Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:00 PM EST.
9:05 PM EST. Regulation only. John Gibson has emerged as one of the NHL's elite goaltenders and as long as he's between the pipes, the Ducks are a threat to win it all. Anaheim's path to the playoffs is all but a lock with both a division and a Wild Card spot open to them. The Ducks are one-point back of L.A. for third in the Pacific and one-point up on both St. Louis and Colorado while sitting in the first Wild Card slot. According to SportsClubStats.com, the Ducks have an 83.6% chance to get in. Anaheim plays a favorable schedule with three of its next for games at home against the Avs, Wild and Stars with a trip to the desert to end the year. The Ducks should have sufficient motivation here with the playoffs on the line, but they also dropped both prior meetings with Colorado this season, but those games were played in the Mile High City where the home side has a significant advantage playing at high altitude. On a level playing surface, it’s likely to be a much different story.
The Avalanche's turnaround this season has been a great story, as is Nathan McKinnon's ascent into an elite NHLer worthy of MVP consideration. However, Colorado's resurrection flies in the face of the analytics, as its goods under the hood do not suggest the Avs are anywhere close to being a playoff contender. We preach the unpredictable nature of in-game variance and Colorado is the poster child for this approach. Take any sample size from one point to another this season and you will see the Avs have been in the bottom tier in nearly every relevant metrics category while maintaining a higher than average PDO, which measures 'puck luck'. Colorado has gotten the bounces all season long, but there have been signs its good fortune is turning. If the analytics weren't bad enough, the Avs will now have to go at it shorthanded the rest of the way. Colorado lost starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the rest of the season in its last game versus the Blackhawks while defenseman Erik Johnson fractured his kneecap against Vegas the game prior. With Johnson, a stabilizing force back there, the Avs are much worse.
Of the six teams in the West fighting for the five remaining playoff spots, the Avs have the lowest odds to get in. With three of their last four games on the road against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks respectively, it is going to be an uphill climb as they are a much better team at home. There is a chance Colorado's final game of the season, a home date with the Blues, could be a 'win and your in' scenario, but we're not betting on it. In fact, the Ducks just might put the wounded Avalanche out of their misery tonight. One-point might separate these two teams in the standings, but the talent gap on the ice is far greater. Newly minted starter Jonathan Bernier spent last season as the backup in Anaheim which means the Ducks got to shoot on him every day in practice. They know his weaknesses and will likely take some pleasure in squashing a former teammates playoff dreams.
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ANAHEIM -½ -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)