The NHL conference finals get underway on Tuesday night, when the Colorado Avalanche play host to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. Colorado has been the Stanley Cup favorite since the betting markets opened last summer, and the Avalanche have looked the part. They finished the regular season with the second-best record in the league and the best record in the Western Conference. Through two playoff rounds, Colorado has dropped just two games.
Their Western Conference final matchup with the Edmonton Oilers will feature a collection of some of the game's most elite talent. Colorado has a bevy of game-changers, led by Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Devon Toews. However, the Oilers have the best player in the sport in Connor McDavid and another top-five player in the league in Leon Draisaitl. Both teams could score early and often in what should be a fascinating and high-powered series.
Elite talent fuels this matchup
As mentioned above, the story heading into this matchup is the unreal collection of talent on both of these rosters.
Nathan MacKinnon is arguably a top-five player in the sport, but most would consider him the third-best individual player in this series. MacKinnon has 13 points in 10 playoff games this year. He ranks ninth in the league and his 1.3 points per game ranks fifth amongst players still playing.
What makes Colorado so dangerous is the talent surrounding MacKinnon. Makar, Landeskog, Rantanen and Kadri are all playing at a point-per-game pace or better in these playoffs. Devon Toews has four goals from the back-end. Valeri Nichushkin has been productive. Artturi Lehkonen has four goals. In Game 6 against St. Louis, bottom-six players J.T. Compher and Darren Helm were the heroes. That depth is the reason Colorado is the favorite in this series, as the Oilers can certainly matchup well with any team in the league when it comes to elite talent.
Connor McDavid has multi-point games in 10 of 12 playoff games so far, averaging 2.17 points per game. He has 20 points in his last eight games and these playoffs have removed most discourse from anyone who thought there was a better player in this league than No. 97 on Edmonton.
There were concerns about Leon Draisaitl playing through injury heading into the second round of the playoffs, but if he is, it didn't impact his game in the slightest. He had 17 points in just five games during Edmonton's series win over Calgary. Draisaitl had two four-point games and three different three-point games.
These two have been dominant, sitting atop the playoff leaderboard with 26 points a piece. Nobody else has more than 19. However, Edmonton's success has a lot to do with the support those two have gotten as well. Evander Kane has 12 goals in these playoffs, leading the league. No other player has more than nine. Zach Hyman's eight goals are tied for third. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 11 points in 12 games and defenseman Evan Bouchard has added offense from the blue-line.
Edmonton will need McDavid and Draisaitl to do their thing if they want to upset the Avalanche, but they'll also need the likes of Kane, Hyman and others to keep chipping in as well.
How to bet the series
The Colorado Avalanche are -250 favorites to win this series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Those odds imply a 71.4% chance that Colorado gets the job done.
When looking at these teams, your first reaction is to expect offensive fireworks and oddsmakers certainly agree. The total for Game 1 is set at 7 goals. Usually as games get more important, the offense dries up and checking and defensive hockey comes into the forefront. However, oddsmakers aren't expecting that to be the case in this series.
The most likely series result according to the oddsmakers is a Colorado win in five games, as that pays out at +350 odds. Colorado is -110 to win the series in six games or less.
In a series with this much offensive firepower, it's worth taking a look at the series-long player props. Connor McDavid is a -185 favorite to score over 2.5 goals in the series. Leon Draisaitl is -275 and Nathan MacKinnon is -175 to accomplish that same feat. McDavid is a -130 favorite to outscore Mikko Rantanen in the series, while MacKinnon is -145 to outscore Evander Kane.
Colorado is a substantial favorite to win this series, as it's been a substantial favorite in most situations for the entire year. Edmonton is +200 to pull off the upset and advance to its first Stanley Cup since 2006. Whichever way you want to bet, it should be a tremendous series featuring some of the very best talent the league has to offer.