The St. Louis Blues begin their defense of the Stanley Cup on Sunday, taking on the Colorado Avalanche in a round-robin playoff seeding matchup at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
After going from worst to first and then winning the championship last season, the Blues' encore act was to finish with the Western Conference's best record. But the Avalanche are a dangerous club, and are within range to steal the No. 1 seed for the playoffs away.
Read on for a betting preview from abe Insights, as you'll find relevant statistics, analysis of prospective wagers and the best odds for this showdown between the two best in the West.
Date: Sunday, August 2
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Blues 49%; Avalanche 52%
Spread: STL +1.5 (-265); COL -1.5 (+250)
Moneyline: STL +105; COL -110
No other team can claim as many key injuries as Colorado suffered throughout the season. It's a testament to the Avs' collective resilience that they were still able to produce to such a degree offensively and manage to place second in the West.
Whether Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Francouz start in net for Colorado remains to be seen. They're both dependable, though, and Grubauer is one of many Avs who are now healed. St. Louis' Jordan Binnington had a solid season in his own right, winning 30 of 50 starts.
168 vs. 140: These are the combined goal totals in the first and second periods for these two teams during 2019-20. Colorado's marks in each individual period of 73 and 95 led the NHL, which shows just how quickly and often the Avs can strike.
87.1 vs. 73.8: One legitimate red flag for St. Louis is its recent form when shorthanded. The second number was the Blues' penalty killing percentage after the All-Star break, ranking 27th of 31 teams. Colorado was far better in that span, placing fourth.
31.3 vs. 29.6: One big strength St. Louis has is limiting the opposition's scoring chances. These dual stats represent shots allowed per game; St. Louis allowed the fourth-fewest, and the Avs had the league's 15th-highest number.
The season series between these Central Division rivals was split over the course of four games. While the Blues got the upper hand in the first two meetings, Colorado surged back to win the next two, scoring a combined 12 goals in those mostly dominant performances.
Mentioned before, but it bears a deeper explanation: the Avs' injury adversity. As Kate Reed reported for the club's official website, Colorado suffered 223 total man-games lost, which means that was the combined total of missed games for sidelined players.
Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL MVP, and he has a legitimate case. In light of his leadership and unwavering on-ice production, MacKinnon may have had the most impressive individual season of anyone in the game, notching 35 goals and 53 assists with a 13 plus-minus rating despite a depleted supporting cast.
It'll be fascinating to see what MacKinnon can do with Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog rejoining him on the top line at full health. Plus, 21-year-old phenom defender Cale Makar, who had 50 points in 57 contests as a rookie, is ready to roll after the long hiatus.
Binnington and St. Louis' blue line rotation will have their hands full to say the least. Credit to the goaltender for holding up reasonably well after setting the bar impossibly high in his maiden pro campaign of extended action in 2018-19, when he went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA before running all the way to the Stanley Cup title. That bodes well for Binnington's prospects of holding up under playoff pressure on Sunday and beyond.
Action is going to trend in Colorado's direction simply due to the fact that its previously injury-racked roster has healed. Since the implied odds are around 50-50, it's pretty easy to see the appeal in the generous payout for the Avs' spread. Hedging with St. Louis' moneyline isn't a bad contingency plan, though.
The goal total of 5.5 is pretty standard, but again, with the influx of so many key players who were unavailable before, it's difficult to envision a scenario where the public momentum doesn't carry wagers toward the Over.
Note: Odds current as of 12:10 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 2.
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