In one of the highest-scoring playoff series in recent memory, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars are heading to a pivotal Game 6 on Wednesday night. The Avalanche used a five-goal first period to win Game 5 and stave off elimination, while the Stars have another chance to close out the series and advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Here is a preview for Wednesday night’s showdown, along with some key things to watch and a free pick. Currently, Colorado is a slight favorite at -120.
After being one of the Stanley Cup favorites before the start of the season, the Avalanche (42-20-8) earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs by defeating the Stars and St. Louis Blues in the round-robin games. The Avalanche then quickly dispatched the Arizona Coyotes in five games in the first round to set up a meeting with Dallas.
During this series, the bulk of Colorado’s production has come from its top players. Center Nathan MacKinnon has four goals and six assists in five games this series to lead the team. Following him is linemate right wing Mikko Rantanen, who has three goals and five assists, as well as Calder Trophy finalist, defenseman Cale Makar, who has six assists and a goal.
They’ve also gotten some production from left winger Andre Burakovsky and center Nazem Kadri. They each have come up with multiple goals and assists while coming up in big spots. These grinders are what NHL bettors look for.
In an up-and-down regular season, the Stars (37-24-8) were good enough to make it into the round-robin games. But they fell to the Vegas Golden Knights and Avalanche before getting back on track with a win against the Blues to earn the third seed.
After going down 2-1 to the Flames in the first round, they won three straight games, including a 7-3 victory in Game 6, to advance to the second round.
For a team that was one of the four lowest-scoring teams in hockey, Dallas has been getting a ton of point production. The leading scorer has been left wing Jamie Benn, the captain, who has three goals and five assists. Following him is a trio of six-point players: right wings Alexander Radulov and Denis Gurianov, and defenseman Miro Heiskanen.
The Stars have also gotten multiple-point efforts from other role players like center Radek Faksa and left wing Roope Hintz, as well as Benn’s partner-in-crime, center Tyler Seguin.
What to Watch
First of all, it goes without saying that offense has dominated this series. There have been no fewer than seven goals scored in any one game this series, with as many as 10 going back to Game 3.
In total, there have been 43 goals in five games, or an average of 8.6 per game. We’ll see if in Game 6 whether both teams will continue to push the tempo and overwhelm the defense and goaltending of their opponent. Top sportbooks to bet hockey currently have the Avs favored at -120, with the Stars at EV (+100).
Speaking of goaltending, there are question marks on each side. The Avalanche have already used three goalies this series, starting with the injured Philipp Grubauer, then Pavel Francouz before he was replaced with Michael Hutchinson in Game 5.
Meanwhile, the Stars also face a tough decision ahead, with coach Rick Bowness undecided on whether he’s starting Ben Bishop or Anton Khudobin. Khudobin has been in net for the last eight games while Bishop was hurt, with Bishop returning to action on Monday.
There’s no reason to think that this won’t be another high-scoring affair, based on what has transpired in the last five games plus the uncertainty in net for both teams. As for who wins Game 6, I’m picking the Stars to close it out.
When push comes to shove, Dallas has the better defense to make stops and the more proven goaltender regardless of who they turn to in net. Those in the offshore gaming industry have to see this. Give me the Stars to get the win and advance to the Conference Finals.
NHL Playoffs Free Pick: Stars +100