It’s first versus worst in this West Division battle, as the Colorado Avalanche head to Orange County to take on the Anaheim Ducks. The Avs (26-9-4) are coming off an embarrassing 8-3 loss to the Wild, which snapped their five-game win streak, while the Ducks (12-21-7) cruised past the Sharks 5-1 to snap their three-game skid.
Here is a look at some key stats and players to watch, along with a free pick. Currently, Colorado is a whopping -375 favorite, while Anaheim is a +300 underdog at home.
By the Numbers
Simply put, the gap between these teams on the offensive end is monstrous. Colorado leads the NHL with 3.59 goals and 35.3 shots per game, whereas Anaheim sits 29th and 30th with 2.28 and 27.2 shots. The Avs also have a top-10 power play at just under 24 percent, while the Ducks are dead-last at 11.5 percent.
Defensively, the gap is still sizable. The Avalanche rank fourth with 2.41 goals allowed and first with 25 shots allowed, with the Ducks ranking 27th and 16th in those stats, respectively. As far as the penalty kill, Anaheim’s 76.5 percent kill rate is well behind Colorado’s 83.5, which ranks sixth in all of hockey.
Players to Watch
Starting with the Avalanche center, Nathan MacKinnon has been the team’s best player once again. MacKinnon leads Colorado with 32 assists and 47 points, one ahead of right-wing Mikko Rantanen. But lately, it has been MacKinnon’s goal-scoring that has sky-rocketed, as the dynamic center has scored in each of his last four contests.
Only Rantanen has more goals than MacKinnon’s 15, entering the game with an impressive 22. While the goal-scoring hasn’t been as extreme in the last week or so, Rantanen still has two goals over the last five games, including one from Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota.
A couple of other big point-producers as of late for Colorado include left-wing Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Cale Makar. The captain Landeskog was scoreless on Wednesday, but prior to that, had a five-game point streak with four goals and four assists. As for Makar, the 22-year old Makar is riding a four-game point streak, giving him 27 points in exactly 27 games.
Shifting gears to Anaheim, the Ducks’ leading point man has been left-wing Maxime Comtois. Comtois scored his 11th goal of the season on Tuesday, tying him for the team-lead with veteran center Adam Henrique. He also passed the injured Rickard Rakell in points; as a result, giving him 23 on the year.
Henrique’s 11th goal came Tuesday as well, snapping his three-game scoring drought. Those goals, combined with six helpers, place him second on the team in points with 17.
Two other players to watch for the Ducks include defenseman Cam Fowler and center, Derek Grant. Fowler is up to 16 points on the year after potting a goal and dishing out an assist over the course of his last five games. As for Grant, the veteran has taken advantage of guys like Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf being on the shelf, entering the game on a three-game point streak.
There shouldn’t be too much of a surprise from either team as to who is manning the net. For Colorado, expect Philipp Grubauer to draw the start. Grubauer has been one of the league’s best goaltenders this season, going 24-8-1 with a 2.00 GAA and .919 save percentage, including a league-leading five shutouts.
Anaheim, meanwhile, should counter with John Gibson. Gibson missed a couple of weeks with an injury but has returned and started the last two games for the Ducks. The former All-Star is currently 8-12-6 with a 2.93 GAA and .901 save percentage but also has three shutouts of his own.
There is certainly no question the Avalanche are the better team in every way and should win this game. But at -375 odds, your profit will be very, very slim.
Instead, we’re taking the Avs -1.5. In their last two meetings, Colorado beat Anaheim 8-4 and then followed it up about two weeks later with a 5-2 victory. The Ducks are even more banged up now than they were then, and guys like MacKinnon and Makar are playing better now than they have been all season.
At much more reasonable odds at -134, bet the Avs to win by multiple goals on Friday night.
Pick: Avalanche -1.5 (-134)
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