After the Wild and Golden Knights dropped the puck on Sunday, the other West Division battle takes the ice on Monday. The St. Louis Blues (27-20-9) and Colorado Avalanche (39-13-4) drop the puck for Game 1 of their best-of-seven series Monday night in Denver.
Although everything has been reset in the postseason, the Avs won the majority of their games against the Blues this season, earning five victories in eight matchups. Colorado is considered one of the biggest favorites in the first round, and starting in Game 1 are significant favorites at -310, while St. Louis enters at +250.
By the Numbers
The Avalanche were the top-scoring team in the NHL this season, averaging 3.52 goals on a little under 35 shots. Meanwhile, the Blues were 13th in goals per game with just under three while averaging 29 shots per contest as well. However, St. Louis holds a slight edge on the power play (23.2 to 22.7 percent), both of which ranked in the top-10, as well as for faceoff percentage.
On the defensive side, Colorado’s advantages are more prominent. The Avs gave up the third-fewest goals per game at 2.36 on a league-low 25.4 shots on goal. Their penalty kill also ranks inside the top-10, stopping 83.1 percent of opposing power plays. As for the Blues, their 2.98 goals allowed on just under 30 shots sits 19th and 14th, respectively, while their 25th-ranked penalty kill is successful 77.8 percent of the time.
Starting with the visitors, center Ryan O’Reilly finished the year strong. Dating back to April 24th, when he had a hat trick and an assist against these same Avalanche, O’Reilly had seven goals and eight assists in the final 12 games leading into the postseason.
A few other players who have some momentum for the Blues entering Game 1 include centers Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou, and defenseman Justin Faulk. Schenn and Kyrou each had two goals in St. Louis’ final regular-season game, a 7-3 win over Minnesota, while Faulk had points in six of his last seven games, all but one coming via assist.
As for the home team, right-wing Mikko Rantanen has been on a tear to close the season out. Since missing four games due to COVID protocols, Rantanen has four goals and ten assists in his last nine games, giving him a 30-36 season in 52 games.
Wingers Andre Burakovsky and Gabriel Landeskog, as well as d-man Cale Makar, are also racking up points. Burakovsky has five goals and seven assists during his eight-game point streak, while the captain Landeskog snapped his four-game drought with points against the Kings to close the year out. Meanwhile, Makar had points in three of his last five, including a pair of goals.
Word broke for St. Louis over the weekend that leading scorer David Perron was placed on the COVID protocol list, leaving his status in question for Game 1. Perron played in every game during the regular season, scoring 19 goals and racking up a team-high 39 assists.
Elsewhere for the Blues, the team is still unsure whether right-wing Vladimir Tarasenko will be on the ice Monday. Tarasenko was largely ineffective in 2021, collecting four goals in 24 games, and has been sidelined with a lower-body injury that has kept him out of all but one of St. Louis’s last nine games.
For Colorado, their big name on the injury report happens to be their superstar player. Center Nathan MacKinnon missed four of the final five games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, but all indications are that he will be ready for Game 1. MacKinnon missed eight games for Colorado this year but still managed 20 goals and a team-high 45 assists.
Neither team has any goalie controversy or a timeshare in place. That means you’ll see plenty of Jordan Binnington for the Blues, the 2019 Stanley Cup champ who finished the year with an 18-14-8 record, a 2.65 GAA, and a .910 save percentage.
That also means you should see Philipp Grubauer in net for the Avs. Grubauer has just finished a career-best season, setting personal marks with a 30-9-1 record and a 1.95 GAA while also earning a .922 save percentage and a whopping seven shutouts.
Entering Monday, four postseason series had played their first game. Among them, just once did the home team win Game 1. However, I expect that number to go up after this game.
Colorado has the edge in most statistical categories and simply has health on their side when you factor in the statuses of Perron and Tarasenko. The goalie difference also plays a big factor, as Binnington struggled mightily in last year’s postseason, while Grubauer has won 13 of his last 14 home games.
The value isn’t great to take the Avalanche at -310. However, betting them to win in regulation brings them down to a much more palatable -185. Even though the first three playoff games we’ve seen have all gone to OT, bet the President’s Trophy-winning Avs to showcase their stuff and win Game 1 in convincing fashion.
Pick: Avalanche in regulation -185
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