NHL Betting Odds, Picks Predictions: Avalanche vs. Stars Game 4 (Sunday, Aug. 30)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: The Dallas Stars celebrate after scoring in Game 3.
- The Colorado Avalanche look to even their series against the Dallas Stars at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday in Edmonton. The Avs are the favorite at -137 and the total is set at 5.5.
- Colorado won Game 3 after its defense was able to provide some offensive firepower, but Dallas has more versatile forwards that should contribute scoring in Game 4.
- Sam Hitchcock previews Avalanche-Stars and gives his betting pick for Game 4 below.
Avalanche vs. Stars Odds
|Avalanche Odds||-137 [BET NOW]|
|Stars Odds||+118 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (-124/+102) [BET NOW]|
|Time||6 p.m. ET|
Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar seems to be the type who spends 15 minutes staring at a deli menu before deciding what he wants. Since he is so deliberate, it wasn’t until forward Joonas Donskoi was listed as unfit to play that Bednar finally tweaked his second line.
Had Donskoi been healthy enough to play, Bednar probably would have stuck with the same four lines from Games 1 and 2, including the Nazem Kadri line that had faltered in the Avs’ first two games against the Dallas Stars. Dumb luck or fate came to the rescue.
In Game 3, the recasted second line of Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin in Donskoi’s notched two goals while allowing none. The Kadri trio won the possession game when it was on the ice, engineering more shot attempts than the opponent.
Great teams can find opportunities in setbacks. With injuries accumulating for Colorado, a course correction was needed in Game 3. But Bednar didn’t have any creative solutions for other underlying problems. Colorado spent a lot of time chasing the puck in its own end. The Avs’ supporting forwards didn’t add any offense. The Avs trailed, 4-3, in the third period and just eked out a victory.
Even though the Stars lost, they excelled at containing the Avs’ speed and forced them to spend a lot of time defending and trying to break out of their zone. Considering Dallas is +108 on DraftKings, perception is not in sync with reality. Dallas is a good wager.
The Avalanche defense was a force leading up to the Dallas series. Their mobility galvanized zone exits and in the offensive zone and forced opponents into difficult switches when the Avs’ forwards and defensemen rotated and ran scissor plays. Halcyon days indeed.
But injuries have gutted Colorado’s defensive group. First Erik Johnson and now Nikita Zadorov are sidelined or laboring, and the Stars are capable of preying on an exhausted defensive group. In Game 3, the top minute loggers on the Avs’ back end were enervated by an indefatigable Stars forecheck. This puts the onus on the Avs forwards to play a larger role in the breakout, transition and offense. But the biggest way the Avs forwards can relieve the pressure on their defensemen is at center ice.
It is not an exaggeration to state that Game 4 will be determined by how the Avs approach the neutral zone. On the Burakovsky tally for Colorado in Game 3, Zadorov stepped up in the neutral zone and forced a turnover, allowing Mikko Rantanen to quickly re-enter the offensive zone. With haste, Burakovsky would soon be meeting the puck in the high slot and whipping it past Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin.
In the third period, Rantanen jumped on the ice during a line change and hoovered up the puck from Dallas’ Blake Comeau in the neutral zone. Soon Nathan MacKinnon was whisking the puck down the wing and teeing it up to Rantanen for a one-timer.
Colorado’s defensemen can be as aggressive as Zadorov was on the Burakovsky goal when they know they have support from their forwards underneath. But if the support isn’t there, the Dallas transition will continue unimpeded. Rantanen got lucky with the timing of his goal as the puck appeared right in front of him just as Dallas was rushing the other way.
For Colorado to win this series, the Avs forwards will need to create more counterattack chances like this. Dallas has been extremely effective crimping Colorado’s rush game. To keep winning, Colorado needs to adjust.
If the Stars can stay at 5-on-5, they should win Game 4. They have won the expected goals battle in seven of the nine periods played in this series. They are receiving scoring from all four lines and their defensemen are a wellspring of playmaking. Maybe the most unsettling part for the Avalanche is that the Stars’ best forward line hasn’t even scored an even-strength goal yet.
The Joe Pavelski line that centers Mattias Janmark and Denis Gurianov has been hindering the Avs’ ambitions. At 5-on-5, the Pavelski line has recorded 18 shots while allowing only five. They have a 68.36% expected goals probability. They have produced seven high-danger chances while allowing only one.
In Game 1, Bednar tried to match Kadri against Pavelski. The Avs coach moved away from that in Game 2, then veered back to it in Game 3. Perhaps because he had Nichushkin on the wing, Kadri had his best success against the Pavelski line on Wednesday.
One thing to look for in Game 4 and onward is how the Stars try to spring Gurianov for rush chances. In Game 3, Dallas utilized an indirect pass that catapulted Gurianov past the pesky Avs skaters into an area of open space where he couldn’t convert. With Colorado’s primary defensemen overworked and pressing for offensive chances, a Stars defensive group that passes very well will likely be looking to find Gurianov through stretch passes up the gut or for area passes that allow him to get behind the Avs players.
The Stars are benefitting from Bednar’s lack of adjustments and the pronounced vacuum of offense from the Avs’ bottom-six forwards. Drumroll, please. In Game 1 at 5-on-5, Colorado’s bottom-six forwards combined for six shots while allowing six. In Game 2, they generated eight shots while allowing three. And in Game 3, they recorded three shots while allowing five.
These forwards have eight high-danger chances and zero goals in this series. The Avs defensemen scrounged together offense that propelled them to victory in Game 3. But in the playoffs a team cannot advance too far if its bottom-six forwards are barely sentient.
The clearest explanation for how the Stars have de-barbed the Avs is how they have controlled the boards and managed to work the puck inward. For example, the string of events on Comeau’s goal started with a pass from Andrew Cogliano to Radek Faksa that placed the puck below the goal line. When Faksa’s pass to John Klingberg was cut off, Klingberg broke up Kevin Connauton’s pass and the puck was spat into the slot for Comeau to slam past Avs goaltender Pavel Francouz.
This goal is emblematic of how Dallas has succeeded at taking away the Avs defensemen’s outlet. The Stars defensemen have been extremely aggressive in their pinches and the Avalanche haven’t been able to stop them.
Betting Analysis and Pick
I feel a degree of responsibility to bettors with this pick. When Dallas takes a two-goal lead and NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire starts gushing about the fourth line and its grit factor — with an obligatory mention of how Andrew Cogliano went to University of Michigan — I want readers to be on the winning side.
The Stars have more lines that can contribute scoring. Their defensive group is superior now that the Avs’ blue line is so hobbled. The Stars have received better goaltending and are more versatile. Dallas’ ability to produce scoring chances consistently off the forecheck and rush makes them a frisky dark horse for the Cup. A +108 moneyline is benevolent. If the Stars can stay out of the box, they should win Game 4.