The two top teams in the West Division, as well as two of the elite Cup contenders, battle it out in Sin City. The Colorado Avalanche (31-11-4) have dropped two in a row for just the third time this season, as they take on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights (34-11-2), winners of nine games in a row.
It’s the seventh time these teams have faced off against each other this season, with a 3-3 split in their first six matchups. Right now, Vegas is a slight favorite at -138, with Colorado lined up as +118 underdogs.
By the Numbers
These are two of the best offensive teams in hockey, and the numbers back it up. The Avs are the league leaders in goals per game with 3.52, averaging 34.5 shots as well, while the Knights are fourth with both 3.38 goals and 32.6 shots. The biggest difference comes on the power play, where Colorado’s 24 percent success rate is well above Vegas’ 18.2 percent rate.
Defensively, these teams are very close yet again. The Golden Knights are the NHL’s best in goals allowed per game with just 2.15 on 27.5 shots, while the Avs give up 2.41 goals on a league-low 25.6 shots. Vegas also owns the top penalty kill in the league at 86.1 percent, whereas Colorado is just inside the top-10 at 82 percent.
Players to Watch
Beginning with the Avs, center Nathan MacKinnon is once again leading the offensive charge. He is on an impressive 14-game point streak, nine of which are multi-point efforts, giving him 19 goals and a team-high 41 assists on the season.
Just after him with 52 points is right-wing Mikko Rantanen, but he is still out with an injury. That leaves the captain, left wing Gabriel Landeskog, as the next-best option. Landeskog has 45 points with a goal and three helpers in tow during his current three-game point streak.
Others to focus on for Colorado include defenseman Cale Makar and left-wing Andre Burakovsky. Makar has managed to put up 35 points in 34 games along the blueline, recently completing a four-game streak. Meanwhile, Burakovsky scored twice in a game against the Blues as part of his three-game point streak, giving up 32 points for the season.
Switching gears to the Knights, captain, and right-wing Mark Stone tops their points list once again. Stone had a recent six-game point streak come to a close, where the first five were multi-point efforts, giving him 18 goals and a team-leading 35 assists.
The team leader in goals, who’s also second on the team in points, is left-wing Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty is in the midst of a seven-game point streak, upping his totals to 22 goals and 25 assists.
Among Vegas’ deep group of scorers, defenseman Shea Theodore and left-wing Jonathan Marchessault have elevated their games lately. Theodore has 40 points, with just two fewer helpers than Stone, after dishing out six to go with a goal over his four-game point streak. Meanwhile, Marchessault had a two-goal, two-assist night against the Sharks last Wednesday to give him 36 points in 2021.
With the incumbent starter Philipp Grubauer still temporarily out due to COVID protocol, the veteran Devan Dubnyk should draw the start on Wednesday for the Avs. Acquired around the trade deadline from San Jose, Dubnyk is 5-10-2 with a 2.80 GAA, and .898 save percentage for the season, but 2-1-0 in three starts for Colorado.
As for the Golden Knights, they have as true of a timeshare as you could have, alternating perfectly between Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner for the last month. Wednesday, it’ll be Fleury’s turn to man the crease. The former Cup champion has been incredible this year, going 21-10-0 with a 2.08 GAA and .926 save percentage.
It’s possible we’ll see either of these teams in the Stanley Cup Final, so there will be plenty of talent on the ice in this matchup. However, I like the Golden Knights a lot. Vegas will have a big advantage in net with Fleury over Dubnyk; they have the defense to go toe-to-toe with Colorado’s offensive attack, one that is still without one of their most important players in Rantanen.
Throw in a current nine-game winning streak and a remarkable 18-4-2 record at home, and I’m picking Vegas to pad their lead in the West.
Pick: Golden Knights -138