NHL playoff picks: 4 best bets for Oilers vs Avalanche Game 1
Chris Peters makes four picks for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.
Avalanche to beat Oilers
This is a dream matchup. Connor McDavid, the best player in the world today, taking on the best team in the league. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The Edmonton Oilers are coming off of a stunningly dominant showing against the Calgary Flames, while the Avalanche had their steamroller hit a minor speedbump with the St. Louis Blues. Now you’ve got a number of the league’s most electrifying talents all on the same ice surface.
If you’ve been following my picks all postseason, you know I’ve lacked faith in the Oilers throughout. That series against the Flames was eye-opening in that this Edmonton club is far better than we gave them credit for and they’re getting players to step up all over their lineup, especially goalie Mike Smith, who has turned back the clock and is playing some of his best hockey even if he is still prone to the unforgivable gaffe every few games.
Here's the deal, the Oilers are good. The Avalanche are markedly better. Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar are two MVP-level performers and among the fastest players. But beyond them, you’ve got Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, Devon Toews, and an especially deep, fast lineup that is a nightmare to matchup against.
If the Oilers are going to jump on the Avs, they better do it quickly and never relent. Colorado has lost two games, both of which were on home ice. So they’re not infallible. The Oilers won four of six on the road, which is an especially good figure at this time of year. They’ve definitely got a chance.
While the Flames had an elite top line, their depth and secondary pieces weren’t there. The Avalanche have two all-league defensemen in Makar and Toews, an adequate goalie in Darcy Kuemper, and three legit scoring lines with a fourth that helped them win the series against St. Louis. When we look at these two teams in terms of matching up, it’s hard to go any other way but with the Avalanche.
Over 7 total goals
This is a really high over-under for Game 1, but I think the fact that you’ve got two relatively average goaltenders who had some real stinkers in this postseason, and you put two elite offensive teams on the ice together, this has potential to be explosive.
The Oilers played in six games that saw a total goals figure go over seven, while the Avs have played in five such games out of 10. In two of those games, the Avs scored seven goals on their own.
I expect this game to be played at a frenetic pace with a lot of shots on both targets and multiple goals for both sides. Getting to eight goals seems like a lot, but it also seems right in the wheelhouse of both of these teams with how they’ve been playing.
Leon Draisaitl to score 2+ points
The Avalanche are probably going to provide a tougher challenge for Leon Draisaitl, who is playing through injury, but it’s hard to pass up the value when he’s had seven multi-point games over his 12 playoff appearances. That includes five straight games with three or more points.
He’s in some sort of zone and even though he clearly is playing through something, he just keeps producing. His ability to distribute allows him to continue putting up points at an alarming rate. He had 17 points in five games in the last series alone and is now tied with McDavid for the playoff scoring lead, yet routinely gets favorable value on the multi-point props. Don’t mind if I do.
Cale Makar anytime goal scorer
With only three goals in the playoffs after scoring 28 this season from the back end, I think Makar is going to find a little more room to operate in this game than he did against the Blues. He hasn’t scored since Game 4 against Nashville but had eight shots on goal over his last two games against St. Louis. It felt like he was starting to cook a little bit.
Makar did not score in any of his three games against Edmonton this season and I’m sure the coaching staff wants him keeping close tabs on Edmonton’s very best players, but there’s going to be spots for him to jump into plays and create chances. I think Makar will be bringing his absolute best to this kind of matchup. He always steps up in the big moments.