The Colorado Avalanche is 12-2-2 in the last 16 games. They have probably the best forward left in the Western Conference in these NHL playoffs, and one of the league’s hottest goalies. They were already young and fast, but got younger, faster and more talented last week with the addition of college hockey’s player of the year.
Are the Avs the very best team remaining in these NHL playoffs? I’m not ready to say that. But are they the best dark-horse team for prospective NHL betting enthusiasts to win the Stanley Cup? Yeah, I’ll go there. Here’s why:
Colorado is fast. Other than Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, the Avs have probably the league’s fastest skater with the puck in first-line center Nathan MacKinnon.
The Western Conference’s top-seeded Calgary Flames had no answers for MacKinnon in Round 1, as the 23-year-old burned them for 26 shots and eight points (three goals, including an OT winner in Game 2) in the five-game Colorado victory.
MacKinnon needs double-team attention when he gets the puck in the neutral zone, with any kind of open ice. If he has any and there is only one defender on him, the afterburners come on and he’ll blow by that player more often than not. It’s not just his feet that are fast, either. His hands are a blur when stickhandling with the puck.
While MacKinnon is on the front lines, the Avalanche added another speed merchant on the back end last week in 2019 Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar, from the University of Massachusetts.
After leading the Minutemen to the NCAA title game for the first time in school history, Makar signed a contract with Colorado and scored a goal in his first game, Game 3. He has made an immediate impact, and already he’s become the fastest skater among what was already a pretty fast, mobile defense.
Philipp Grubauer right now possesses a .939 saves percentage and 1.90 goals-against average in these playoffs. It took him a while to get adjusted to life in Denver, after spending several years in Washington, and there was real worry for a while that the Avalanche made a mistake in acquiring him for a fairly hefty price in the off-season.
Grubauer’s saves percentage was below .900 for much of the regular season, but he got hot starting in late February and seized the No. 1 job from veteran Semyon Varlamov.
Now, Avalanche fans have gotten used to yelling “Grooooob” after saves, and he made many top-shelf ones in the upset win over Calgary. Colorado will play either Vegas or San Jose in Round 2. Grubauer started two playoff games for Washington last year (both losses) and owns a Stanley Cup ring.
So, while he has yet to be the No. 1 on a Cup team, he’s seen firsthand recently what it takes to win in the playoffs. That makes him a dangerous guy to bet against right now.
No-Fear Underdog Mentality
The Avalanche should get even younger, faster and more talented starting next year. Colorado owns the No. 4 pick in June’s NHL draft, plus another pick at No. 16. (The only bad luck the team has had lately is “losing” the NHL draft lottery for the second time in three years).
So, there is a feeling among the fan base, and maybe among the players themselves, that they’re playing with house money right now. That makes for a loose, brash bunch.
“We feel like we can beat anybody,” young Avs forward Alexander Kerfoot told BSN Denver.
Sure, the Avs can beat anybody. Whether they will win three more rounds and hoist the Cup for the third time in team history, well, the sportsbooks still say that’s a longshot, with Colorado at +1100 in Stanley Cup betting odds to win it all (St. Louis is the new favorite, at +550).
With so many of the top-seeded teams already out of the playoffs, with the Avs being one of the giant slayers, Colorado is a team that bettors should seriously consider with their own house-money, dark-horse bet.
You can check out all the futures odds and make your bet right here