Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

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The New York Rangers continued their Stanley Cup bid by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 last night, 6-2. They will host the two-time reigning champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night. Tonight, the Western Conference Finals begin with the Edmonton Oilers traveling to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Tune in at 8:00 PM EST. on TNT for the official puck drop. With so many superstars suiting up for this critical series including Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Darren Helm, Nazem Kadri, Evander Kane, Leon Draisitl, and of course, Connor McDavid, many pundits are expecting an explosive series with several high-scoring games.

After losing Game 1 in Calgary, the Oilers won the battle of Alberta by defeating the Flames in four straight games to reach the Conference Finals for the first time in 16 years. On the opposite side of the puck, the Avalanche took a commanding three-game lead before dropping two straight to the St. Louis Blues. Still, Colorado notched three road victories in their second-round series and punched their first ticket to the Western Conference Finals since they were eliminated by Sergei Federov and the Detroit Red Wings back in 2002. So which team will get out to a quick start and win Game 1 of this epic series?

Oilers at Avalanche Game 1 Odds, Lines, and Predictions

According to Bet MGM Sportsbook, here are the Game 1 odds and lines:

  • Moneyline: Oilers +150, Avalanche -165
  • Against The Spread (ATS): Oilers +1.5 (-160), Avalanche -1.5 (+135)
  • Over / Under: 7 (Over: +105, Under: -130)

Oilers-Avalanche Goalie Advantage

Mike Smith performed admirably against the Calgary Flames. He is coming off four consecutive victories and has an 8-3 record this postseason with two shutouts. He’s allowing just 2.7 GAA and has a spectacular .927 SV% in the playoffs.

Although Darcy Kuemper is 6-2, allowing 2.44 GAA, and has produced a .904 SV%, the Colorado goaltender has looked pedestrian at best. That said, he has allowed three or fewer goals in eight of his last nine postseason starts and stopped 18 of the 20 shots he faced in Colorado’s series-clinching victory over the Blues in Game 6.

The Rangers-Lightning series will feature arguably the two best goalies in the league but neither goaltender in the Western Conference Finals gives their team a significant edge. I would call this a wash. If a gun were pointed at my head, I would say Kuemper is slightly more skilled but he needs to show it on the biggest stage.

Oilers-Avalanche Game 1 Picks:

Using the Same-Game Parlay feature on the sportsbook of your choice, I suggest parlaying the moneyline and the Over/Under in Game 1. The Avs are the clear-cut favorite tonight, especially on their home ice. In fact, the Avs have the shortest odds of the four remaining teams to win the Stanley Cup (+120), followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning (+230). Fortunately for the Avs, the home team has won five of the past six meetings between these two franchises. Moreover, the favorite won each of those contests which bodes well for the Avalanche. Colorado has won 55 of their last 68 games at home and is 30-12 in their last 42 postseason matchups as the favorite. Although the Oilers proved against the Flames that they are not afraid to go into an opponent’s building and silence the crowd, Colorado is a much bigger beast than Calgary. They are practically unstoppable when playing to their capacity and have one of the best defensive units in the league. The Oilers have to prove that they can win in Denver. Until then, I’m backing the top-seeded Avalanche.

In terms of the Over / Under, seven goals is a lot, even for teams as offensively skilled as the Oilers and Avalanche. Colorado won Game 1 of their previous series, 3-2 in overtime. The two teams were still feeling each other out and it was a pretty tight game. However, the Oilers allowed nine goals in Game 1 against Calgary and lost, 9-6 in the highest-scoring game of these NHL Playoffs. Although the Oilers like to play loose, I expect these teams to start slower as they attempt to get comfortable in what should be a fantastic series. Colorado has also been resting for a while so although they will have fresh legs, it may take a period or two before they truly find their groove.

For all the reasons stated above, I’m going with Colorado Avalanche ML + Under 7 goals.

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Stanley Cup Final Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning v. Dallas Stars

Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

The 2020 Stanley Cup Final is underway, with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars knotted at 1-1 after two games.

The Stars took Game 1, 4-1 on Saturday, while Tampa Bay responded with three goals in the first period of Game 2. The Lightning were able to hold off a third period charge from the Stars to tie up the series.

Dallas appearing in the Stanley Cup Final is a bit of a surprise, considering how their season began. Head coach Jim Montgomery was relieved of his duties on December 10 after Montgomery was forced to address substance abuse issues. Assistant Rick Bowness became the oldest active head coach in the NHL when he was tasked with taking over for Montgomery. Bowness is quite familiar with his opposite number, as he was an assistant on Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper's staff from 2013 to 2018.

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Tampa Bay center Brayden Point

Chris O'Meara - Associated Press

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Dallas Stars v. Las Vegas Golden Knights

Over in the Western Conference, top-seeded Las Vegas has already found themselves in a one-game hole against the Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights have only been in the NHL for three seasons, but this is already their second trip to the Western Conference Finals, with their first trip coming in their expansion season where they downed Winnipeg 4-1 in 2018.

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