Back On Ice? Avalanche Outlook And Odds Under NHL Return-To-Play-Plan

Written By Ian St. Clair on 05/28/2020 - Last Updated on November 4, 2020

Rewind back to mid-March, the last time the Colorado Avalanche were on the ice.

Despite a furious rally and last-second goal by the New York Rangers, the Avalanche were able to hold on for the two points thanks to a 3-2 overtime win.

Both teams put on a heckuva display for the fans at the Pepsi Center. Since it was New York, the Avs gave the NHL its longest glimpse yet at what they’re capable of. That win over the Rangers on March 11 foretold the makings of a possible masterpiece.

Colorado has a legitimate shot to win the Stanley Cup.

NHL shut down on March 12

The next day is when the world turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Life still hasn’t returned to normal.

The Avalanche still have not played another game, and there was doubt they would again in the 2019-20 regular season or Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That just made the disappointment sting a little more because this Colorado team had the chance to make a deep run in the playoffs.

For the first time in over a decade, the Avs magic was back.

Now all of it is in doubt because of a global pandemic.

Avalanche part of NHL’s revised playoff plans

It seems there is still hope for center Nathan MacKinnon and Co. to get back on the ice.

The NHL earlier this week announced its return-to-play-plan.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman laid out how the league plans to get teams back on the ice over the next two months.

The goal is to have a team win and skate the Stanley Cup.

The path to get there, as you would expect, is creative and a little different than usual.

“I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount,” Bettman said on NBCSN when announcing the plan. “While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so.

“Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion.”

The new Stanley Cup playoffs

The 2019-20 regular season is now complete.

The Avalanche finished the season 42-20-8 for 92 points. Colorado finished with 92 points for second in the Central Division and the Western Conference.

Under the return-to-play-plan announced by Bettman earlier this week, 24 teams are in the mix.

Four teams from the Eastern Conference and four teams from the Western Conference have already qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs and will play in a round-robin seeding.

Eastern Conference round-robin teams

  • Boston Bruins
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Washington Capitals
  • Philadelphia Flyers

Those four teams will play each other once to determine the top four seeds in the first round of the playoffs.

The games will be played under regular-season overtime and shootout rules with ties in the standings broken by regular-season points percentage.

Western Conference round-robin teams

  • St. Louis Blues
  • Avalanche
  • Las Vegas Golden Knights
  • Dallas Stars

Those four teams will play each other once to determine the top four seeds in the first round of the playoffs.

The games will be played under regular-season overtime and shootout rules with ties in the standings broken by regular-season points percentage.

“It’s great that we can play some meaningful games against the top teams in the West for seeding,” MacKinnon told TSN earlier this week. “… I think that’s a pretty good format, how they’re doing it. You know, there’s no perfect way, everybody had to get creative and it seems like a good place to start.”

NHL qualifying round

The remaining 12 teams from the East and 12 teams from the West will play each other for the right to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in a best-of-five series.

Unlike the round-robin, the play-in games are under playoff rules. That means you play until there is a winner, regardless of how many overtimes it takes.

The Eastern Conference qualifying round

  • Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs Montreal Canadiens (12)
  • Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs New York Rangers (11)
  • New York Islanders (7) vs Florida Panthers (10)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (9)

The Western Conference qualifying round

  • Edmonton Oilers (5) vs Chicago Blackhawks (12)
  • Nashville Predators (6) vs Arizona Coyotes (11)
  • Vancouver Canucks (7) vs Minnesota Wild (10)
  • Calgary Flames (8) vs Winnipeg Jets (9)

There are seven teams that did not qualify for the NHL qualifying round and are now in the NHL Draft Lottery, which will hold its first phase on June 26.

Those teams are:

  • Buffalo Sabres
  • New Jersey Devils
  • Anaheim Ducks
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Detroit Red Wings

NHL will pick two hub cities from 10 contenders

All of the games in the round-robin seeding and qualifying round are set for two hub cities, though neither has been determined yet. The games in the East will be played in one city, the games in the West played in another.

Candidates for the hub cities include:

  • Chicago
  • Columbus
  • Dallas
  • Edmonton
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Pittsburgh
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

A start date has not been decided either, though it doesn’t look like games will start until August.

“Obviously, we anticipate playing over the summer and into the early fall,” Bettman said. “At this time, we are not fixing dates because the schedule of our return to play will be determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of the players.”

Avalanche Stanley Cup Playoff odds

Since the shutdown, sports bettors in Colorado haven’t had the chance to wager on the Avalanche. After all, sports betting officially launched on May 1.

As was the case before the COVID-19 shutdown, oddsmakers still like Colorado’s chances to win the Cup.

DraftKings Sportsbook has the Avalanche at the third best odds at +750 behind Boston and Tampa (+650).

FanDuel Sportsbook has Colorado at similar odds, +800, which is third-best, again, behind the Bruins and the Lightning. (+600).

In terms of the Western Conference, FanDuel have the Avs as the favorite at +325. Vegas is close behind at +350. DraftKings has the Golden Knights as the favorite at +300. Colorado is close behind at +350.

Stanley Cup odds

Boston Bruins: +650Boston Bruins: +600
Tampa Bay Lightning: +650-Tampa Bay Lightning: +600
Colorado Avalanche: +750Colorado Avalanche: +800
Las Vegas Golden Knights: +800Philadelphia Flyers: +850
Washington Capitals: +900Las Vegas Golden Knights: +850
Philadelphia Flyers: +1000Washington Capitals: +900
St. Louis Blues: +1000St. Louis Blues: +1100
Dallas Stars: +1400Dallas Stars: +1500

NHL Western Conference odds

Las Vegas Golden Knights: +300Colorado Avalanche: +325
Colorado Avalanche: +350Las Vegas Golden Knights: +350
St. Louis Blues: +400St. Louis Blues: +450
Dallas Stars: +600Dallas Stars: +650
Edmonton Oilers: +1100Edmonton Oilers: +1000

Delay gives Avalanche players time to get healthy

If there is a benefit to such a long NHL layoff, Colorado has had the chance to get healthy.

Prior to the shutdown, the Avalanche were absent most of their top six forwards, the starting goalie and a few starting defensemen. That includes their OT win over the Rangers.

Now that Colorado is back to full strength (at least you would think it is), you can see why oddsmakers like the team’s chances.

The Avalanche have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.

“This is kind of the first year I really felt like we could win,” MacKinnon told TSN on Wednesday. “The first six years of my career, the goal was just to make the (Stanley Cup playoffs). This would have been the fourth time I actually made it, but the real first time I guess that I think I could actually win. I just want to play. I want to have a chance to win.”

Ian St. Clair Avatar
Written by
Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

View all posts by Ian St. Clair