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The Colorado Avalanche have won six of their last seven games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are 1-1-2 in their previous four games.
The Avalanche were 2-0-0 against the Penguins last season.
Odds Taken from FanDuel Sportsbook.
27-18-3 (4th in Central Division)
24-16-9 (5th in Metropolitan Division)
Mikko Rantanen (61)
Sidney Crosby (60)
Mikko Rantanen (34)
Sidney Crosby (24)
Nathan MacKinnon (41)
Sidney Crosby (36)
Nathan MacKinnon (15)
Josh Archibald (8)
Nathan MacKinnon (5.19)
Shots (Per Game)
Jake Guenztel (3.06)
The Colorado Avalanche will travel east to face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time this season. Both teams are sitting in Wild Card spots in their respective conferences. Colorado has 57 points and is in the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. However, they could fall out of it with a loss. On the other side, Pittsburgh is in the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 57 points. They may fall out of it with a loss, but they could inch closer to the first spot with a win.
The Avalanche are on a tear and have won six of their last seven games. Their offense is strong at times but is actually quite mediocre. However, their defense is significantly better and in the top ten. Colorado also has two solid goaltenders in Alexander Georgiev and Pavel Francouz.
The Avalanche offense is sometimes slow, but it does not need to be. Colorado has three players (Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Cale Makar) with at least 45 points. When a team has three players performing at that high of a level, they have no excuse when they struggle to score.
Alexander Georgiev is the starter in Denver. The 26-year-old’s 20 wins are the sixth-most in the league, and his 2.6 goals-against average is the tenth-lowest.
The Penguins' play has been questionable for over a month now. They need to turn on the jets as we enter the final few months of the regular season. This is entirely possible for them, as they have an above-average offense and middle-of-the-pack defense. Pittsburgh’s problem is their goaltending. Starting netminder Tristan Jarry should be returning soon from injury, but the Penguins do not perform when he is not in the net. Pittsburgh usually loses when he gets the night off or is healing from an injury.
The Penguins are led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel. These players are far apart in age but performing at high levels. They each have at least 19 goals and 46 points.
Casey DeSmith will likely get the start as Tristan Jarry is still on the injured list. DeSmith has struggled this season and allows 3.35 goals per game. He needs to step up to give his team a chance to win.
The Avalanche look weaker on paper but are firing on all cylinders and play well on the road. Bet on Colorado.
The Avalanche may be the underdogs, but they will win if they draw penalties and slow down Sidney Crosby.
The Avalanche have an excellent power play unit and convert almost 25% of their opportunities. Over 26% of their goals this season have come with a man advantage, so their power play unit has been an integral part of their offense. However, this unit can only score if they get on the ice. The Avalanche must draw penalties and give this unit opportunities to convert.
Sidney Crosby may be 35 years old, but he continues to excel. Crosby leads the Penguins in points (60), goals (24), and assists (36). He is also coming off a one-goal, one-assist game against the San Jose Sharks. The Avalanche defensemen must slow Crosby down and force him to depend on his teammates. If they do, they can stifle the Penguins’ offense.
The Penguins are the favorites but will only emerge victorious if they score first and play tough defense.
The Penguins have failed to score first in their previous two games. They also have lost their previous two games. This will not always be the case. Pittsburgh may win some games where they do not score first. However, in the majority of games they win, they will score first. I only say all this to illustrate why the Penguins need to change the narrative and score the game's first goal.
The Penguins are facing an Avalanche team that scored four goals in their previous game. Their offense is heating up and can easily put up another four goals if they get going early. The Penguins’ defensemen must not allow this to happen and play tough defense.
This is the obvious choice. Mikko Rantanen leads the Avalanche in points and goals. Not only does he have an absurd 34 goals in 48 games, but he is also an efficient shooter. Rantanen scores on 18.9% of his shots. In other words, Rantanen scores almost one in five times.
Rantanen does not need to change much in this game. The winger just has to keep looking for his shot and being aggressive.
I could have given this honor to Evgeni Malkin or Jake Guentzel. However, I gave it to Malkin because he is a touch more efficient. The veteran has 50 points (second-most on the Penguins) and is their top player on the power play.
Malkin may need to step up in this game and take over the offense when called upon.
What - Colorado Avalanche vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Where - PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When - Tuesday, February 7, 7:00 PM EST
How to Watch - NHLPP, ESPN+
Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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