the Colorado avalanche opened the season as the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup and they held that position throughout the season. As the playoffs begin, Colorado is +325 to win the Stanley Cup and nearly tied (+130) to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Avalanche finished the regular season with the second-best record in the league behind the Florida Panthers. They accomplished this despite almost every star player on their roster missing time through injury during the regular season.
As for their first-round opponents, it was a disastrous last week of the season for the Nashville Predators. They lost Juuse Saros to an injury. Saros is one of the best goalies in the league and the most important part of the Nashville roster. Saros has the ability to steal streaks, but this ability will not be tested to start the first round.
To top it off, Nashville needed just one point in its final game of the season to avoid a first-round tie against Colorado. The Predators took a 4-0 lead against Arizona, the league’s second-worst team, but ended up losing the game 5-4 in regulation, not getting the single point needed to avoid the top team. of the conference in the first round. .
Colorado is a -700 favorite to knock out the Nashville Predators in the first round playoffs. It’s the most lopsided playoff line in recent memory. Does Nashville have a chance?
How Colorado, Nashville Got Here
Colorado opened the season as a Stanley Cup favorite and showed why virtually all season long. The Avalanche finished with the second-best record in hockey and won the Western Conference in the regular season. They finished 22 points ahead of the Predators in the standings, which tied for the biggest gap between opponents in the first round of this year’s playoffs alongside the Panthers-Capitals series.
Analytically, the Avalanche haven’t been as dominant this season as they have been in recent years. They finished the year ranked 10th in expected goal rate at NaturalStatTrickwhich is still very good but not as dominant as the 2021 season where they finished first in the league.
While most consider the Avalanche to be an offensive juggernaut, which they aren’t wrong, they are extremely competent at both ends of the ice. Colorado finished the season ranked 12th in its ability to create offense, but 7th in its ability to keep other teams from generating a lot.
On the other side of the ice, Nashville ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of metrics. He ranked 16th in the league with an expected goal rate of 50.2%. Its defense ranked 8th in its ability to slow down other teams, but struggled to generate a lot of attacks, ranking 21st in expected goals scored per hour at 5v5.
How Avalanche and Predators clash
Even if Juuse Saros was healthy for Nashville, the Avalanche would be heavy favorites to win the series. However, with Saros ruled out for at least the first two games in this series and likely more, this series now projects itself as one of the most unbalanced in recent memory.
No team in the league has used their starting goalie as much this season as the Nashville Predators. Saros has started 67 of the team’s 82 games. There are two reasons for this, and both are equally impactful when watching this series.
Saros is one of the best goalkeepers in the league. He ranked 8th in save percentage and his +12.6 goals saved above expectations (GSAx) ranked 9th in the league, according to Evolution-Hockey. In MoneyPuck’s WAR stat for goalkeepers, Saros ranked 6th in the league. Over his six-year career, Saros has a .920 save percentage, which ranks him first among all-time active goaltenders and tied for 5th in NHL history. Last season in the playoffs, Saros gave the Carolina Hurricanes a real scare when his .921 save percentage in the series pushed them to six games in a series that included plenty of overtime.
Now, not only will Saros be running out of time in this series, but the Predators will have to make way for David Rittich, and there’s a reason he’s only got 12 starts this year. In just 12 games, Rittich posted a -6.98 GSAx mark on the season. He stopped just 88.6% of the shots he faced, an abysmal mark for an NHL goaltender. Nashville went from being one of the best in the league between pipes to a below average backup.
To make it even worse for Nashville, Colorado has one of the best in the league among the pipes themselves in Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper taking on Saros would have been an entertaining potential keeper duel. Instead, Kuemper gives the Avalanche another significant edge in a series where the Avalanche are loaded with significant upsides.
During the season, Kuemper finished 6th in save percentage and 4th in shutouts. His +15.8 GSAx mark ranked fifth best in the league. Colorado paid a heavy price to bring in Kuemper this offseason, and he lived up to expectations, and then some.
You might think Nashville has some solid pieces, and you’d be right. However, when you compare the strengths of the Nashville roster, the Avalanche have an answer.
Nashville has a strong starting line, highlighted by Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg, who have both scored 40 goals and played at over a point per game. However, it’s hard to give the Predators an edge in elite forwards when the other team has a top line in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
Forward depth is a clear win for the Avalanche, as Nashville’s Ryan Johansen and Tanner Jeannot can’t quite compare to players like Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky. Arturri Lehkonen is probably the best player in the last six of this series, and he’s on the Avalanche’s third line.
Even on defense, the Predators have Roman Josi, who finished the season as a co-favorite to win the Norris Trophy. Of course, he had the same odds as Cale Makar, who plays for the Avalanche. The difference is that the Avalanche have Devon Toews behind Makar, who is emerging as an elite defenseman in his own right, while Nashville has no one at that level behind Josi.
Everywhere you look on paper, Colorado has the advantage. There’s a reason they are -700 favorites to win this series. Nashville will need a small miracle to make this a long streak, let alone win it.
How to bet Colorado vs. Nashville
Personally, I’ll bet Colorado on the spread of the series and go 2.5 games. Colorado is -105 to win the series in five games or less. The Predators might be able to steal a game in front of their raucous crowd, but I’d be surprised if they can pull off two wins. This series had the potential to be more gripping if Saros were healthy, but sadly, he isn’t.
If we are looking for other ways to bet on the series, you can bet on Colorado to sweep at +375 odds. A gentleman shot for the Avalanche is worth +225.
If you’re like me and expecting a short streak, you can bet under 5.5 games at -105. If you think we could get a longer streak, over 5.5 games is -120.
Colorado is -250 to win the series in six games or less. The Avalanche are also at -250 to win Game 1 and then win the series. Colorado is a -300 favorite in Game 1.
Of course, you can always bet that Nashville will pull off the major upset. the The Predators are +475 to shock the hockey world and eliminate the Stanley Cup favorites.