Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#5 Colorado Avalanche 6 vs.
#6 San Jose Sharks -125
Friday, April 26, 2019 at 10:08pm EDT
SAP Center at San Jose, San Jose
Written by Chris Altruda

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Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks

When and Where: Friday, April 26, SAP Center, San Jose, Calif., 10:08 p.m. EDT.

Game 1

After a dramatic Game 7 comeback among the best in NHL playoff history that completed a reversal from down 3-1 in the first round, the San Jose Sharks hope they have sufficiently recharged ahead of their Western Conference semifinal opener versus the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

Avs in second round for first time in 11 years

The Avalanche will have had a week off since their 5-1 Game 5 victory at Calgary that eliminated the top-seeded Flames by the time the puck drops in San Jose on Friday night. This is the first time Colorado is in the conference semifinals since 2008 when Joel Quenneville was behind the bench.

The Avalanche have not won a second-round game since Game 5 of their 2004 series versus San Jose, which they lost in six games. They were swept by Anaheim in 2006 and Detroit in 2008.

The week off, though, hopefully helped Colorado figure out a game plan on slowing down San Jose, which totaled 14 goals — 11 at even strength — in sweeping the three games between the teams in the regular season.

“They are a real good team, 100-point team,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the Sharks at his Thursday press conference. “Big, strong, fast, lots of shooters, mobile D-corps, they are getting the goaltending now, they are a tough team, no question. They have given us trouble all year.

“Playoffs is a different scenario, right? You start over from scratch, and its best of seven. There are adjustments to be made in the middle of the series. Our goal will be to go in there and have a real good start and pick up where we left off against Calgary.”

A very large X-factor will be the play of goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was chased in the second period of Colorado’s 5-4 home loss to San Jose on Jan. 2 after getting beat four times on 14 shots.

That was his only appearance versus the Sharks this season, but Grubauer looked just fine in the first round — he posted a 1.90 goals-against average and .939 save percentage against the Flames as he allowed just six even-strength goals.

Offensively, the Avs’ “Big 3” of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog delivered on the high expectations set for the trio, accounting for nine of Colorado’s 17 first-round goals. Rantanen finished with team highs of five goals and nine points and carries a four-game multipoint streak into this contest after his second straight two-goal game in the series clincher.

The trio were limited to three goals in the three losses to the Sharks, with fourth-line center Tyson Jost proving the most effective by matching that output himself.

First-pairing defenseman Samuel Girard and veteran forward Derick Brassard could be available for the series opener, though Bednar has yet to commit publicly to their availability. The 20-year-old Girard missed the final three games of the first round with an upper-body injury, but rookie Cale Makar — making his NHL debut — proved a more than adequate replacement with a plus-4 rating while chipping in a goal and an assist in Games 3 through 5.

Brassard missed the final three games of the Calgary series with an illness and failed to register a point in Games 1 and 2.

Sharks likely without Pavelski for series opener

While Colorado handled Calgary with relative ease, San Jose endured a nasty seven-game war of attrition with defending conference champion and Pacific Division rival Vegas.

The controversial five-minute power play awarded San Jose after Cody Eakin’s cross-check to the chest of Joe Pavelski contributed to the Sharks veteran awkwardly landing on his head completely turned the game — and the series — in San Jose’s favor. The Sharks became just the second team to score four goals on a single power play in NHL playoff history to erase a 3-0 deficit before eventually winning 5-4 in overtime on Barclay Goodrow’s goal.

The debate continues to rage over whether it should have been a major penalty — especially after the league apologized to Vegas on Thursday — but the Sharks are simply moving on to Game 1 after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit, with coach Pete DeBoer all but ruling out Pavelski for this contest while not definitively saying the 38-goal scorer had a concussion.

“It could have been worse It could have been something like a fractured skull or something like that, so thankfully it wasn’t. He’s definitely feeling the effects of it,” said DeBoer, whose vagueness about Pavelski on Thursday included saying, “I said he was feeling the effects. You can put 2-and-2 together on that.”

The Sharks, though, do have the offensive depth to compensate for Pavelski’s absence in the short term. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl each scored six goals in the first round, tying Las Vegas’ Mark Stone for the postseason lead, and Kevin Labanc scored four of his five points in the series on that third-period power play Wednesday night.

San Jose, though, will need more from Timo Meier, veteran Joe Thornton, trade deadline acquisition Gustav Nyquist, and Evander Kane as the quartet accounted for only three goals in the seven games. Though he was a minus-3 for the series, defenseman Erik Karlsson had nine assists, including three with the man advantage.

Pavelski’s absence will be felt as he had a pair of power-play goals and four assists in the three wins over Colorado. Defenseman Brent Burns had two goals and five assists in those games, while Kane and Marcus Sorensen had two goals apiece.

Overlooked in the stunning nature of the Game 7 win was DeBoer’s decision to stick with embattled goaltender Martin Jones after pulling him in the Games 2 and 4 losses. Jones finished with 34 saves Wednesday night after making a career-high and playoff franchise-record 58 stops in the double-overtime Game 6 victory.

He won all three games versus Colorado this season, turning aside 81 of 90 shots, and is 10-3-1 with a 2.85 GAA lifetime against the Avalanche.

“Jonesy coming up big time,” Hertl told NHL.com after Game 7. “He helped us win the last three games and he was unbelievable again tonight. I’m so happy for him … He stepped it up and helped us win the next three games.”

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

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Based on how the teams flipped their quality of play in the first round, most notably in 5-on-5 situations, this is a difficult pick in a series that likely will go the distance.

For as well as San Jose played at even strength against Colorado in the regular season, the Sharks played that poorly versus the Golden Knights 5-on-5. That takes on added weight without Pavelski for how ever many games he is forced to sit while he recovers from his injuries.

The Avalanche completely turned the tables 5-on-5 against Calgary in the first round, outscoring them 12-4 in the final four games, but the caveat is the Flames did not have two Norris Trophy winners on their blue line like the Sharks do. And Burns was a plus-7 in the three wins over Colorado in addition to his seven-point haul.

The team that stays out of the penalty box is going to have a decided advantage in this series. San Jose doubled its power-play goal total for the series with that Game 7 major, but converting 16 percent (4 for 25) of its chances prior to the decisive game is respectable.

Colorado figured Calgary out while on the man advantage in the final three games, going 5 for 17, but the Avalanche also had to kill off 22 penalties in a five-game series. Given the Sharks that many chances with Burns and Karlsson running the point is a recipe for disaster.

Though this may be the best chance for Colorado to steal home-ice advantage in this series, the Sharks have been the better team head-to-head this series and will have just enough adrenaline to carry them over the line.

Prediction: Sharks -135

Full-Game Total Pick

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The over has been an impressive 8-0-1 in San Jose in the last nine meetings between the teams, and the teams scored seven or more goals in all three matchups in 2018-19. Both teams’ power-play units are prolific enough to believe there will be multiple goals with the man advantage and nervous Game 1 mistakes that will lead to another contest with at least seven goals.

Prediction: OVER 6 goals (-125)

Full-Game Prop Bet

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Picking the Sharks to win and taking the over means taking the Sharks to clear three goals in this contest. The return is not all that great at -150, but there is more confidence in San Jose getting over this total than there is DeBoer’s team holding the Avalanche under three goals.

In terms of individual prop plays, the following are all solid plays on the over for 0.5 points: Rantanen (-180), Karlsson (-165) and Meier (-130), with the last needing to step up with Pavelski’s absence.

Prediction: Sharks OVER 3 goals (-150)

Half-Time Side Pick

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This is a confidence pick in the Sharks delivering because they have a deeper offense than the Flames did, even without Pavelski. It is a testament to Colorado’s scouting and coaching in holding Calgary to one first-period goal, and that came in Game 5. In the final four regular-season games, though, the Avs were outscored 9-1 in the opening 20 minutes.

San Jose also had a 5-2 cumulative advantage in the first period of the three matchups with Colorado.

Prediction: Sharks -0.5 goals (+165)

Half-Time Total Bet

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A pick on the Sharks being able to score along with the realization their defense is still a huge question mark despite their two Norris Trophy winners. San Jose gave up nine goals in the first period to the Golden Knights, and while Calgary only scored first-period goals in two of the five games, the Flames scored two and three goals when they did.

Prediction: OVER 1.5 goals (-150)

Half-Time Prop Prediction

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This hit in two of Colorado’s five games with Calgary and four of San Jose’s seven versus Vegas. The latter nearly had a fifth with a goal coming at the 10:10 mark. In the three head-to-head matchups, there was a goal in the first 4:30 of each contest.

Prediction: YES to goal in first 10 minutes (-160)

Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is a freelance sportswriter based in Chicago. He has worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Can be followed on Twitter at @AlTruda73.