All the hype amongst the leading NHL betting sites and the dedicated NHL bettors during the off-season focused on the Colorado Avalanche. Each of the top names in the industry pinned Avalanche to the head of their betting list, making them strong favourites to secure the Stanley Cup ahead of rivals Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Despite pundits and ex-players expecting one of the most competitive seasons in living memory, as the sport fought back against the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, traders stood their ground. They are confident they have the best team working for them and are happy to accept bets from any hockey fans that disagree with that stance. Do they know something most followers of the sport don't?
Perhaps they are just being stubborn, reluctant to change their minds despite recent results suggesting Colorado isn't as good as their odds would suggest. One thing's for certain; Avalanche won't get things their own way in this campaign and will be made to work hard to earn any success that does come their way.
Colorado struggling in the Central ConferenceThe Avalanche support may have high hopes for glory this season, but their players haven't exactly hit the ground running with their stats so far, throwing up more questions than answers. They certainly aren't performing like a team destined to win the Stanley Cup without encountering too much pressure on-route. In their opening five matches of the season, Colorado returned just two wins against three defeats. In that time, they scored 15 goals but conceded 20 with the four points gained, leaving them toiling and off the pace, sitting down in fifth place.
Looking closely at their stats, we note St Louis set the standard and are top of the conference with stats of four wins from as many games. Avalanche has caught the eye with those 15 goals, and that is as many goals scored as Minnesota, who are second in the ladder and breathing down the necks of St Louis. So, there are no problems to report in the offence, but the defence is letting the team down and will continue to do so until the coaching staff and players can plug the leaks. Twenty goals conceded in just five fixtures is a worrying return and ranks worse than most other teams in the conference, including Nashville, who is below Colorado down in sixth place.
To put that weak defence in context, Avalanche has conceded just one goal less than Chicago, who is second from the bottom of the pile. Leaders St Louis have scored 22 and conceded 11. That's the level followers of the Avalanche want to see their team perform at. Improvement is needed in defence, and it's needed fast if Colorado is to get their season back on track. An exciting offence is nothing without a sturdy defence.
Panthers savage a weak defenceThose weaknesses were highlighted in a recent defeat to the Panthers, a team that had been faultless in the opening exchanges. That match started off well enough for Avalanche but quickly unravelled as the defence looked nervous against the free-flowing attack of the Panthers. The first quarter was evenly balanced at 1-1 before the Panthers raged into the lead, winning the second quarter by a convincing 2-0 scoreline. They dominated the third to win 1-0, then ran down the clock for an impressive and confidence-boosting 4-1 final score. What's more, it was well deserved and could have been even more impressive.
Another harsh lesson for Colorado but one they must learn from. The players don't enjoy the luxury of being able to feel sorry for themselves, sitting back and licking their wounds. The games come quick and fast, and the team must respond.
Does this Avalanche team look like one that will soon be celebrating a famous Stanley Cup win and historic moment in the club's history? Certainly not, but there's plenty of hockey still to be played, and no one connected to Colorado will be reaching for the panic button just yet. They must keep improving in attack, tighten up the defence and begin to climb the conference ranks towards the major