There have been rumors around the NHL that Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar could be fired if his team loses its West Division final series against the Vegas Golden Knights – even though Bednar led the Avs to the Presidents' Trophy in the regular season – especially if the Avalanche lose the final four games after leading 2-0. Colorado's season is on the line in Game 6 at Vegas on Thursday night, and the Avs, who are +115 underdogs on the William Hill Sportsbook NHL odds, may not have Bednar available.
The coach was not at the team's morning skate at T-Mobile Arena because of an "irregularity in his COVID test results." Certainly, that could be cleared up by the 9 p.m. ET puck drop, but the NHL also isn't going to mess around and potentially have an outbreak wreck the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It's not clear who would coach if Bednar can't. Assistants Ray Bennett and Nolan Pratt do not have head coaching experience in the AHL or NHL. Oddsmakers would not shift the moneyline if Bednar is out.
As noted, Colorado won the first two games of the series at home and superstar Nathan MacKinnon had a total of four points in those games. In the three-game skid, tying the Avs' longest of the season, he has zero points, is minus-3 and has nine total shots on goal. In the Game 1 blowout victory, MacKinnon had eight shots alone on the way to three points (two goals, assist). Vegas has done a spectacular job shutting down MacKinnon – named a Hart Trophy finalist on Thursday -- and his top linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
Rantanen does have seven points in seven career potential elimination games. He is given an Over/Under of 0.5 points for Game 6, with the Over a -190 favorite. MacKinnon is set at O/U 0.5 points as well with the Over at -210. He is the +125 favorite of all players for an anytime goal and a +650 favorite for the game's first goal.
The Avalanche are 23-23 all-time in elimination games, while Vegas is 6-8 in potential series-clinching games. The Golden Knights are 1-3 in Game 6 of best-of-7 series all-time and the Avs 14-17.
The edge in goal Thursday would seem to clearly rest with former Cup winner and future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury of Vegas over Colorado's Philipp Grubauer, who hasn't been a true No. 1 that long in his career.
Fleury didn't start the Game 1 blowout loss (Robin Lehner did) and hasn't allowed more than three goals in his four starts since, going 3-1. He has 15 career series-clinching victories. That's first among all active netminders and eighth all-time. Fleury has also closed out a series with a shutout on four occasions. That's third all-time.
That both teams score Thursday is -1900; that only Vegas does is +900. That neither do in regulation is a +3500 long shot. That we have our third overtime game of the series is +300 with no -400.
Vegas can become just the third team in NHL history to reach the final four in three of the franchise's first four NHL seasons. The winner of this series will be a solid favorite in the final four against Montreal. This writer is backing the Knights on Thursday before a raucous sellout crowd. Game 7 would be in Denver on Saturday.
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