Free Picks: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, 2021 Stanley Cup Round 2

Curtis Rush
NHL Free Picks – Best Bets of the Week
Avalanche vs Golden Knights Playoffs Round 2
Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, 2021 Stanley Cup Round 2, Golden Knights wins series 4-2

The Golden Knights completed a remarkable comeback against Colorado Thursday night in Las Vegas with a 6-3 victory to eliminate the Avalanche in six games in the second-round series. Vegas, which fell behind in the series 2-0, won the last four games. They advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens. The Tampa Ba Lightning meet the New York Islanders in the other semifinal.

Series Results: Golden Knights wins series 4-2

The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights were the top two teams in the West Division during the regular season, finishing with 82 points each. It was that close. But at the start of their second-round series, it appeared that Colorado was going to overpower Vegas. The Avalanche kicked off the series with a 7-1 victory and won again 3-2 in overtime in Game 2. But Vegas has been resilient. They won the final four games, capped off by Thursday night’s 6-3 victory. The Vegas-Canadiens matchup in the semifinals features Vegas forward Max Pacioretty facing the team he once played for as captain. That series begins Monday in Vegas.

Game 1

May 30, 08:30 p.m., Ball Arena

The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a 6-2 victory in Game 7 against the Minnesota Wild. The winning goal came off the stick of Max Pacioretty, who made his 2021 playoff debut after sitting out with an undisclosed injury.

Forward Mattias Janmark scored three goals for Vegas for the second playoff hat trick in franchise history. Acquired from Chicago (via San Jose) on April 12, Janmark entered the game with only one goal in a Vegas uniform (21 games).

The Avalanche have been idle for a week after having eliminated the St. Louis Blues in four straight games. The Avalanche had the best record in the league during the regular season and were the No. 1 seed in the West Division. Vegas is the No. 2 seed.

Colorado boasts perhaps the best player in the league in forward Nathan MacKinnon, who leads the Avs with nine points (six goals, three assists) this postseason. Vegas will have to stop the No. 1 line of Colorado, which includes MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog (eight points) and Mikko Rantanen (seven points).

I don’t see an advantage for either team in goal. Vegas has Marc-Andre Fleury (.935 save percentage), while Colorado counters with Philipp Grubauer (.936 save percentage).

Colorado will be without Nazem Kadri, who has served two games of his eight-game suspension. He is appealing the length of the suspension.

The Avalanche were 4-3-1 against the Golden Knights in the regular season. MacKinnon had two goals and four assists going head-to-head against the Avs.

Colorado has speed and skill, and I think Vegas will have a tough time knocking off the Avalanche. Pacioretty’s return is the best news for Vegas because he was the club’s top point producer against Colorado in the regular season (eight points).

For my BetPicks, I compare the main markets to seek out the best value. When I’m making my Free Picks, I tend to look at the Puck Line first and see who’s favored on the NHL game odds. Sometimes I will weigh in with a predicted score. In this case, I see Colorado winning 3-2.

PUCK LINE: Colorado (-1.5) is favored on the Puck Line (+141, 10Bet) and, considering their firepower, I think that’s a good bet to take if you think the implied odds (41%) of Colorado winning by at least two goals are too low. The implied odds (-180, 10Bet) of Vegas covering the Puck Line are 64%, so if safety is the way you want to go, this is the best bet for today.

MONEY LINE: I’m taking Colorado on the Money Line (-180, 10Bet) for safety because I think there’s little chance the Avs will lose the opener at home. The only caution I have is that Colorado might have some rust because of their layoff, giving Vegas an opportunity to surprise them in Game 1. If you believe that is likely, a bet for Vegas on the Money Line (+145, 10Bet) will give you the biggest payout (bet $100 to win $145) but also the biggest risk.

TOTAL: During the regular season, the Under (5.5) cashed six times in eight games,, so I’m going with the Under (-113, 10Bet), although this market is a coin flip with the Over (-112, 10Bet).



Game 2 (Avalanche leads series 1-0)

June 2, 10:00 p.m., Ball Arena

The Avalanche were on cruise control through much of Game 1 against Vegas. Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each had two goals and an assist. They came flying out of the gate and put relentless pressure on the Golden Knights and goalie Robin Lehner.

Vegas had only one day of rest, and they looked tired. I think you can expect a stronger performance from Vegas on Wednesday, especially in goal.

While Philipp Grubauer (.960 save percentage) made 24 saves for Colorado, Robin Lehner (.811 save percentage) struggled in goal for Vegas, allowing seven goals on 37 shots. This was Lehner’s first appearance after being Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup for all seven games against Minnesota in the first round.

Golden Knights forward Mattias Janmark left the game at 8:26 of the second period after a hit by Ryan Graves, who was assessed an interference penalty.

When I’m making my BetPicks, I look at what trends stand out for me, and this one does: Colorado is 19-0-1 in its last 20 games at home, including three wins in the playoffs.

For my Free Picks and predictions, I examine all the main markets: Money Line, Puck Line, and Total goals.

Since the Stanley Cup odds favor the Colorado Avalanche, I’m backing Colorado in this series until I see evidence of a turnaround by Vegas. The safest bet is taking Colorado on the Money Line (-195, 10Bet), although this is expensive (bet $195 to win $100). The riskiest bet is taking Vegas Straight Up (+155, 10Bet).

The best value is taking Colorado (-1.5) on the Puck Line (+127, 10Bet) to win by at least two goals, and the way Colorado is playing, I like this bet for its balance of risk and reward. A safer bet on the Puck Line is taking Vegas (+1.5) to win or to keep the  loss within a goal (-162, 10Bet).

On Total goals, I like the Over (5.5) with 10Bet (-118) because of Colorado’s firepower. A riskier bet is taking the Under (-107, 10Bet).



Game 3 (Avalanche leads series 2-0)

June 4, 10:00 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer helped the Avalanche improve to 6-0 to start the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had a spectacular .951 save percentage, and it’s hard to see him having a bad game.

Only two teams in the past 30 years have posted a longer win streak to start a playoff year, and that’s the 1994 New York Rangers and the 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins, who started off with seven straight wins.

Grubauer helped the Avalanche steal Game 2, edging out fellow Vezina Trophy finalist Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end. Fleury had a very mediocre .880 save percentage.

Colorado has now outscored Vegas 10-3 in their first two games. But Vegas showed signs it is closing the gap on Colorado. And Vegas will be home for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday in front of their rabid fans. Vegas lost only five regular-season games at home, but two of those losses came against the Avalanche.

Vegas is a little undermanned as the series goes on. Robin Lehner, who played goal in Game 1, was not available for Game 2. Logan Thompson served as the understudy.

Vegas is also without forward Ryan Reaves, who was suspended for two games for a roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct infraction in Game 1. He will be eligible to return for Game 4. Forwards Mattias Janmark and Tomas Nosek are also injured.

Teams that take a 2-0 lead are 334-51 (.867) winning a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoff series, including 4-0 in the first round this season.

For my BetPicks, I am looking at the three main markets: Puck Line, Money Line and Total goals. When I’m making my NHL predictions, I sometimes try to project a score. I think Colorado wins 5-3.

Money Line: The NHL odds favor Colorado (-120, 10Bet) and I think that’s the best value bet on the board. Colorado is 10-0 SU in their last 10 games. But I don’t see Vegas going down four straight, so Vegas has a good chance to win one of the next two games. Taking Vegas (-105, 10Bet) would not be a bad bet. But be careful. Vegas is 1-4 SU in their last five games.

Puck Line: The riskiest bet is taking Colorado (-1.5) with the Puck Line (+201, 10Bet), but since my prediction model has Colorado winning 5-3, this is not a bad bet. But go lightly here because the implied odds are only at 33%. Colorado is 3-1 ATS on the road in their last 10 games. Taking Vegas (+1.5) on the Puck Line (-265, 10Bet) is the safest bet on the board. But Vegas is only 2-2 ATS at home in their last 10 games.

Total goals: It’s a coin flip with the Over (5.5) providing a little less of a payout (-117) than the Under (-108). I am taking the Over because Colorado’s offense is so strong and I think Vegas could pour it on as well. The total has gone Over in four of Colorado’s last five games.


Game 4 (Avalanche leads series 2-1)

June 6, 08:30 p.m, T-Mobile Arena

I’m a big believer in momentum in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and the momentum has definitely shifted to the Vegas Golden Knights in their best-of-seven, second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty scored goals 45 seconds apart late in the third period to turn the tables on Colorado, who fell 3-2. But the Avalanche still have a 2-1 series lead going in Sunday’s pivotal Game 4. The winning goal came at 15:27 of the third period.

The Avalanche were less than six minutes away from victory and taking a 3-0 series lead, which would have been a steep hill to climb for Vegas. Now Vegas is making this a series, which I thought was improbable after they lost the opener 7-1.

But Vegas has been the better team the last two games. Vegas outshot Colorado 14-3 in the first period and 43-20 in the game on Friday and 41-25 in Game 2, including 31-12 in the second and third periods in Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win.

This was Colorado’s first loss of the postseason, and it will be interesting to see how they respond on Sunday. It’s a hard-hitting series. Each team registered 50 hits in Game 3.

Pacioretty, who recently returned from an undisclosed injury, had a monster game. He scored the winning goal and had eight shots on net. He was the most dangerous player all night. He and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (.900 save percentage) were at the top of their games. Vegas was inspired by a raucous crowd of 17,504.

Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer (.930 save percentage) was not the reason the Avs lost. You could say two goals were lucky. Marchessault bounced the puck off the back of his pads from behind the net on his goal, and Pacioretty tipped a shot by Grubauer for the winner.

Did Vegas get lucky? Yes. The puck bounced the right way for them. It could bounce Colorado’s way in Game 4, but I like Vegas’ chances to tie the series on Sunday in Game 4 because of their renewed sense of confidence, which feeds into their play on the ice.

When I’m making my BetPicks, I sometimes try to predict a score, and in Game 4, I see Vegas winning 4-3.

For my Free Picks and predictions, I look where I can find the best value. The best value to me is taking Vegas with the Money Line (-105) with 10Bet. The implied odds give them a 51% chance of winning, and I think the actual odds are better than that. Colorado (-115) has implied odds of 53% with 10Bet.

The NHL game odds have Vegas (-1.5) as the favorite on the Puck Line (+253) with 10Bet. That’s a nice payout (bet $100 to win $253), but it’s a low-percentage play to bet that Vegas wil win by at least two goals.

And I don’t like Colorado (+1.5) on the Puck Line (-344) with 10Bet because it will cost you more than three times your potential payout (bet $344 to win $100) and that’s not a good long-term strategy.

I like the Over (5.5) in Game 4 (+104, 10Bet) because I think both offenses will continue to open it up.  But the Under (-131) is a slightly safer bet according to the implied odds of 56% compared to 49% for the Over.


Game 5 (series tied 2-2)

June 8, 09:00 p.m., Ball Arena

Colorado has now lost two consecutive games after winning its first six games of the postseason.

The struggles continue in even-strength situations for the Avalanche top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

On the other hand, Vegas is trending higher. In the last three games, Vegas has been outshooting Colorado by almost a 2-1 margin. Since the first period of Game 2, Vegas has outshot Colorado 110-52.

Winger Jonathan Marchessault had a hat trick on Sunday and center William Karlsson assisted on all three goals. Karlsson and Marchessault both had goals in Game 3.

Outside of winger Brandon Saad, the Avalanche have received very little spark offensively from lines 2-4. The Avs are getting nothing from wingers Andre Burakovsky (no goals in playoffs) and Joonas Donskoi (two goals).

The Avs are showing no grit. No puck possession to create power plays. No second-period scoring chances. In the past three games, Vegas looks like it has all the answers.

Unless Colorado makes some adjustments, I can’t see Vegas losing Game 5, even if it is being played in Colorado’s home barn.

Can the Avs slow down Max Pacioretty? The Vegas forward has a five-game point streak (three goals, two assists) since returning from an undisclosed injury for Game 7 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild.

For my BetPicks, I look at the Money Line, Puck Line and Total goals. And when I’m making my NHL picks, I sometimes try to make a prediction on the score. I see Vegas winning 3-2 in Game 5.

The NHL odds have Colorado favored on the Puck Line (-1.5) with 10Bet(+159), and that’s the biggest risk on the main markets. A safer bet is taking Vegas (+1.5) Against The Spread (-204). I can see Colorado winning at home, but I can’t see Vegas losing by more than a goal.

The best value for me is the Money Line. Vegas (+125, 10Bet) is given only a 44% chance of winning with these implied odds. I think they have a 55% chance of winning Straight Up, so that’s a good bet to take (bet $100 to win $125).

I don’t like Colorado as much Straight Up (-155) but it’s a safer bet with 10Bet and that’s the bet to take if you think that it is very unlikely that Colorado loses three games in a row.

The Total goals (5.5) is almost a coin flip. The Over (-105) has a slightly bigger payout than the Under (-120). The Over has cashed twice in this series. But since the Over cashed on Sunday, I’m thinking Game 5 is tighter as Colorado brings a new sense of urgency to win back control of the series.


Game 6 (Golden Knights leads series 3-2)

June 10, 09:00 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

Series-clinching games are usually the toughest to win, so expect Colorado to bring urgency and intensity to Game 6 on Thursday in Vegas. The Golden Knights will have to match that intensity or we will be going back to Colorado for Game 7.

Game 5 didn’t start out great for Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury whiffed on a long shot at 19:58 of the first period to put Vegas in a 1-0 hole, and Vegas looked fatigued at times with the altitude in Mile High City in Denver. Instead, Colorado looked strong and took a 2-0 lead.

But Vegas found their legs in the latter part of the game, and Fleury settled down in the Vegas goal. In the third period, Vegas responded. Alex Tuch scored at 1:03 and Jonathan Marchessault scored his sixth of the series at 4:07 to force overtime, leading to Mark Stone’s heroics on a breakaway.

Vegas has now won three in a row after losing their first two in Colorado. Vegas is going to be supported by another wildly enthusiastic crowd at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.

I expect them to close out the series in six games because they’ve shown such resilience, climbing back from a 2-0 deficit in this series.

Teams that win Game 5 in a series that was tied 2-2 are 215-58 (.788) winning a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoff Series.

When I make my BetPicks, I look at the main markets, including Puck Line, Money Line and the Over/Under. For my Free Picks, I like to predict a score, and I project a 3-2 win for Vegas.

The NHL odds favor Vegas (-1.5) on the Puck Line (+183) with 10Bet, but that is the riskiest bet on the board. Go lightly if you think Vegas can cover. Colorado (+1.5) is a safer bet Against the Spread (-238) with 10Bet, but it’s expensive at more than twice your potential payout (bet $238 to win $100).

I like Vegas on the Money Line (-140, 10Bet), so I’m betting them Straight Up. But If you think that Colorado is too good to lose three games in a row and they push this to Game 7, then a Straight Up bet for the Avalanche (+115, 10Bet) will give you a nice payout (bet $100 to win $115).

On the Over/Under, I’m taking the Under (5.5) with 10Bet (-127) because three of the five games in this series have cashed the Under, including two of the last three games.

But take the Over (+100) with 10Betif you think some of the big names for Colorado are about to break out. For instance, Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t scored in four games, and he might be due. But I don’t like the risk.


I live in the land of ice and snow in Toronto, Canada's largest city. I can't skate very well, but I know sports, especially hockey, after a long career writing about the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams at the country's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star. Betting on sports can be a rewarding experience when you understand the trends and underlying characteristics of the teams and players before laying down a bet. That's how I hope to point you in the right direction.