The Colorado Avalanche were the Stanley Cup favorites entering the 2021 playoffs but were knocked off in the second round by the Vegas Golden Knights. The Avs open their Western Conference first-round series against the visiting Nashville Predators on Tuesday also as Cup favorites and will catch a pretty nice break in not having to face top Preds netminder Juuse Saros. You don't usually see favorites of at least -300 in a playoff game, but Colorado is -320 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Saros, who was 38-25-3 this season with a 2.64 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and four shutouts, is out through at least Game 2 because of a leg injury suffered on April 27 against Calgary. As of this writing, Coach John Hynes hasn't said who will start tonight between David Rittich or Connor Ingram, although it would be a huge shock if it's not Rittich as he has been the No. 2 all season. He was 6-3-4 with a 3.57 GAA and .886 SV. Not great numbers. Ingram was 1-2-0 with a 3.71 GAA and .879 SV. Obviously worse. Neither has ever started a playoff game, although Rittich has one appearance with the Flames in 2019-20.
Even though Colorado finished with the most points in the Western Conference, it was 1-3 vs. the Predators this season. The clubs just played April 28 in Denver and Nashville won 5-4 in a shootout. Rittich was in net. No question that Darcy Kuemper (37-12-4, 2.54 GAA, .921 SV) starts in net tonight for the Avs, and he was 0-0-2 vs. Nashville with a 4.23 GAA and .870 SV.
The Avalanche will get a big boost with the expected return of forward Gabriel Landeskog for the first time since March 14 after undergoing knee surgery. He had 30 goals and 29 assists this season. Fellow forward Nazem Kadri (28 goals, 59 assists) is in question with a non-COVID illness.
Colorado is +330 to win its first Cup since 2001 – it hasn't been back since then. On the series line, the Avalanche are -650 and Predators +475.
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