Penguins vs. Avalanche NHL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Defenses Have the Upper Hand in Denver (April 2)

Penguins vs. Avalanche NHL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Defenses Have the Upper Hand in Denver (April 2) article feature image

Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Darcy Kuemper.

  • The Avalanche host the Penguins as short underdogs on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Avs have been nearly unbeatable at home this year, but is there value on them in this matchup?
  • Carol Schram breaks down the matchup and shares her best bet below.

Penguins vs. Avalanche Odds

Penguins Odds+120
Avalanche Odds-145
Over/Under6.5 (+100/-120)
Time3 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Two teams with big playoff aspirations go head-to-head on ABC's nationally televised game on Saturday when the Colorado Avalanche host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Avs are the class of the Western Conference and virtually unbeatable on home ice, sporting a 27-4-3 record this season at Ball Arena.

The Penguins and Avalanche haven't played each other since the 2019-20 season, when Pittsburgh earned a pair of overtime wins. Saturday's game is the first game of a home-and-home series that will see the two clubs meet again in Steel City on Tuesday.

Here's the latest on both teams and your best bet for Saturday's game.

Penguins Remain Dangerous on the Road 

The Penguins are looking to make one more serious playoff push before Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust and Kris Letang potentially explore unrestricted free agency after the end of the season. So far, they've set themselves up very well.

The Penguins survived their early-season injury issues and are tucked into third place in the Metropolitan Division, where they appear to be on a collision course for a first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers.

Strong on both sides of the puck, the Penguins have an excellent defensive structure that ranks them fifth-best in the league in Expected Goals Against at 5-on-5, and starter Tristan Jarry has stopped an impressive 16.4 Goals Above Expected. Add in the second-best Penalty Kill in the league, and the Penguins are tied with the Rangers for the third-fewest Goals Against per game in the NHL.

Offensively, they can also get the job done — they rank among the top 10 in goals per game and rank 13th on the Power Play. Captain Sidney Crosby is still leading the way with 21 points in 14 games in the month of March. Jake Guentzel is up to 32 goals on the year and could match his career high of 40. Trade deadline pickup Rickard Rakell has begun to fit in nicely and has five points in his last three games.

The Penguins have been playing well, with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games. They have been powerhouses on the road, where with a 22-8-5 record for the year.

The only dark spot for Pittsburgh is the prospect of Jason Zucker going back onto the injured list. After missing 30 games due to a core muscle injury, Zucker played just 5:33 in his return to action in Minnesota on Thursday before crashing awkwardly into the boards and leaving the game without putting any weight on his right leg.

Avalanche Defense Stepping Up

While the Penguins are still jockeying for playoff position in their division, the Avalanche have all but locked up the top seed in the Western Conference. With 14 games left to play, Colorado is 13 points up on the Calgary Flames, who lead the Pacific Division. The Avalanche have continued to play well, with a 7-1-1 record in their last nine games.

The Avs' calling card is their team speed. They play a fast-paced game that can wear opponents down, especially in the thin Rocky Mountain air. Colorado is second overall in scoring and ranks fifth on the Power Play but has become more defensively stingy as the season has gone on.

Giving up an average of 2.74 goals per game, the Avs are tied with Tampa Bay for seventh-fewest in the league. Since the All-Star Break, that number has shrunk to 2.42, third-best in the league, while the Colorado Penalty Kill is up to 82.1% — almost identical to Pittsburgh's over that timeframe.

After last season's second-round ouster, the Avalanche players know that they'll be judged this season by how far they can go in the postseason. They've begun adjusting their playing style accordingly.

While Darcy Kuemper didn't get off to the best start with his new team, he has now found his game. He's up to 21.1 Goals Saved Above Expected for the year, fifth-best in the league. His .940 Save Percentage since the All-Star Break is the best of any goalie with more than one start and goes along with a 2.03 Goals Against Average, four shutouts and a 10-4-1 record.

Penguins vs. Avalanche Pick

Expect both teams to bring their 'A' games on Saturday, and that should make for a terrific, closely contested matchup.

While Pittsburgh and Colorado both boast some elite scoring talent, the goalies should be set to steal the show.

Watch for Kuemper and Jarry to dazzle, making Under 6.5 the best value bet for this game.

Pick: Under 6.5 (-120) | Play Down to -140

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