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1. COLORADO AVALANCHE -194 (39-13-4 / 82pts)
2. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS +170 (40-14-2 / 82pts)
I think it is safe to say that out of every single combination of teams, this series was by far the most desired. Well, ask and ye shall receive. I think this will be the best series of the playoffs. As a matter of fact, I believe whoever wins this series will go on to win the Cup, so you could call this my de facto Stanley Cup Final. So, where do we start? How about with the ever popular “rest vs rust” debate? This conversation gets brought up every time a team who swept their first-round opponent is set to take on a team who just went the distance in their previous series. That is the situation we have on hand here, as the Avs swept the Blues in 4 games, and Vegas used an explosive Game 7 to get past a Wild team that clawed their way back into the series, putting the Golden Knights back to the wall in the opening round. You will hear the talking heads pose the question of whether Colorado’s time off gives them a chance to rest and recuperate, or if it will hurt them in Game 1, having not played hockey at game speed in some time. If it were a lesser team, I may find the “rust” argument credible, but the Avs are a team who have executed at a high level all year despite being bit hard by the injury bug. Personally, I am not worried about a slow start. Something that does not get brought up as often as it should when debating “rest vs rust”, is the mentality of the team who just played a full 7-game series. Vegas went up 3-1 in their series, only to be forced to win a Game 7 after it appeared they had all but won their Round 1 test. On Friday night Max Pacioretty returned to the lineup, as the Golden Knights clinched their first series on home ice, which also happened to be their first Game 7 on home ice. It is needless to say that it was an emotional night in “The Fortress” on the Vegas strip. Their reward for their efforts? They now must turn around and travel to Denver to take on the President’s Trophy winning Avalanche on their home ice, in their high-altitude Ball Arena, less than 48 hours after their emotional victory. If there were ever a situation where a team suffers from an emotional letdown, this is it. So, I like the Avs in Game 1, which in turn makes me like them in this series. You may not agree with that line of thought, but it is hard to disagree that this series should be a spectacle for the hockey world. These teams are both top 3 in the league for xGF. They rank 1 (COL) & 2 (VGK) in SCF% and HDF%. They are also both top 10 in Corsi % and Fenwick %. There should be no shortage of entertainment in this showdown, but I believe Vegas’ quick turnaround and Colorado’s home ice advantage gives the Avalanche the edge here.
PICK: COLORADO AVALANCHE (-194 on FanDuel)