NHL FREE PICKS

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NHL Picks: May 31

By Ryan Nadrajan

The Western Conference showdown will be on full display tonight as the Colorado Avalanche is set to face the Edmonton Oilers, or as many see it, Nathan Mackinnon versus Connor McDavid. If you’re a hockey fan this is a special moment to witness such electrifying generational talents to face one another, and if you’re not a hockey fan this is the series that will make you one.

Connor McDavid, who is arguably the greatest human being to ever lace up a pair of skates has led his team to the conference finals for the first time since 2006. The Edmonton Oilers captain extinguished the Calgary Flames in just 5 games, aided by his partner in crime Leon Draisatl. The duo now lead the post-season in scoring, having an identical 7G and 19A in 12GP. The German national now has 1.61 PPG in playoff history (minimum of 50 points), trailing only the legendary Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. 

Although the superstars did their heavy-lifting, they had their reinforcements to rely on like Zach Hyman, Evander Kane, and Mike Smith, who surprisingly outplayed 2022 Vezina Trophy candidate Jacob Markstrom.

Remember last year when Nathan Mackinnon was upset after getting bounced in the second round to the Golden Knights? “I’m going into my ninth year next year, and I haven’t won sh*t,” Mackinnon said. A year removed from that loss, in what felt like a cup or bust year, the Colorado Avalanche has finally turned the corner and has looked incredible doing so. Norris Trophy candidate Cale Makar, Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, and captain Gabriel Landeskog have all pitched in alongside Nathan Mackinnon, bringing the Avalanche within striking distance of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Colorado got the better of Edmonton in their season series. In 3GP they went 2-1, with one win coming in OT and the other in a shootout. Darcy Kuemper was lights out in the shootout victory as he stopped 49 of 50 shots. Edmonton won the final game of the season in late April with Evander Kane leading them to a 6-3 victory, scoring a hat-trick. Nathan Mackinnon averaged 5 shots on goal in those three games.

Team stats (playoffs) heading into game 1:

Goals per game - EDM (4.33) COL (4.3)

Goals against per game - EDM (3.08) COL (2.7)

Powerplay % - EDM (28.2%) COL (34.5%)

Penalty Kill % - EDM (85.4%) COL (73.1%)

Shots Per Game - EDM (34.9) COL (39.8)

Shots Against Per Game - EDM (37.5) COL (27)

With so much talent on both teams, this series is going to be an offensive showcase and the over on goals should seriously be considered every game. For the series opener, I like the Avalanche to take the series lead. They can match the speed of the Oilers and are the better team playing without the puck. With Samuel Girard injured, they still boast the better d-man group. It’s always tough to give the first game to the away team, especially when you factor in the altitude of Denver. Not to mention the Oilers have only one win in a game 1 during the McDavid era.

Pick: Avalanche ML -159 (Sports Interaction)

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