Colorado vs St. Louis: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues
Colorado vs. St. Louis, Division Semifinals, May 17, Ball Arena

The Colorado Avalanche completed their dominant sweep of the St. Louis Blues on Sunday in Game 4 with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The Blues had the right push for the first 30 minutes and even took the lead, but St. Louis simply could not knock Colorado off the puck. The Avalanche held a 34-20 advantage in shots and converted all three of their power plays to advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs where they await either Minnesota or Vegas.

Colorado Avalanche win 4-0

No team was as dominant in the first round as the Colorado Avalanche, who bullied their way to sweeping the St. Louis Blues. In an NHL playoffs filled with tight matchups and plenty of overtimes, Colorado won all four games by at least three goals and limited St. Louis to just seven goals. Nathan MacKinnon led an unreal offensive performance from the Avalanche’s top stars with six goals and three assists, by the far the early leader in both categories in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Avalanche entered this season as favorites to win the Stanley Cup and then went on to win the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the NHL during the regular season. Nothing about their performance in the first round would lead anyone to believe the Avalanche are not on a direct line to the Stanley Cup Final no matter if they play the Minnesota Wild or the Vegas Golden Knights in the next round.

Game 1

May 17, 10 p.m., Ball Arena

Two of the hottest teams to close the regular season square off in a West Division NHL playoffs series as the Colorado Avalanche do battle with the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche have been the betting favorite to win this year’s Stanley Cup for most of the season, and they certainly looked like a title team in winning eight of their final nine games of the season to win the Presidents’ Trophy. But the Blues played their best hockey of the season in the final stretch as well with an 8-1-3 record over the last 12 games of the season. The first two wins in that streak came against Colorado to help the Blues narrow the season series to a 5-3 Avalanche lead in eight matchups.

If the Blues have one advantage over Colorado it is experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the knowledge of what it takes to actually lift the trophy at the end of the postseason run. The 2018-19 champions have much of the core still on the roster, and they will need those players to step up if the Blues are going to stay competitive with the Avalanche. It starts in goal with Jordan Binnington, who came around in his final nine starts of the season. After starting the year with a pedestrian .908 save percentage for the first three and a half months, Binnington had a .918 save percentage and 2.39 goals against average in the final nine games, winning six of those starts and losing the other three in overtime or a shootout. If Binnington does his part, it will be up to Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron to continue their strong closes to the season. Perron, who led the Blues with 58 points, had 16 points over the final 11 games of the season, while O’Reilly recorded a point in eight of the last nine games. If those two guys give Colorado some trouble in the offensive zone, St. Louis has an excellent chance at success.

What is there to say about the Avalanche that hasn’t already been written dozens of times. Offensively, the depth is unmatched in the league and the top-end talent with Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar (among others) is special. Rantanen missed some time in mid-April while on the COVID-19 reserve list, going more than two weeks between games while riding a six-game point streak and having scored a goal in four of his previous five games. He proceeded to score goals in each of his first three games back while registering seven total points, finishing the season with 30 goals and 66 points. Just one point behind him was MacKinnon, whose 45 assists were the fifth most in the league. While Colorado was leading the league with 197 goals scored, it also ranked third in goals allowed with just 132 sneaking past the Avalanche goalies. Philipp Grubauer was a big reason why Colorado’s defense was so successful with a .922 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average this season, but the Avalanche also conceded the fewest shots on net in the league, meaning Grubauer wasn’t required to do much most nights.

This is setting up to be a very fascinating series, but I don’t know if the Blues have enough to actually challenge the Avalanche. Colorado’s offense is as deep as anyone’s in the league with scoring on all four lines and three defensive pairs. The Avalanche have rock solid goaltending with Grubauer in net and he was exceptional in last year’s postseason with five wins, a .922 save percentage and 1.87 goals against average in seven starts before injuring himself. The Blues have experience and a Cup-winning goaltender of their own, but it hasn’t been enough most of the year against the Avalanche and it won’t be over a playoffs series. I expect the Blues to push the Avalanche a little bit, but I doubt they will extend it the full distance, so I’m betting on Colorado to prevail in six games at +400 odds at the top NHL betting sites in New Jersey.

Colorado is a very different team entering Game 1 than it was when it last played St. Louis. At that point, the Avalanche were coming off a weeklong COVID-19 pause and they were some notable absences as the Blues took two of three. The Blues deserve credit for how well they played down the stretch and they are not receiving that respect from the top sports betting sites in New Jersey. I’m not going to say St. Louis is going to win the opener Monday, but it will certainly be a much closer game than the sportsbooks are predicting, which makes the NHL playoffs betting prospects on this Game 1 such a challenge. However, I think St. Louis will be such a menace that the Blues might actually hold a lead at some point, so I’m going to be bold and wager on Colorado to trail at some point and still win in regulation at +440 odds on the top hockey betting sites in New Jersey.

COLORADO AVALANCHE TO WIN

Game 2 (Colorado Avalanche lead 1-0)

May 19, 10:30 p.m., Ball Arena

Those who might have missed most of the Colorado Avalanche’s games this season were witness to exactly how dominant Colorado could be on any given night. The Avalanche allowed the fewest shots in the NHL this season and put up the second-most in the league, and Game 1 was proof of why it happened. Colorado kept coming at Jordan Binnington and the St. Louis Blues in waves, firing shots from all angles and creating dangerous scoring chances aplenty in the first two periods. Binnington did his part to keep the Blues in the game through 40 minutes, but he couldn’t survive the onslaught forever before surrendering four goals on 50 shots while his team mustered just 23 shots on Colorado’s net.

We’ll start with an extraordinary effort from Binnington, who was the only reason St. Louis was even tied at the end of the second period. Colorado just swarmed the Blues zone from the opening faceoff and continued to create threats with their puck possession and play-making abilities. Obviously, St. Louis cannot win this Stanley Cup playoffs series being outshot at a 2:1 rate every game, so the Blues are going to need to find a way to shift the balance of the ice in Wednesday’s Game 2. That starts by staying out of the penalty box and giving the Avalanche chances to use their high-octane offense on a man advantage. It was Cale Makar’s power-play tally that helped jumpstart the Avalanche in the first period and perhaps relieved the pressure a bit by finding an early goal.

Monday was just another textbook Avalanche victory as they dominated possession, dominated the shot totals and really didn’t put their defense under too much stress. It certainly wasn’t ideal that they entered the second intermission tied because that is the type of scoreline that could embolden an opponent, but we’ve seen countless times this season what happens once Colorado’s offense gets rolling. As long as the Avalanche don’t get frustrated by missing open nets or facing a goaltender playing extremely well, they will be fine. It certainly helped that Nathan MacKinnon scored 30 seconds into the third period, but even without that goal, there was a confidence that something would eventually beat Binnington.

I think this continues to be one of the easier NHL playoffs series to bet among the first-round matchups because Colorado is such a fun team to watch. You could easily make some money just betting on a certain Avalanche player to score in the game at the top betting sites in New Jersey. In Game 2, I’m leaning towards betting on Andre Burakovsky to score a goal at +225 odds after the forward had points in eight regular-season games, a stretch that included five goals. It’s perhaps my riskiest bet from the top hockey betting sites in New Jersey because I’m going to stay more conservative in betting on the Avalanche as a team. I’m going to bet the over 6.5 total goals at +155 odds and couple that with St. Louis scoring more than 2.5 goals at +163 odds. I don’t think the Avalanche will be as dominant in this Game 2 victory, so I’m hesitant to bet them with a spread and will instead bet on Colorado to win in regulation for -190 odds.

BET ON COLORADO AVALANCHE TO WIN

Game 3 (Colorado Avalanche lead 2-0)

May 21, 9:30 p.m., Enterprise Center

There is trouble brewing for the St. Louis Blues after yet again being outskated and outplayed by the Colorado Avalanche and falling behind 2-0 in the series. It isn’t just that the Blues are being outplayed, either, but it’s that it’s been Colorado’s best players doing the damage and not the depth players as much. Nathan MacKinnon has five goals and two assists in two games in the NHL playoffs, meaning he has been a part of seven of Colorado’s 10 goals in the series. Gabriel Landeskog has scored five points, four of which have been assists, and Mikko Rantanen has four assists through two games. The Blues will need a much better effort Friday when the series shifts to St. Louis for a vital Game 3.

As much as the Blues haven’t been able to stop the Avalanche’s best players, St. Louis simply hasn’t started well in either game in this series. St. Louis was fortunate to be tied at the end of the second period of Game 1 then the Blues surrendered the first three goals of Game 2, including one just 35 seconds into the contest. St. Louis can ill-afford to play from behind in this series, and it especially cannot let Colorado go up multiple goals in the first period. This season, the Blues won 16 of the 23 games in which they led after the first period, but won just 11 of the 33 games in which they weren’t leading. That first goal of Game 3 is going to be crucial, especially after Colorado scored so quickly in Game 2. St. Louis was 13-3-7 when scoring first this year, but went just 14-17-2 when allowing the first goal.

What makes the Avalanche such a dangerous team is how well they possess the puck and dominate the scoring opportunities. That was not really the case in Game 2 as the two teams both had 35 shots on goal in the game. The quick start certainly helped the Avalanche demoralize the Blues a little bit and force St. Louis to push a little bit to catch up, opening up chances to grow the lead. The concern is the Blues’ physicality as the Stanley Cup playoffs go on after St. Louis had a decisive 26-19 advantage in hits and forced 11 giveaways. If St. Louis can energize itself with some big hits and then capitalize when it forces the Avalanche into mistakes, this series can get interesting again in a hurry. However, Colorado seems to be using St. Louis’ physicality to its advantage by drawing penalties then converting on those man advantages after the Avalanche scored on both of their shots on two power plays in Game 2.

St. Louis should come out in Game 3 with a lot of energy in what is pretty close to a must-win game on home ice. The Blues showed some signs of life after going down by three goals in Game 2 and I expect they will build off that momentum to spark a good first period. As a result, I’m betting on St. Louis to score first in the game at +133 odds from the top sports betting sites in New Jersey. The problem for the Blues is I’m not sure they can sustain that effort for 60 minutes against the relentless waves of attack from the Avalanche. St. Louis hasn’t shown any ability to slow down the Avalanche without Jordan Binnington playing out of his mind, so I’m skeptical the Blues will hold onto the lead. The hockey betting sites in New Jersey are offering tantalizing +450 odds on Colorado winning after trailing in the game, and that is my big NHL betting prediction for Game 3. As an added bonus, however, I’ll double down on my bet from Game 2 and wager on Andre Burakovsky to score for +230 odds.

BET ON COLORADO AVALANCHE TO WIN

Game 4 (Colorado Avalanche lead 3-0)

May 23, 5 p.m., Enterprise Center

best team in the NHL at the moment. Colorado put together a third straight dominant performance in these NHL playoffs for a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues that now pushes the 2019 champions onto the brink of elimination. It didn’t matter that the Avalanche had just 25 shots on Jordan Binnington or failed to score on four power-play chances, Colorado buried the chances it did create and defended well in front of Philipp Grubauer. The Blues threw 32 shots on net, but could not crack the Avalanche’s defenses and now are a loss Sunday away from being swept out of the postseason.

After Game 1, it felt like Binnington had the potential to play up to the level he obtained in leading the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019. Instead, the goalie posted a sub-.880 save percentage in the next two games that now has St. Louis on the verge of being swept. St. Louis followed the blueprint to beat Colorado by limiting the Avalanche’s shot totals and peppering the Colorado net with shots. The problem is Binnington wasn’t up to the task and let in four goals on 25 total shots, but more specifically stopped just 16 of the 20 shots Colorado took at even strength. It would be unfair to pin all the blame on Binnington because St. Louis managed just a shorthanded goal in the game, but you need good goaltending to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Binnington didn’t provide it.

There is no team playing better than the Avalanche right now in the NHL playoffs as Colorado is just demoralizing the Blues. The Avalanche have scored multiple goals in five of the nine periods so far in this series and have scored three goals in a period once in each game. Perhaps the scariest part of it all for the Blues and any future opponent for the Avalanche is it was a very quiet night for Colorado’s stars. Nathan MacKinnon had just three shots, didn’t have a point and was a -1 for the game. Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen both just had an assist on Tyler Jost’s goal, and otherwise were fairly quiet offensively as well. Colorado has so much scoring depth, but it didn’t have to use it in the first two games. Then the Avalanche went on the road and five different players scored goals, four of whom hadn’t scored in the first game and only Brandon Saad had scored more than 10 goals during the regular season.

In many series, I pick the team trailing 3-0 to win Game 4, especially if that is a home game for the team on the brink of elimination. But these Blues are simply not good enough for me to even look at the top hockey betting sites in New Jersey for odds on St. Louis. Binnington is outmatched by the Avalanche’s shooters and the Blues can’t seem to figure out how to score on Grubauer until they are trailing by multiple goals. The top sports betting sites in New Jersey clearly feel the same way as me because the Avalanche are huge favorites in Game 4, which means a decent payout is out of the question if you strictly bet on Colorado to win. Instead, I need to parlay the Avalanche win with the over 5.5 total goals for +145 odds. Sticking on the goal trend, I’m projecting yet another dominant performance from the Colorado offense, so I’ll bet over 4.5 goals for the Avalanche at +230 odds.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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