with 2.96 goals per hour last season — but bettors shouldn’t overlook Jared Bednar’s defense, which finished fifth in the league with 2.17 expected goals against per hour in ’19/20.
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.
Of course, the best defensive strategy is to keep hold of the puck, and that’s something the Avs do with aplomb. Colorado finished with the fifth-best shot attempt differential per hour last year, and only two teams threw more rubber at the net than the Avalanche did in ’19/20.
Perhaps what’s most impressive is that the Avalanche were able to post those exemplary defensive numbers in a system that lives and breathes off the rush. Per the Point, the Avalanche created 496 scoring chances off the rush in 2019/20. No other team eclipsed 460. Usually when a team plays that style of hockey it means they’ll also deal with high-danger chances coming the other way, but the Avs have so many quick players that they can ruin a counter-attack in the blink of an eye.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are here to slow down the Colorado Avalanche. Well, every team that plays the Avs will be there to slow ’em down, but the Blues at least have a chance to pull it off.
The Blues are masters at suppressing, suffocating and stymieing the opposition. The Blues ranked first in shot attempts allowed, third in goals allowed and seventh in expected goals allowed at 5-on-5 in 2019/20.
It’s fair to wonder if the Blues’ defensive numbers will take a hit without Alex Pietrangelo, but I’m not overly concerned. St. Louis ably replaced its former captain with another stellar rearguard, Torey Krug, so crisis averted. With Krug, Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn and Marco Scandella, the Blues still have one of the best bluelines in the NHL and they get a lot of help from the forwards, who could be the best two-way group in the NHL.
The question with St. Louis will be whether or not it can score enough, but I am not that concerned. Playing top-notch defense and getting solid goaltending — staples of the Blues’ identity — takes pressure off the scorers.
That said, the Notes will need to improve going forward if they want to be considered one of the league’s heavyweights. As a team, the Blues only ranked 24th in expected goals created and 16th in goals scored at even strength.
I do have confidence that this team will get better offensively, though. Even though most people associate Ryan O’Reilly with the Selke Trophy, he’s also an elite playmaker in the offensive zone and should have a lot of success playing with pure goal-scorer Mike Hoffman, who will keep Vladimir Tarasenko’s seat warm until the Russian talisman is back and healthy.
None of O’Reilly, Hoffman, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas and David Perron may be what people think of when they picture “game-breaking talent,” but there aren’t many teams that have as complete a top-six as the Blues, plus Krug, Dunn and Faulk will all pitch in offensively from the back end.
Avalanche vs. Blues Best Bet
If there was an antidote to the Colorado Avalanche, it would be the St. Louis Blues.
This game will likely come down to whether or not the Blues can muddy up the waters, turn this game into a half-court battle, and keep the Avalanche from breaking through the neutral zone with speed. Turning this game into a 50/50 battle would be a big success for the Blues and I am confident that they can achieve that feat.
At -152, the odds imply that the Avalanche win this game about 60.3% of the time. I think that number is already a splash high in a matchup against another cup contender, but I am hoping the Avs get bet up before this game.
Casual bettors (punters who watch a lot of hockey, for instance) are likely champing at the bit to get money down on this Avalanche team and there won’t be many chances where the Avs are this cheap since they’ll be playing 40 games against the Kings, Wild, Ducks, Coyotes and Sharks.
I’m going to wait and see where this number goes, but even at +125 I think there’s some value on St. Louis.
The Bet: St. Louis Blues +125 or better