No two teams in the Western Conference have more points and a better winning percentage than the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche since the Golden Knights entered the NHL in 2017. It’s been a bit of a slow start for both teams, who meet for the first time during the 2021-22 campaign.
Vegas has given up nine more goals than it has scored while Colorado is minus-five in goal differential. From 2017-18 through 2020-21, the Avalanche and Golden Knights are both plus-144 in the goal-scoring department. Tampa Bay and Boston are the only teams with better numbers during that span.
Tuesday’s game is at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
For those who want to bet sports online, it should be noted that the teams are a combined 1-9 against the spread this season.
Vegas Golden Knights at Colorado Avalanche
Golden Knights Sagging on Power Play
Quick, raise your hand if you had Vegas as the only NHL team without a power-play goal. The Golden Knights didn’t put up gaudy numbers on the power play last season as Vegas converted on less than 18 percent of its man-up opportunities. However, going 0 for 11 through the first five games is certainly troubling.
It hasn’t helped that Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, who combined for two goals and four assists in a season-opening win over Seattle, have each missed the last three games. Their absence certainly has contributed to a four-game losing streak. They are both on long-term injured reserve so Vegas will need to figure things out without two of its best offensive players and only two 20-goal scorers from a season ago.
William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault are being asked to provide some offensive punch in the absence of Stone and Pacioretty, but they have combined for two goals and three assists with a combined -18 in five games.
Even with all the injuries, there is enough veteran leadership and high-end talent for Vegas to figure things out.
“I feel like we’ve gotten better these last couple of games. The work ethic’s been there,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
Leaky defense hampering Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are one of four teams allowing at least four goals per game and some of that can be chalked up to some offseason roster changes.
While much of the nucleus remains intact, Colorado did lose some key pieces. No. 1 goaltender Philipp Grubauer and Joonas Donskoi, a 17-goal scorer a season ago, are now in Seattle. Defenseman Ryan Graves, the team leader in blocked shots in each of the last two seasons, is a member of the New Jersey Devils. Brandon Saad, a 15-goal scorer in 2020-21, and top penalty-killing forward Pierre-Edouard-Bellemare have also moved on. Defenseman Devon Toews, who was second to Graves in shorthanded time on ice per game last season, has yet to play. All of that has added up to a host of defensive issues.
The good news is that Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen combined for three goals, three assists and 16 shots in a 4-3 shootout victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Landeskog and Rantanen also scored in the shootout against Andrei Vasilevskiy to snap a three-game losing streak.
The first line can help the Avalanche get some points while they figure things defensively.
Goalie Darcy Kuemper had 29 saves in the win as he had a performance he can build on.
“Kuemps played unbelievable tonight. He kept us in the game. There’s not much else to it,” defenseman Cale Makar told the media after the game.
Forward Valeri Nichushkin was placed on injured reserve while puck-moving defenseman Samuel Girard was knocked out of the Tampa Bay and is questionable.
On to the Pick
With Alex Tuch joining Pacioretty and Stone as key players out for a while and forward Nolan Patrick, defensemen Zach Whitecloud and Alec Martinez among others missing time, it is hard to go with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Despite both team’s early defensive struggles early, it might also be risky for those betting online to go over the total of six.
The Colorado Avalanche (+500) were listed by the NHL odds as the preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup and it doesn’t seem like the Avalanche will have a losing record or be outside of playoff position much longer.