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Morning Coffee: Avalanche primed for another run to the Stanley Cup Finals

Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon - The Canadian Press

I promised the return of the FanDuel Best Bets in Morning Coffee this month.

Promise made, promise kept.

All of you who tailed on Friday didn’t even break a sweat.

The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars outscored their opponents a combined 10-3 in a pair of victories for an easy money line parlay winner at FanDuel.

One quick note – I really appreciate the support.

It was a great feeling to go a perfect 4-0 on the Friday NHL slate and celebrate with everybody in the community that decided to ride with me.

It’s the best part of the job.

Also of note, if you read Friday’s column, you might recall that I pointed out one potential approach that bettors in Ontario could take to wagering on the Central Division futures heading into the weekend.

Well, I hope you considered it.

As it turns out, the window of opportunity was limited.

This is the Morning Coffee for Monday, March 25th, 2024.

Avalanche Primed For Another Run To The Stanley Cup Finals

In addition to the FanDuel Best Bet, I highlighted one additional NHL futures play to consider in Friday’s column.

At the time, the Avalanche, Stars, and the Winnipeg Jets were all tied for first place in the Central Division with 93 points.

Also at that time, only five NHL teams had a more difficult remaining schedule than the Jets, based on combined points percentage.

On the flip side, only five NHL teams had an easier remaining schedule than Dallas.

Colorado, which I consider the best of the three teams, had the 11th-most difficult remaining schedule.

The Avalanche were +130 to win the Central Division at FanDuel.

The Stars were +280 to win the Central.

The Jets were in the middle at +175.

As I highlighted on Friday, bettors in Ontario could wager one unit on Colorado and one unit on Dallas to win the Central Division.

As long as Winnipeg didn’t win it, those bettors would be guaranteed at least a small profit, regardless of whether the Avalanche or Stars went on to take first place.

Fast-forward three days later, those division winner odds have changed quite a bit in a short period.

Colorado remains the favourite but went from +130 to now -140 to win the Central Division at FanDuel.

Dallas is now the second choice to win the division, with their odds shortening from +280 to +150.

The Jets are now the third choice after their odds ballooned from +175 to +950.

On the heels of three straight losses, Winnipeg is now four points back of the Avalanche and the Stars in the division.

As of this morning, only the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have a more difficult remaining strength of schedule than the Jets.

In fact, Winnipeg’s outlook has changed so dramatically that anybody that took my advice on Friday and still wants to hedge can sprinkle on the Jets to win the Central Division at nearly 10-to-1 odds. 

Colorado, which has won nine straight and is now tied with Dallas at 97 points but with a game in hand, now has the fifth-most difficult remaining schedule.

The Stars, which have won four in a row to keep pace with the Avalanche, have the ninth-easiest remaining strength of schedule. 

The best-case scenario for anybody who followed my recommendation would be for Dallas to win the division at +280.

Still, if Colorado wins the Central, anybody who tailed me will secure a small profit in the FanDuel futures market.

Turning the page to another futures bet I like; I’m going to recommend a play on the Avalanche to win the Western Conference at +340.

They aren’t a perfect team, but I believe they are the closest thing to it in a loaded Western Conference.

The Avalanche addressed some key areas of concern before the NHL trade deadline with the additions of Casey Mittelstadt, Sean Walker, Zach Parise, Brandon Duhaime and Yakov Trenin.

They haven’t lost a single game since.

Colorado is a perfect 7-0 with Mittelstadt in the lineup. 

The 25-year-old has registered a point in five of those seven games, filling an important role as the No. 2 centre, providing the secondary scoring punch the team has been looking for since Nazem Kadri left following a Stanley Cup win.

While the additions have provided important upgrades, the Avalanche could still have even more help on the way.

24-year-old KHL star Nikolai Kovalenko, who scored 32 goals and recorded 89 points in 98 regular-season games over the past two seasons overseas, is eligible to join Colorado after Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod was eliminated from the postseason. 

The Avalanche are already the favourite to win the Western Conference.

The addition of Kovalenko to a lineup that already features Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin, Jonathan Drouin and Mittelstadt would give Colorado the scoring power to match up with any lineup in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Avalanche haven’t ruled out the possible return of captain Gabriel Landskog, who hasn’t played since the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals.

At this point, I’m not counting on a return.

However, if Landeskog could find his way back into the lineup, it would only add to a deep forward group.

Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Samuel Girard, Josh Manson, Jack Johnson, and Walker make up a quality defence core.

If there’s a weakness on the roster, it’s likely in net, where Alexander Georgiev has been inconsistent this season.

Still, Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 2022 with Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz combining for a .903 save percentage.

The Avalanche have an opportunity to finish with the best record in the NHL and clinch home-ice advantage for the playoffs.

With the additions they made at the trade deadline, plus one or two more adds potentially on the way, I’m willing to bet on Colorado to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

Give me the Avalanche to win the Western Conference at +340 odds at FanDuel.