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Trust Stars to close out Avalanche on home ice

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images / Denver Post / Getty

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Monday's Game 4 took an unexpected turn before the puck even dropped at Colorado's Ball Arena. An Avalanche team expected to bounce back from two straight losses and even the series was now without its leading goal-scorer this postseason, Valeri Nichushkin, after he was suspended for six months for failing a drug test. To make matters worse, Devon Toews was also announced out with an illness.

As a result, Colorado closed as a pick 'em after being widely available at -140 (58.3% implied win probability). The Avs then fell behind after a lifeless period, continuing a trend that hasn't seen them lead in regulation this series.

Now Colorado faces elimination. What should we make of Wednesday's Game 5?

Game 5: Avalanche (+130) @ Stars (-150)

Since Dallas and Colorado both opened -140 as the home team in Games 5 and 4, respectively, we can infer that the market is still rating these two teams identically.

We didn't think they were equal before the series due to the Stars' even-strength metrics and superior goaltending, and there's little reason to believe that now. Dallas has 9.28 expected goals at even strength to Colorado's 6.12 since Game 1, when the Stars entered the series less than 48 hours after a Game 7 revenge win over Vegas.

Neither goaltender has played much better or worse than expected. That's more of a problem for Colorado, since it's likely either a bad game is coming for Alexandar Georgiev or a great one is coming for Jake Oettinger.

The Stars have played in five series since missing the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, all of which have gone six games or more. They should have ample motivation not to take a wounded Avalanche group lightly and earn much-needed rest halfway through a postseason run.

With Nichushkin out, Toews' status up in the air, and the Stars' strong showing, it's no surprise that Dallas has garnered interest. The Stars have been pushed to -150 to close out the series, which is still below our target threshold of -170.

Best bet: Stars moneyline (-150)

Nathan MacKinnon: Over 4.5 shots

MacKinnon let us down in Game 4, but the volume was as good as it gets. He attempted 12 shots in a losing effort but only got four on target.

MacKinnon's attempted 12 or more shots on 14 different occasions this season. Game 4 was the only time he failed to reach five shots.

I expect MacKinnon to hover around that mark again in Game 5. The Avalanche are playing for their season, so he should be heading for an absurdly large workload as long as the game is remotely close.

Valeri Nichushkin's absence could boost his volume as well. MacKinnon averaged 4.6 shots per game on 8.1 attempts with Nichushkin in the fold, going over his total just 36% of the time. He recorded 5.4 shots on 8.9 attempts without Nichushkin, with his hit rate soaring to 66%.

A lot will fall on MacKinnon's shoulders in this do-or-die game. Expect him to come through.

Odds: -102 (playable to -125)

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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