The Colorado Avalanche are +250 Stanley Cup favorites for a reason, and they can become the first club in these playoffs to advance to the conference semifinals by finishing off a sweep of the Predators in Nashville tonight. The Avs are -250 favorites at Caesars Sportsbook despite having to start backup Pavel Francouz in net.
Darcy Kuemper is the No. 1 Colorado netminder and held the Predators to a combined three goals in the first two games. Kuemper made nine saves on 10 shots in 19:53 minutes of Game 3 before leaving with an eye injury. Francouz took over and made 18 saves on 20 shots and got the victory in the 7-3 rout. Kuemper has some swelling around his eye, so he won't even serve as the No. 2 tonight as Justus Annunen will be behind Francouz, who was 15-5-1 with a 2.55 GAA and .916 SV in 21 regular-season games.
Frankly, it doesn't much matter who is in net for the Avalanche if the Predators keep taking penalties – Colorado had four power-play goals in Game 3. The team has 16 overall goals in this series, its most through the first three games of a playoffs in franchise history. Defenseman Cale Makar is second in the league with seven playoff points. He is averaging a point per game in his postseason career, which ranks as the fourth-highest among defensemen in NHL history (minimum of 15 games).
Makar was named a finalist for the Norris Trophy on Monday. Victor Hedman of the Lightning and Roman Josi of the Predators were also named as finalists.
Colorado swept the Blues out of the first round last year and is looking to become the first team since the Red Wings in 1999 & 2000 with an opening-round, best-of-seven sweep in consecutive years.
With No. 1 netminder Juuse Saros still injured, Nashville will stick with Connor Ingram in net. David Rittich started Game 1 and was eventually relieved by Ingram, who hasn't come out since and has stopped 114 of 124 shots (.919 save percentage) in the series. Defenseman Mark Borowiecki will not play tonight.
NHL teams are 21-1 this postseason when leading after two periods. The loser was the President's Trophy-winning Panthers in Game 1 of their series with the Capitals.
NHL free pick: The Preds have never been swept in a playoff series but the best value is them on the puckline at -120.
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