|Team||Season Record||Record (Last 10)||Stanley Cup Odds|
|Colorado Avalanche (1)||39-13-4 (82)||8-2-0||+400|
|Vegas Golden Knights (2)||40-14-2 (82)||7-3-0||+850|
|Minnesota Wild (3)||35-16-5 (75)||5-3-2||+1800|
|St. Louis Blues (4)||27-20-9 (63)||6-1-3||+7000|
Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues
The Colorado Avalanche finished the season tied with the Golden Knights on a league high, 82 points, however, due to the Avs winning more games in regulation time than the Knights (35), they are in the fortuitous position of playing the Blues as opposed to the Wild.
With an NHL leading 197 goals scored, and the second best goal differential in the league (64), the Avalanche are one of the best, if not the best, team in the competition, and it is no surprise to see they are the bookies favourite to lift the Stanley Cup.
The Blues experienced a turbulent year, and after an incredibly dicey period through March-April which saw them win just 5 of 20 games, they managed to clinch playoffs thanks to a good string of results near the end of the season.
Both literally and figuratively the St Louis side sat right in the middle of the West Division all season, never looking quite as strong as the Avs, Knights or Wild, but always looked better value to reach the playoffs than the bottom table teams.
When looking at the quality of the Avs’ squad it is no surprise that they are doing well, with talent oozing from every position across the ice, including a back line that consists of Devon Toews, Samuel Girard and Cale Makar, as well as the likes of Andre Burakovsky and their skipper, Gabriel Landeskog on the wing.
However, it is their star men, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, which are the biggest contributors to the Avs’ success, the two both cracked the NHL’s top 10 point scorers this season, with 65 and 66 points respectively.
— p – Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) May 18, 2021
The pair have been the most important players on the Avs’ roster for the last couple seasons, and have provided just as much in the playoffs as they have in the regular season, combining for 46 points from 15 games during the 2019/20 postseason.
One game into their series with the Blues and Nathan MacKinnon has bagged a goal and an assist, while Mikko Rantanen has picked up 2 assists, proving to be essential in their 3-1 win.
With a losing record of 27-20-9, the Blues didn’t enjoy the same success as they did during the 2019/20 campaign, with many pointing the finger to injuries, and others putting the blame on a lack of offense and goaltending, whatever the cause, the Blues have a mountain to climb if they are going to progress past the Avalanche.
The Blues parted ways with Alex Pietrangelo after the 2019/20 season, the defender had a brilliant season, and was one of 5 players that year to record a 50+ points for the Blues that year.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 18, 2021
Jaden Scwartz and Brayden Schenn were unable to reach the same levels that they did last year, with Schwartz heavily affected by injuries. The only two players who have consistently delivered for the Blues are Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, from 56 games each the two finished the season with 54 and 58 points respectively.
The Blues’ big money goalie, Jordan Binnington, has copped a lot of flack this year for his underwhelming performances, operating at a 91% save percentage with a 2.65 goals against average, Binnington ranks poorly when compared to the league’s other starting keepers.
The Avs were absolutely dominant in game 1, and we can’t really see them slowing down with Nathan MacKinnon back in the lineup. The Blues have had success at home recently, even claiming two wins over the Avs in late April, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see them claim a win, but other than that it should be pretty smooth sailing for the Avalanche.
Vegas Golden Knights vs Minnesota Wild
The Golden Knights suffered a crushing blow on the final day of the season when the Avs defeated the Kings to snatch the division title from them, and subsequently pitted the Vegas side against the Minnesota Wild in round 1, the only side they held a losing record to throughout the regular season.
At the time of writing the two sides are one game in, with the Wild picking up a massive 1-0 overtime win away from home in game 1. The Knights are 1-3 when playing in Minnesota this season, so it is crucial that they claim a win today to level the score up before they hit the road for games’ 3 and 4.
Golden Knights Preview
The Knights were nothing short of dominant again this season, boasting a record of 40-14-2 throughout the regular season, with no side in the NHL winning more games than the Knights (40).
Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to claim the division title, with the Avs also ending the campaign on 82 points, however, they had more regulation time wins than the Knights, and as such took the prized top spot.
With 191 goals scored and 124 conceded, the Knights recorded the best goal differential in the competition (67), showing just how strong they are going forward, and how dialled in they are on the defense.
nah ah ah! not today! pic.twitter.com/yU8lu3EOOa
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 16, 2021
Mark Stone enjoyed another brilliant season captaining the Knights, with his 61 point haul only 2 points off his 2019/20 tally while playing 10 less games, and after his solid performance in last season’s postseason it is likely he will have another big impact.
With Marc-Andre Fleury in net, and the likes of Alec Martinez, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo in defense, it is no surprise that the Knights finished the season with the tightest defense in the league, conceding a league leading 2.18 goals per game, and killing off penalties at a rate of 86.8%, also a league best.
The Wild thrived in the newly formed West Division, winning more games from 56 games this season than they did in 82 games back in 2018/19, and the same amount as they did from 69 games last season.
Following the departure of Eric Staal at the end of the 2019/20 campaign the Wild’s prospects didn’t look too good, but the emergence of Kirill Kaprizov has taken the Minnesota side up a notch.
— x – Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) May 18, 2021
The rookie left winger is leading the side for both goals and total points in just his first season in the NHL, and has only gotten more confident as the season has gone on, averaging more than a point a game from April to the end of the season and looking a good chance to win the Calder trophy.
Of the 16 playoff teams, the Wild are among the weakest defensively, averaging 2.84 goals against per game, with both Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen serving up inconsistent performances in net, and lacking depth defensively, with an over reliance on Jonas Brodin on the blue line.
The Wild did incredibly well to claim game 1 from the Knights on Sunday, thanks in no small part to an exceptional performance from Cam Talbot in net. A second win today would make it very hard for the Knights to come back from, but we can’t expect another miracle performance in net, and the Knights aren’t likely to give it up twice in a row at home.
After that performance in game 1 it is shaping up to be a great series, and we can only see it getting more physical, and more heated. We are expecting this one to go the distance.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
Image by: Flickr – Kerri Polizzi