The Flames are -240 favorites to win their Western Conference first round series vs. Colorado but Tampa Bay’s (-450) loss to Columbus on Wednesday reiterated that teams need to take things one game at a time. Calgary is still a huge -200 favorite in the April 11th NHL free pick, but there’s not bad value on a very hot Avalanche squad at +160.
Avalanche Should Be Confident Coming Into Game 1
Colorado doesn’t feel like a huge underdog even though they were the last team to qualify for the playoffs in the 2nd wild card spot in the West. This is because the Avalanche have a red hot goaltender and a top notch offense that looks to be getting stronger with the return of Mikko Rantanen. Paired with Nathan Mackinnon, who led the NHL in shots, the Avalanche had the top scoring line early in the season that also included Gabriel Landeskog. There’s not a lot of depth behind them, but Colorado has a potent threat to an iffy Calgary goaltending situation.
Depth and health may be a concern but goaltending is not for the April 11th NHL free pick. This is because Philipp Grubauer went 8-1-2 down the stretch to seal Colorado’s postseason berth. He has held 8 opponents to 2 goals or less over that span which will be a key against the Flames’ #2 scoring offense in the league.
Is Colorado Just a Great Matchup for Calgary?
The more you look into this series the more it looks like Calgary might actually be able to notch a sweep despite their “not ideal” goaltending situation. This is because Colorado largely lacks depth after their “big 3” but Calgary has a top notch defense that can stop aggravate Mackinnon and company led by future Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano. Not only that, Rantanen is just returning from the injured list. The Flames also have much better depth as six forwards had double digits in scoring outside of the front line. Speaking of that front line, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm can go blow for blow vs. Colorado’s top scorers. The Avs held a slight 61.33 to 59.77 goals for advantage and a 54.56 to 52.56 scoring percentage when comparing the two top lines. The Flames had more goals though (52-46).
Now on to Calgary’s one glaring weakness in the April 11th NHL free pick – their goaltending. It even necessarily a huge downfall, just that the Flames have largely platooned David Rittich and Mike Smith over the last month of the season which is hard to get a rhythym going between the pipes. Smith appears to get the first crack at the Avalanche after a red hot stretch of six games allowing 2 goals or less to start March. He also allowed 3+ in back-to-back starts to wind down the year so there’s a bit of a question mark there for Calgary.
April 11th NHL Free Pick Betting
First off there’s no value in Calgary -200 in this one especially as Colorado is 7-1-2 in their last 10. The Flames dropped 4 of 7 to wind down the year but in their defense had very little to play for with the top seed a virtual gimme. Do you trust the Flames PL (-1.5) for +130? Calgary did go 3-0 vs. Colorado this season, but two of them were one goal contests. What there is are some scorers on the ice tonight. Calgary should be able to get to Grubauer on their home ice, and nobody trusts Smith in net for the Flames until he proves himself.
NHL Free Pick: Colorado / Calgary *Over* 6