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Expert 'capper Pete Truszkowski previews the lone game on Wednesday's NHL slate

Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars Predictions

The last two games of this series have basically been over midway through the first period. In game four, Dallas came out to a 3-0 lead early and coasted on their way to a 5-4 win, the score being much closer than the actual game. In game five, Colorado punched Dallas in the face, taking a 5-0 lead in the first period to show they weren’t planning on going home.

I think both teams have learned their lesson about coming out ready to play.

The intrigue in this series is between the pipes for both teams.

Colorado lost their starting goalie midway through Game One of the series when Philipp Grubauer went down grabbing his hip area. Grubauer was replaced in net by Pavel Francouz. Francouz struggled greatly in net, giving the Avalanche no help between the pipes. He was deemed unfit to play for game five of the series. Enter Michael Hutchinson, the 30 year old making his first career playoff start. He stopped 31 of 34 shots to extend the Avalanche season.

On the other side of this matchup, things aren’t as dire, but they’re hardly comfortable. Usual Stars backup goaltender Anton Khudobin started the first four games of the series because typical starter Ben Bishop has been unfit to play all but one of the Stars prior games. Khudobin has not been great, but he’s done enough to backstop the Stars to a 3-1 series lead. However, in Game Five, Dallas turned to Bishop. The former Vezina winning goalie subsequently gave up five goals to Colorado in the first period and was pulled in favor of Khudobin.

It’s hard to handicap a game when you don’t know who will start in net for either team. Will it be Francouz or Hutchinson? Will Dallas go back to Bishop or stick with Khudobin? Who even is the better option for either team at this point? It seems like the option most would consider the second best is leading to better results in the win column.

Colorado has been the better team in this series. They’ve controlled possession as well as the quality of shots much better than the Stars. Despite this, they trail the series three games to two. The reason for that is simple; it’s the aforementioned goaltending provided by Francouz earlier in the series.

If you couldn’t pick this up by now, goaltending has been an issue in the series. Both teams are scoring goals at will. Through five games in this series thus far, the teams have combined for 43 goals. That’s an average of over 8.5 goals per game. Unfortunately, Vegas has finally picked up the trend and raised the total throughout this series. It opened at 5.5 goals, moved to 6 the past few games, and in Wednesday’s contest, we see the total at 6.5.

Is this enough to scare us off? No. Every game in this series has gone over the total. In fact, every single game in this series so far would have gone over the new 6.5 total as well. It’s true that eventually the scoring will dry off, but let’s hope it’s not tonight.

You are likely dealing with a third string goalie in net for the Avalanche. Khudobin hasn’t been anything special for Dallas. If the Stars turn to Bishop, he’s rusty and showed poorly in the first period of Game Five.

Colorado is playing for their season so expect big guys like Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to lead by example and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone. Names like Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin and Nazem Kadri are starting to join in on the offense as well.

On the other side, Dallas will look to capitalize on the inexperience of Hutchinson. The Avalanche can’t hide the warts of their third string goalie for long. Jamie Benn has had a bit of a resurgence in this round of the playoffs. Miro Heiskanen is establishing himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in the sport.

Don’t hop off the wagon just yet. This series has been unreal for over bettors. Let’s hope it continues.

PICK: Over 6.5 Total Goals @ +105


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