NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Avalanche vs. Rangers Best Bet, Pick (October 25)
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Vincent Trocheck.
Avalanche vs. Rangers Odds
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There's no question these are two great teams, but if we look deeper, one might have a bit of an edge.
Post-Cup Slump in Colorado?
For a team coming off a championship, the Avalanche haven't exactly hit the ground running. Certainly their 3-2-1 start isn't anything to sneeze at, but it's not exactly inspiring, either.
Part of what's held them back a little has been their goaltending. Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz were a strong duo between the pipes last season. Kuemper is gone now, but the problem hasn't been his replacement, Alexandar Georgiev, so much as it's been Francouz.
So far, Francouz has faced Calgary on Oct. 13 and Seattle on Oct. 21. Those two contests were the Avalanche's two regulation losses, and Francouz posted a 4.10 GAA and .877 save percentage over that span. If there's a silver lining there, it's that it's a small sample size.
Perhaps a bigger long-term concern isn't actually Francouz but the offensive depth. Colorado was one of the league's top teams offensively last season, but Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky finished third and fifth place in scoring with 87 and 61 points respectively and both of those forwards left over the summer.
The less depth you have, the less you can cope with injuries, so the Avalanche's loss of Gabriel Landeskog, who hasn't played yet this season and had arthroscopic knee surgery Monday, is felt far more than it would have been last season. Colorado can still put forth a first line that features Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. But their second line is currently projected as Valeri Nichushkin, J.T. Compher, and Martin Kaut.
At a glance, that second unit looks unimpressive, and one would think that Colorado would be lacking offensively, but that hasn't actually been the case so far. Instead, they're averaging 3.76 goals per game.
A key part of that is Nichushkin, who has six goals and 11 points in six games. Based on the Avalanche's projected lines, he won't get much to work with at even strength Tuesday, but five of Nichushkin's 11 points have come on the power play anyway.
That leads us to the heart of the Avalanche's strong start offensively: Their insane 52.9% power-play conversion rate.
To underline just how dependent Colorado has been on the power play, consider this: Only nine of the Avalanche's 22 goals so far this season have been scored in 5v5 play. Those nine 5v5 goals put them in a tie for the seventh worst in the league. Colorado also has the second worst penalty kill in the league right now at 60.9%, so they really have been a team that's been made and broken by special teams.
What can we take away from all this? Mainly that the Avalanche's early play is riddled with anomalies. It would be crazy to think these special team numbers will last. On the other end of this start, though, what kind of team are the Avalanche? I believe the answer is that they're a strong group, but not nearly as complete of a squad as they were in 2021-22, especially while Landeskog remains out.
As a final note, Devon Toews (undisclosed) is also questionable for Tuesday's game as of the time of writing, so Colorado might be without one of their top defensemen.
The Rangers' Time?
After the Mets and more recently Yankees' playoff disappointments, New York sports fans will be looking for something to take their mind off baseball for a bit. The Rangers could help, but like the Avalanche, they've left something to be desired recently.
After opening the season with encouraging wins against Tampa Bay and Minnesota, the Rangers have dropped three of their last four contests, giving them an identical 3-2-1 record to Colorado.
Another parallel between the Rangers and Avalanche is the role the backup goaltender has played in their early season missteps. Jaroslav Halak is 0-2-0 with a 4.03 GAA and .852 save percentage in two starts. Not that Igor Shesterkin has been flawless — in fact, he's allowed at least three goals in each of his last three games — but he's at least been somewhat better.
If this ends up being a contest between Shesterkin and Georgiev, then both teams will be featuring a goaltender who hasn't lost yet in regulation. Even without that, it'd be a goaltending matchup both sides would be looking forward to.
This is Georgiev's first opportunity to face the Rangers since New York traded him. He used to be Shesterkin's understudy, so will the former backup come out on top or will Shesterkin demonstrate why the Rangers picked him? Shesterkin's murky start to the season aside, I don't think many people would dispute the notion that New York kept the better goaltender between the two.
What about up front, though? Last season, Colorado averaged 3.76 goals per game to the Rangers' 3.05, so there's no question which team was superior in that regard then. However, as noted above, the Avalanche's forward core is substantially thinner now. Meanwhile, the Rangers did lose Ryan Strome over the summer, but they replaced him with Vincent Trocheck, who had 51 points with Carolina last season and has meshed well with the Rangers, scoring two goals and six points in six contests in 2022-23.
The gap seems to have closed somewhat, but the Rangers' offense still has question marks. Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko only have three and two points respectively through six games. In order for the Rangers to really be a top-tier offensive team, they need those two to start living up to their promise. The Rangers also lost Filip Chytil to an upper-body injury. It's not as big of a loss as Landeskog is to Colorado, but the Rangers will still feel his absence.
Even with the losses Colorado has suffered, the Rangers' forward core hasn't proven that they're at the Avalanche's level, though they do have that potential.
Avalanche vs. Rangers Pick
It's not hard to see why the odds are even here. The Rangers and Avalanche are top-tier teams who have some early season issues to work out. On any given day, either one of them can win this game.
That said, I would pick the Rangers on the moneyline. They have the home ice advantage, the Avalanche are missing Landeskog and in the first battle between Shesterkin and Georgiev, I would expect Shesterkin to come out on top.
If you want a safer bet, the Avalanche on the puck line looks good, given the 1.5 goal spread in their favor. I think there's a good chance this is a 3-2 game, so even if Colorado ends up losing, that spread makes them look good. However, given the -275 payout for taking the Avalanche on the puck line, the Rangers' moneyline is far more enticing.
Pick: The New York Rangers Moneyline -110 (Play to -130)