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Avalanche Can Retake Central Lead, But Blues Remain Odds-On Favorites to Win Division

Nathan MacKinnon getting ready for a faceoff
Nathan MacKinnon is hoping that a strong stretch run can lock up the Central Division for the Colorado Avalanche. Photo by 5of7 (Wiki Commons).
  • The St. Louis Blues remain odds-on favorites to win the 2020 Central Division title 
  • However, the Colorado Avalanche can take over the division lead if they win their next two games
  • Bryan Thiel analyzes which team offers better value for NHL futures bettors

For most of the year, the Colorado Avalanche, and their odds, have been looking up at the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.

The reigning champs have battled injuries and inconsistency, all while fending off a dynamic Colorado team. But could things be about to change?

The Avalanche haven’t slowed down, while the Blues seem to be stumbling of late. Is it enough to shift the division over to Colorado as the season enters the home stretch?

2019/20 Central Division Odds

Team Record Points Odds at Bovada
St. Louis Blues 32-15-9 73 -130
Colorado Avalanche 32-16-6 70 +150
Dallas Stars 31-19-5 67 +700
Winnipeg Jets 29-23-5 63 +5000
Nashville Predators 26-21-7 59 +5000
Minnesota Wild 26-23-6 58 +5000
Chicago Blackhawks 25-22-8 58 +20000

Odds and standings taken Feb 10th.

The race for the division has been narrowed down to three teams for quite some time, but even then the attention has been on two of them.

Since November 14, the Blues have been in control of the Central Division odds. They were neck-and-neck with the Avs on December 5, fell behind them on December 16, but since then have pulled back into the lead.

This is the closest they’ve been odds-wise since they flip-flopped in mid-December. And with a three-point difference in the standings, there’s a real chance Colorado can pull ahead.

Colorado Avalanche Don’t Hold Schedule Advantage

Despite the fact that the Avs (7-1-2) have been better than the Blues (3-5-2) over the last ten games, it’s tough to see any team having a real advantage down the stretch. That’s because their strength of schedule is nearly identical.

Strength of Schedule: Avalanche vs Blues

Avalanche
VS
Blues

28 Games Remaining 26
.525 Remaining Opponent Point % .543
16 Home Games Remaining 13
12 Road Games Remaining 13
7 Division Games Remaining 9
1 Head-to-Heads Remaining 1

The Avalanche have the easiest remaining schedule in the NHL, but the Blues have the second-easiest. What Colorado can count as an advantage is their two games in hand, and their 16 remaining home games compared to St. Louis’ 13.

The Blues (18 wins) are better than the Avs (14 wins) at home, but the Avs have had more success on the road than St. Louis with 18 wins to their nine.

Avalanche Need To Hope For Good Health

In terms of man games lost due to health, the teams are very close again. The Blues have lost 144, while the Avs have lost 135.

43 of Colorado’s games lost have come from Colin Wilson. The 20 from captain Gabe Landeskog and 16 from Mikko Rantanen sting, but seven of the team’s eight leading scorers have played in at least 49 of the team’s 54 games.

St. Louis, meanwhile, has been missing Vladimir Tarasenko for nearly all of the season. A player with at least 33 goals in each of the last five seasons, the Blues may finally be starting to feel his absence. Despite sitting 11th overall in goals for, they’ve managed just the 18th-most in the league since January 15.

It’s worth noting that the Blues were able to win the cup with the 15th-most goals for last year. And in terms of this year? Their top seven scorers include names like Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn.

It has nothing to do with the talent that’s there. Just the lack of a true game-breaker that, in all fairness, we thought would catch up to them a lot sooner.

Avalanche Look Like Best Bet in Race for Central

There’s a distinct possibility that this could come down to the last game of the season when these two face off. But the Avs hold a few more edges as well.

Having the better strength of schedule and a top five player in the game (Nathan MacKinnon) help, but we’re looking at the Trade Deadline. The Avs have significantly more cap space than the Blues, and an abundance of young assets.

Whatever shortcomings they feel they have, they can address them, and it should be enough to win them the Central.

Pick: Avalanche (+150)

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