Tonight, 13 contests sit on the docket in the NHL, meaning 26 of the league’s 32 teams take to the ice. Here, one game that we’ll examine and plot predictions for involves the Colorado Avalanche and the Anaheim Ducks. The Avs enter the contest coming off a 4-3 overtime loss at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. A year ago, both Anaheim and Arizona fell firmly in the cellar of the league standings. This season, the Coyotes trend upwards actually has them sitting in a wild card spot as of today.
On the other hand, the Ducks remain at the bottom in 2023-24 just as they did in 2022-23. At 9-14-0, they rank third-worst in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Avalanche look strong yet again at 15-6-1 and enter play on a 7-1-1 roll in their previous nine.
This comes as the second meeting between Colorado and Anaheim already this season, with their third and final matchup scheduled just three days from now too. Back on November 15th, Colorado stomped the Ducks in an 8-2 victory at Ball Arena in Denver. Tonight, they meet in Anaheim; their last game later this week takes place back in Denver, too.
NHL Predictions: Colorado vs Anaheim
Three Keys to Victory for Colorado
Expose the Ducks Current Fragility
As the top team in the Central Division, the Avs carry plenty of confidence in their play. After an odd (but still strong) start, they look absolutely excellent right now. Their swagger makes it easy to favour the Avalanche in predictions currently. That rings especially true tonight, facing a young opponent currently riding an eight-game losing streak.
The Ducks hold a paltry 4-9-0 record on home ice, too. That stands as the highest number of regulation losses at home out of all 32 teams in the NHL right now. This losing streak actually started with that 8-2 drubbing from Colorado just over two weeks ago. Since then, both teams shot in exactly opposite directions; Colorado picked up 13 of 16 points beginning against the Ducks, while Anaheim added zero out of 16.
Score the First Goal
The Ducks allowed the first goal in seven of their eight straight losses, and their opponents simply never looked back. As a result, they only held a lead for less than 13 minutes across that entire losing streak. The lack of experience in their lineup likely contributes to this issue. So basically, an early Avalanche goal prediction likely points towards a win prediction for them too.
The Avs have been scoring first more often lately, which obviously contributes to their recent success. They did find a way to pot six straight just a couple of weeks ago after falling behind in a game 3-0, though. Plenty of other games this year saw Colorado allow the first goal, and then scrape back to win. So, even when they trail, Colorado’s patience and composure keeps them in games.
That wasn’t true earlier in the year in a few blowout losses, but they’ve clearly righted the ship and found their game as a team. Anaheim simply cannot say the same quite yet. Colorado wants to pounce on them from the get-go and make it a comfortable two points earned in Southern California.
Keep the Star Players Hot
The Avs follow their superstars to victory night after night right now. Cale Makar leads the league in points amongst defencemen, with 34 points in just 22 games. That figure also puts him third in overall scoring. His 27 assists rank ahead of every other player in the league regardless of position.
Makar’s not the only player worth raving over, either. Valeri Nichushkin rides a nine-game scoring streak into play tonight and has been stellar overall, too. He has ten goals and 21 points in 22 games himself, racking up six points on the powerplay and another two shorthanded. As a big-bodied power forward, Nichushkin’s “bull in a China shop” play style looks impossible to contain right now.
Plus, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen must be mentioned here, too. They each have 29 points in 22 games, landing each in the top ten for league-wide scoring. Those four (MacKinnon, Rantanen, Nichushkin, Makar) combine to produce over five points per game on average. That alone makes it hard to predict against the Avalanche.
Avalanche vs Ducks Prediction Time
Unsurprisingly, the better team on paper wins the predictions here, as the Avalanche enter with too much momentum. Their opponents seem to be floundering in every sense of the word right now. With the dominant way Colorado plays at the moment and the passive way Anaheim winds up playing, it looks like a recipe for disaster. The Ducks surely want to get some redemption. But honestly, just avoiding a repeat of their last blowout loss to Colorado would be a task at the moment.
Prediction: Colorado Avalanche win 6-2
Main Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports