Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche Game 1 Odds, Picks & Series Preview: How Much Better are the Avs than the Field? (Sunday, May 30)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan MacKinnon
- The two best in the West face off for Game 1 on Sunday night when the Avalanche host the Golden Knights.
- Colorado is a heavy favorite in this game and to advance in the series, which is impressive given Vegas' strong roster.
- Michael Leboff breaks down which side he's backing in the series opener, delivering his analysis and best bet for Game 1 below.
Golden Knights vs. Avalanche Odds
|Golden Knights Odds||+160|
|Time||Sunday, 8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings|
The St. Louis Blues had no answer for the Colorado Avalanche. It seemed like that series was destined for a sweep from the moment the puck dropped in Game 1 and that's exactly what happened. The Avs outscored the Blues on aggregate, 20-7, and it didn't even seem that close. Round 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights will likely look a lot different on the ice and the scoreboard for Colorado.
Even though Vegas is expected to be a much more formidable opponent than St. Louis, the Avalanche are still prohibitive -200 favorites for the series, meaning they have an implied win probability of 66.7%.
Those odds may seem a bit jarring since the Knights are considered one of the best teams in the NHL and came into the season as one of the teams expected to challenge the Avs, but that's just how good Colorado has looked this season.
In addition to winning the Presidents' Trophy, the Avs also led the NHL in just about every metric we use to evaluate how good a team really is over the course of a season. Colorado finished with the best 5-on-5 goal differential, expected goals rate and high-danger chance rate. As prolific as Colorado's offense is, its defensive metrics were also elite. The Avs led the circuit in expected goals against and finished second in high-danger chances against.
Part of the reason that Colorado's defensive metrics are off the charts is because it always has the puck. On average, the Avalanche attempted 23 more shots per hour than its opponents per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. The next best in that metric was Carolina, which boasted a +11 shot attempt differential per 60.
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.
There are a lot of reasons that the Avalanche always have the puck, but a big ingredient in their ability to drive play is that every member of their defense can skate and move the puck with aplomb. That ability to move the biscuit will have to come in handy against a Golden Knights team that does a wonderful job creating chaos on the forecheck.
We can throw as many roses as we want on the Avalanche, but there are two teams in this matchup and the B-side of this matchup is pretty damn good, too. The Knights finished with the same record as the Avs, allowed fewer goals and had a better actual goal differential.
In fact, there is reason to believe that Vegas can challenge Colorado's puck-possession game. Not only did the Knights finish fourth in the NHL in shot attempt share at 5-on-5, but they also averaged the most goals and expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 during the regular season. The Knights may have struggled to score consistently against the ultra-defensive Wild in Round 1, but they didn't have similar issues over the course of the regular season.
While no team can compete with the talent that Colorado has at the top of its roster, Vegas is not without starpower. Mark Stone is an absolute beast in all three zones, Max Pacioretty is a terrific finisher and the blueline features one of the league's best scoring defensemen, Shea Theodore.
The Knights also have enough depth to skate with the Avs as Stone, Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson are supported by the likes of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch, while Theodore is joined by Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez and promising youngster Nicolas Hague.
Those names may not compete with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar and the rest of the Avs, but the gap isn't so wide that you should expect this thing to turn into a laugher. Especially since the Knights do have a potential ace in the hole.
The only real edge that the Knights have in this matchup is in goal and it isn't a big one. Vegas rode Marc-Andre Fleury in its seven-game victory and he delivered the goods to the tune of a .929 save percentage and +2.82 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx), but Fleury isn't the only top-notch goalie on the roster. Robin Lehner, who was the presumed starter before the season, finished the campaign with a +4.96 GSAx in 19 appearances. Fleury played at a Vezina-level during the regular season, leading the NHL with a +19.2 GSAx, so it's not out of the question that he is able to steal a game or two in this series.
Colorado's goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, also posted solid numbers during the regular season but his form dipped as we hit the stretch run, so there is reason to believe that Vegas does have a decent advantage in goal in this matchup. That edge would become massive should Grubauer struggle or get injured as the Avs don't have capable back-ups behind the German.
Golden Knights vs. Avalanche Best Bet
The Colorado Avalanche are the best team in the NHL by a decent margin but the Vegas Golden Knights are in that next tier of clubs trying to clip them. The series odds reflect that notion. Colorado is truly in a class by itself.
That said, everything comes down to price in betting and I think the odds next to the Knights are more than palatable for Sunday night. There are viable paths to success for the Knights, who have the offensive panache, depth and goaltending to make a real go at this thing. A best-of-7 series is such a small sample size that anything can happen, but the Knights aren't the type of underdog that will need a miracle to compete with the juggernaut Avs.
It's not a bet you should expect to win, but Vegas is one of a few teams in the NHL that can give Colorado some issues. Thus, I think Vegas is a fine bet in Game 1 at the current price, though I would not go lower than +150.
Pick: Golden Knights +160 (up to +150)