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Jets and Avalanche Set for Seven Game Thriller

NHL Predictions

The Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche battled all season for Central Division supremacy. Except neither of them ended up winning. Now they each will have to play an elite team in round one due to the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Wildcard format. Regardless of this a wiseman once said, “To be the man you’ve got to beat the man.”

Winnipeg Jets vs Colorado Avalanche Promos and Odds

In years past Jets fans may have clamoured about getting lucky and facing an easier opponent. But not this year. The Jets are a great team with the best goaltender in the world. On the opposite side of the ice will be the second or third-best skater in the league, Nathan MacKinnon. While the final outcome could come to each team’s MVPs, the depth below them will also have their say in this series. As things currently stand this is the closest series according to the oddsmakers. The Avalanche open at -135 series moneyline odds. The Jets enter as +115 underdogs.

Jets vs Avalanche 2023-24 History

The Jets absolutely demolished the Avalanche in the season series going 3-0-0. They outscored the Avalanche 17-4 in the process. Both teams used the last change to their advantage. Colorado matched skill against skill while Winnipeg matched their third line checking line against Colorado’s top line. The most recent meeting was a 7-0 Jets victory a week ago in Colorado.

Keys to the Series

What the Jets Need to Do to Win the Series

The Jets have a seismic advantage here. Connor Hellebuyck is the best goalie in the world right now. While Alexandar Georgiev has been slightly above average according to Hellebuyck has been criticized for being only good instead of great in the playoffs. With arguably the best team he has ever had in front of him, he is in prime position to become a household name among the all-time greats. Last year saw a superior Vegas Golden Knights team make him look pedestrian. Conversely, this year he has a chance to completely change the narrative.

The Avalanche have the star power, but the Jets have the depth. If the Jets try to go shot for shot with MacKinnon and company they will lose. Good thing Winnipeg’s third line is arguably the best shutdown line in all of hockey. Furthermore, for the time being Mikko Rantanen is on the same line as MacKinnon. This gives the Jets second, third, and fourth forward lines a huge opportunity for an advantage. The Jets have experience against this type of forward setup. When they swept the Edmonton Oilers in the 2020-21 COVID-19 impacted season schedule, the Oilers stacked Connor McDavid with Leon Draisaitl. The Jets allowed that top line to score a goal here and there but made the other lines beat them. Which the Oilers could not do.

The Jets current top line has been losing its minutes all season and that will not change anytime soon. Fortunately, Winnipeg has the last change for four of the seven games so Adam Lowry can face MacKinnon and soften the blow. Colorado’s second line is solid but doesn’t propel up a relatively weak bottom-six. Factoring in Winnipeg’s home ice advantage and depth, they should have a teeny, tiny advantage at forward.

Neal Pionk could be the X-factor for Winnipeg in this series. He has stuck out like a sore thumb on a strong Winnipeg team. The playoffs are small sample sizes where a hot streak can change public opinion. If Pionk can have a good series behind Morrissey and Demelo, the Jets will be in a fantastic spot to win this series.

What the Avalanche Need to Do to Win the Series

The Avalanche have the defensive core advantage over the Jets. Both teams have a phenomenal top-pairing on defence. Cale Makar and Josh Morrissey bring home a ton of recognition but Devon Toews and Dylan Demelo are the perfect partners for each superstar. This is where some cracks start to show for Winnipeg. Winnipeg has had choatic defensive alignment on each of their bottom two pairings. Neal Pionk ranks third on the team in ice time yet has been subpar for large parts of the season. While Logan Stanley has improved as of late, he is prone to some brutal giveaways and penalties at the most inopportune times. The Avalanche have better and less chaotic defensive depth which gives them a sizeable edge in this department.

MacKinnon and Makar are two of the best players in all of hockey. Plus they will be angry about a very short 2023 playoff run. “Natedog” scored 140 points and was like a flash of lightning every single shift. While Makar was just one of ten defenceman to score a point-per-game since the 2004-05 lockout (minimum 75 points scored). Further, Makar was just one of three to do it twice this past season by scoring 90 points in 77 games. It is the classic high end talent vs depth scenario. Colorado’s two best players will score their points but they will have to go nuclear to win a tightly contested series against Winnipeg.

Valeri Nichushkin could prove be the X-factor here for Colorado. He has been a near-point-per-game player on MacKinnon’s wing for his entire tenure in Colorado. But at times has been hit or miss when depended on to carry his line. If Nichushkin can win his second-line minutes without a superstar carrying him, it would put the Avalanche in the drivers seat.

Final Prediction

The home team will win every game in this series. Meaning the Jets will win this series (+115 odds). The Stanley Cup Playoffs are about timely even strength, depth scoring, and goaltending. The Jets have both of these in spades. These two teams are as close as a first-round matchup could get. Hellebuyck will steal one game completely while the other 6 games will be split evenly to three wins a side. Give me the Jets in seven games in round one (+475 odds)!

Prediction: Jets win series in seven games.

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Main photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports


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