Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche are back.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the NHL, the players returned to the ice on Monday.
To hear the skates cut through the ice, the sticks slapping pucks and crashing against the glass …
… Well, it’s been a long four months.
Squad got after it today!
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) July 14, 2020
Avalanche players are finally healthy
The other reason to feel excited?
The Avalanche team is healthy and deep. You couldn’t say that when the coronavirus pandemic shut the league down in mid-March.
Andre Burakovsky says he feels the #Avs have more depth this year than when the was with the Caps the year they won the Stanley Cup.
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) July 15, 2020
The last time Colorado was on the ice, with a thrilling 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers on March 11 at the Pepsi Center, it was absent most of its top six forwards, starting goalie and a few of its starting defensemen.
After just two days of training camp 2.0, the Avalanche center believes his team has a great shot to win the Stanley Cup.
As MacKinnon said to the NHL website on Tuesday:
“We were kind of hurt all season, which was unfortunate. We only had our full team together for, I think, 10 games. But everyone is healthy now, everyone looks great.”
Colorado opens play on Aug. 2 against the Blues
Avalanche and NHL fans know the basics of the return-to-play plan: Colorado is in the top four of the Western Conference and has already qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, no one knew when or where the Avs would play.
We do now.
The two hub cities for the NHL are Edmonton in the West and Toronto in the East.
The top four teams in the West:
- St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, .662 points percentage)
- Avalanche (42-20-8, .657)
- Las Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606)
- Dallas Stars (37-24-8, .594)
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. Games are scheduled for the Rogers Place arena in Edmonton, Alberta. That’s also where the four best-of-five qualifying rounds will take place. The four winners advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Avs restart their season on Aug. 2 in Edmonton versus St. Louis.
Colorado then faces the Stars on Aug. 5 and Golden Knights on Aug. 8.
The task now for the Avs is to get that No. 1 seed.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) July 11, 2020
Oddsmakers like the Avalanche
DraftKings has the odds for which team will get the No. 1 seed:
- Blues +175
- Avs +225
- Golden Knights +300
- Stars +550
What’s fascinating is the oddsmakers still like Colorado’s chances to win the Stanley Cup.
DraftKings still has the Avalanche at +900, good enough for the fourth-best odds. That’s behind the Boston Bruins (+650), Tampa Bay Lightning (+650) and Las Vegas (+800).
FanDuel Sportsbook has Colorado at even better odds, +800, which is third-best behind Boston (+600) and Tampa (+650).
In terms of the Western Conference, FanDuel has the Avs as the favorite at +325. Vegas is close behind at +350. DraftKings has the two flipped, with the Golden Knights at +300 and Colorado at +350.
|Colorado Avalanche odds||DraftKings||FanDuel||BetMGM|
|NHL Western Conference winner||Golden Knights +250|
|Golden Knights +250|
Golden Knights +260
|Stanley Cup winner — top five||Flyers +550|
Golden Knights +550
Golden Knights +600
Golden Knights +800
Avs want the No. 1 seed in the West
Despite the fact that fans won’t attend, the No. 1 seed is still the best path to win the third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
As Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen told the team website on Monday:
“It is important. It is obviously a little bit different than in a normal situation when you got the home advantage with your fans and your home rink, but, still first seed is first seed. You get the matchup in the best-of-seven series, you get the four kind of home games where you can matchup even though there (are) no fans so you won’t get advantage from that, but still. Still, it is our main goal in those three games to get the first seed for sure.”
First chance to bet on the Avalanche
Since the shutdown, sports bettors in Colorado haven’t had the chance to wager on the Avs.
As noted earlier, the biggest benefit to such a long layoff is Colorado is finally healthy and can put its depth to use.
That’s evidenced by the lines in the few first practices of summer camp.
Here’s the first line of Burakovsky, MacKinnon and Rantanen along with Graves and Makar.
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) July 15, 2020
Legitimate shot at the Cup
Now that Colorado is back to full strength, you can see why oddsmakers like the team’s chances.
The Avalanche have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.
And MacKinnon knows it, as he told the NHL website:
“It’s my seventh year (in the NHL), and this is the first one I really feel like we have a chance to win (the Stanley Cup). It doesn’t come around very often, definitely don’t want to take this for granted. … We’re confident that we can get it done.”