Stanley Cup Final Game 4 best bets: Avs to strike back vs. Lightning

Mike Carlson / National Hockey League / Getty

We have a crucial Game 4 to look forward to Wednesday night. The Colorado Avalanche have an opportunity to grab a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, giving them a chance to win it all on home ice in Game 5.

If the Avs lose, though, the Tampa Bay Lightning would draw even in a series where they once looked outmatched. Even if they don't have home-ice advantage, you don't want to give the back-to-back champs that kind of life.

Which team will prevail in Game 4? Who will be the key characters? Let's dig into that with our three best bets.

Avalanche (-110) @ Lightning (-110)

The Lightning showed their teeth in Game 3. Their team defense improved, Andrei Vasilevskiy was excellent, and their stars - led by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos - were borderline unstoppable.

That wasn't the case for the Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon's line couldn't break through at five-on-five, and with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky out of the lineup, Colorado lacked the high-end scoring depth to compensate.

It was a good wake-up call for the Avalanche, one I expect them to respond to. While the Lightning did a good job of keeping MacKinnon and Co. out of the high-danger areas, they gave up a lot of shots and Grade B chances.

For example, with MacKinnon on the ice at five-on-five, Colorado outshot Tampa Bay 26-11 and had a 17-10 edge in scoring chances. Top-tier looks or not, you're still playing with fire when players like MacKinnon can generate that many opportunities.

Keeping Colorado's best players off the scoresheet at full strength yet again feels like a tall order. Plus, the potential returns of Kadri and/or Burakovsky could provide a real boost.

This game might well come down to Darcy Kuemper. He doesn't need to be great for the Avalanche to win, but he can't be allowing leaky goals from mid-range like he did in Game 3.

I think he'll respond and give the Avs what they need to put the Lightning on the brink.

Bet: Avalanche (-110)

Victor Hedman over 2.5 shots (good to -155)

Hedman didn't record his second and third shots until the dying minutes of Game 3. Don't let that fool you, though; the process couldn't have been better. The star blue-liner was firing from anywhere and everywhere all night long, piling up nine shot attempts.

While defenders don't hit the net as frequently as forwards, that kind of volume is going to get results almost every time out.

I'm not sure I expect another nine attempts from Hedman in Game 4, but I do expect enough for him to get three shots.

Hedman has 58 attempts through nine playoff home dates, putting him one back of Nikita Kucherov for the team lead. He's a shooting machine in Tampa Bay, and, as I've repeatedly said before, the Avalanche give up plenty of shots to defensemen.

Win or lose, I expect another active game from the star Swede.

Cale Makar over 2.5 shots (good to -200)

Makar also came through for us in Game 3 - with ease, at that - so we're going right back to the well.

He generated four shots on goal in the first period alone in what was a 10-attempt, five-shot night for the emerging superstar.

That kind of volume is nothing new for Makar. He has 26 shot attempts through just three games in this series.

Makar also has 15 points and 56 shot attempts through eight road games this postseason. That's seven attempts per contest, which is more than enough for him to hit the target three times.

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

Stanley Cup Final Game 4 best bets: Avs to strike back vs. Lightning
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