Stanley Cup Final Game 1 best bets: Avalanche to draw 1st blood
Hockey is finally back. After what felt like a never-ending layoff, the Stanley Cup Final begins tonight.
Let's look at three of my favorite bets for the opener.
The Lightning are tough in any building, but they're not nearly as good on the road as they are at home - at least they haven't been this postseason.
Through three rounds, the Lightning own a 7-1 record on home soil. A lot of the success has stemmed from air-tight defense and getting the matchups they want. They've conceded just six goals at five-on-five and given up only 8.3 high-danger chances per 60. That's very impressive, especially considering some of the firepower they've gone up against.
Luckily for the Avalanche, the Lightning look a lot more beatable on the road. They own a 5-4 record and have conceded 18 goals at five-on-five, two per game. They've had a much harder time limiting chances, allowing 11.5 high-danger looks per 60 at full strength.
While it's possible there's some early rust to shake off, the Avalanche are a different beast at home and should give the Lightning all they can handle. This postseason, they've controlled nearly 61% of the shot attempts, 60% of the expected goals, and generated more than 13 high-danger looks per 60 at five-on-five.
If Andrei Vasilevskiy - who owns a .910 save percentage on the road these playoffs - isn't at the top of his game, I think the Avalanche's speed and scoring depth will prove too much to overcome as the game progresses.
I don't think it'll be a blowout by any means, but I like the Avalanche to take care of business inside 60.
Bet: Avalanche in regulation (+105)
Nathan MacKinnon over 4.5 shots (-143)
MacKinnon has hit another level this postseason. He has piled up 82 shots through just 14 games, which equates to 5.8 per contest, and has been particularly effective on home soil. MacKinnon is generating nearly 6.6 shots per game on 10.7 attempts at Ball Arena. Absurd numbers.
The Lightning are a very good defensive side - there's no debating that. But they've quietly given up quite a bit of volume to centers, conceding 13.71 shots per game.
For perspective, no team allowed more than 12 shots per game to centers in the regular season. The playoffs are a much smaller sample size, sure, but if the Lightning are struggling to suppress shots versus centers, that's probably not changing on the road against a player like MacKinnon.
Victor Hedman over 2.5 shots (-125)
We've targeted the Avalanche with defenders all season long, and we're not going to stop now, especially with someone as talented as Hedman on the other side.
He's been a shooting machine throughout the playoffs, sitting just one shot back of Jacob Trouba for the lead among defensemen. The difference there is that Trouba has played three more games.
Hedman plays insane minutes in all game situations, and clearly, he's not trigger-shy. Nikita Kucherov is the only Lightning player with more shots or attempts than Hedman.
Look for the big Swede to be heavily involved in the final third.
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.