The biggest favorites by far on the NHL board Wednesday night are the defending Presidents Cup Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche as they open the season at home vs. the Chicago Blackhawks. Which way to lean at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks?
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Colorado Avalanche
Wednesday, October 13, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at Ball Arena
The NHL is back! The season actually opened Tuesday with two games and there are five more on Wednesday. Blackhawks-Avalanche is shown on TNT, which is a new television partner of the NHL’s this year. The network spent a ton of money to have a top-notch studio team led by the greatest of all-time in Wayne Gretzky. I’ll be curious to see it.
Last season was unusual in the NHL because of the pandemic and how teams only played clubs in their own division. Chicago and Colorado are in the same division this season, back to being called the Central, but weren’t last year (Hawks were in the rejiggered Central and the Avs in the West) so they didn’t play. In the 2019-20 season, the Avalanche won three of four matchups.
The favorite is 5-2 on the NHL picks in the past seven overall.
Blackhawks Busy In Offseason
Chicago missed the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons last year, finishing at 24-25-7 in the shortened campaign and sixth in the Central Division. The Hawks were a good offensive team but had some issues in net and finished with a goals differential of minus-25.
They didn’t have captain and franchise icon Jonathan Toews at all as he sat out because of chronic immune response syndrome. Toews is good to go now. He was still very productive in 2019-20 with 18 goals and 42 assists in 70 games. Chicago should have pretty good depth at center now with Toews back and the offseason trade for Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson.
The Blackhawks were a very busy team in the offseason as GM Stan Bowman tries to keep his job; coach Jeremy Colliton is on a very hot seat, too.
Bowman traded for future Hall of Fame goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and he immediately takes over as the No. 1. Fleury won the Vezina Award last year in Vegas, going was 26-10-0. He was third in the NHL in wins and shutouts (six), and third in goals-against average (1.98) and save percentage (.928) among goalies to play at least 20 games. Vegas thought Fleury was disposable because the Knights had former Blackhawk Robin Lehner in net. Kevin Lankinen will be Fleury’s backup but it surely will be Fleury in net here. He led a Vegas upset of Colorado in last season’s playoffs.
Defensively, Chicago’s big move was trading for Blue Jackets blueliner Seth Jones and then signing him to a massive long-term extension. Jones scored 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 56 games last season. Chicago was pretty weak on defense, allowing 33.7 shots on goal per game, tied for most in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.
Chicago is 6-20 on the NHL odds in its past 26 as a road underdog.
Avalanche Are Cup Favorites Again
Colorado won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with the most points overall and was the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup entering the playoffs but blew a 2-0 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round and lost in six. On BetOnline’s NHL futures odds, the Avs are +500 favorites for this season.
Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer was a Vezina finalist as he was second in the league with 30 wins and second in goals-against average at 1.95 but surprisingly signed with expansion Seattle in the offseason. That move somewhat caught the Avs by surprise and they traded for Arizona netminder Darcy Kuemper. He was 10-11-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and two shutouts in 27 games for the Coyotes last season.
No team has a better offensive top line than the Avs with center Nathan MacKinnon, a perennial Hart Trophy candidate, and wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Landeskog hit free agency in the offseason, but Colorado was able to lure him back with an eight-year deal. The second overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Landeskog has 218 goals and 294 assists for 512 points in 687 career regular-season games.
Only Nikita Kucherov has more goals (221) and points (547) among players from the 2011 draft class, while only Sean Couturier (692) has appeared in more games. Last year, Landeskog led the Avalanche in hits (81), power-play goals (9-tied) and faceoff percentage (56.6).
While that top line is spectacular, the Avs don’t have a ton of depth behind that trio with Joonas Donskoi selected by Seattle in the Expansion Draft and Brandon Saad leaving as a free agent. Stellar young defenseman Cale Makar didn’t play in the preseason due to injury but will be ready Wednesday.
The Avalanche are 41-15 on the NHL odds in their past 56 as favorites and should win this without much trouble.
NHL Pick: Avalanche at -235
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.