Two of the most difficult goaltenders to score against are expected to go head-to-head Friday night as the Colorado Avalanche (12-7-1) host the Anaheim Ducks (6-12-5). Friday’s game will be the third meeting of the season between the two clubs; the Avalanche won 3-2 in overtime on January 22, while the Ducks won the rematch 3-1 two days later.
The Avalanche are overwhelming favorites at (-265) while Anaheim is (+220). Puck drop is at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.
Anaheim Ducks Preview
The Ducks are a particularly puzzling team this season. Their five overtime/shootout losses are the second-most in the league. They’ve played competitive hockey, but it’s not leading to much in the win column. Even worse, they’re winless in their last eight games (0-6-2).
Part of the reason Anaheim has stayed close in games this season is the spectacular play of John Gibson. Gibson is tied for second in high dangers shots against this season (120), just one behind Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko. Despite the constant pressure, Gibson is 5-10-4 this year with a 2.78 GAA and a .903 save percentage.
Anaheim struggles to score goals, and when looking at their shot totals, you might guess why. The Ducks average 27.3 shots per game, the third-fewest in the league this year. It’s surprising to see someone like David Backes, who has only played in nine games, with a higher season shot total (23) than youngsters Max Jones (20 shots in 13 games) and Sam Steel (19 shots in 22 games).
One of the most exciting rookies in this year’s class has finally made his NHL debut. Trevor Zegras is still settling in at the NHL level and has one assist through five games so far. I’m making the bold prediction he scores his first career goal tonight. Zegras does an excellent job of getting to open areas to be a pass for teammates, has a deadly release on his shot, and with a power play scoring just 10.9% of the time this season, Anaheim has to change something to spark production. Zegras could be the answer.
Colorado Avalanche Preview
While still a deadly team capable of pouring it on offensively, Colorado hasn’t rolled through the West Division the way many thought they would. Still, they’re third in the standings behind Vegas and St. Louis, and they’re tied with Minnesota.
Colorado’s goaltending has been key to their success this season. Philipp Grubauer (11-6-0, 2.07 GAA, .920 save percentage, three shutouts) has been one of the top goaltenders in the league this season and should start Friday night.
Injuries could be a big factor in this one. Nathan MacKinnon is recovering from a head injury. He’s expected to go Friday but could be held out another day as a precaution. Much will be decided during Friday’s morning skate. Cale Makar (upper body), Matt Calvert (upper body), and Bowen Byram (also upper body) are all on the injury report. Check in on the status for each of them before placing any bets.
The Pick Is In
The safe pick is the Avalanche, but I’m rolling with the Ducks to break out of their losing skid and provide some excellent betting payoff with the win.
Spooky Express Free Pick: Anaheim Ducks (+220).