One Western Conference semifinals matchup is on the cusp of closing Monday night in Edmonton, as the Dallas Stars lead the series against the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. But the Avalanche are determined to stay alive and move the series to a sixth game.
Here is a preview for Monday night’s contest between the Stars and Avalanche, as well as a series recap and a free pick. Oddsmakers currently have Colorado as a -140 favorite to extend the series.
There has been no shortage of offense in this series, with no fewer than seven goals scored in any game thus far. It started in Game 1, a largely back-and-forth game culminating in a 5-3 win for the Stars. Right wing Alexander Radulov scored twice, including the game-winner, while left wing and captain Jamie Benn dished out three assists.
Game 2 was another strong effort by Dallas, where Anton Khudobin’s 38 saves led the way to a 5-2 victory and a two-game lead in the series. Radulov scored another goal and added an assist as the Stars overcame a two-goal deficit to score five unanswered, four of which came in the second period.
Right wing Joe Pavelski, center Radek Faksa, as well as defensemen Esa Lindell and Jamie Oleksiak all found the scoresheet during the game.
In a must-win Game 3, the Avalanche rallied to pull off the 6-4 win. After falling behind 3-1, Dallas scored three straight goals in the first 11 minutes of the final period to take a one-goal lead.
But Colorado rallied with three unanswered goals for the win. Among the goal-scorers were right wing Mikko Rantanen and left wing Gabriel Landeskog, as well as center Nazem Kadri, who scored the game-winner for his seventh goal of the playoffs.
In a pivotal Game 4, the Stars overcame a late Colorado rally and pulled off the 5-4 win to put them on the brink of the Western Conference Finals. Dallas exploded for a three-goal opening period, with Faksa and Benn each scoring on the power play.
After allowing a pair of goals, the Stars answered with two more, including the eighth of the playoffs from right wing Denis Gurianov. They would hold on for the win despite two late goals from Colorado, including the second of the game for right wing Valeri Nichuskin.
Keys to Victory
Colorado will win if: It can recover after allowing a goal. A big problem for the Avalanche this series has been that they have not rebounded after giving up a goal.
Dallas has been able to score in bunches, evident in Game 2 with five unanswered goals and Game 4 when they scored three goals on nine shots to open the game before Colorado even got a shot on goal. It is important for the Avalanche to try to keep the game at even strength as much as possible and cool off a Dallas team that is red hot.
Dallas will win if: Its power play continues to flourish. In Games 2 and 4, the Stars were 2-for-3 and 3-for-6, respectively, with the extra attacker.
While the Stars have also outscored Colorado 16-14 at even strength, the Avalanche have actually played them fairly closely during 5-on-5. But Colorado has had no answer for the power play, and, especially going against a backup goalie, Dallas should be able to get going again in Game 5.
Through the first four games, it is clear that the Stars are in the driver’s seat. However, I’m not expecting the Avalanche to go down without a fight.
I’m looking at another high-scoring game in which Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche make just enough stops, especially on the penalty kill, to give them the edge and send this series to a sixth game.
Pick: Avalanche -140