The Colorado Avalanche versus the Vegas Golden Knights are set for round two of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 1 is today in Colorado and will start at 8 PM ET.
Before I get into my second round preview and predictions, here’s where I stand with my first round predictions. If the Maple Leafs win their series against the Canadiens, then I will be 4-4. The only one I hit on perfectly was the Golden Knights in seven over the Minnesota Wild.
Let’s dive in to the round two.
West Division Round Two Preview
#1 Colorado Avalanche vs #2 Vegas Golden Knights
During the regular season, these two teams were considered two of the best in the NHL and that’s how they finished. Both the Avs and Knights finished with a league high 82 points; Colorado won the President’s Trophy via tie-breaker. Head to head, the Avs went 4-3-1 against Vegas who were 4-4. The Knights did outscore the Avs in the season series 18-17.
Offensively, the Avalanche are the better team but ever so slightly. They scored 3.52 goals per game during the regular season to the Knights 3.39. In the playoffs, the Avs lead the NHL with 5.00 goals per game. Meanwhile, the Knights have struggled at 2.86 per game. This of course could be attributed to the quality of competition, as the Avs steamrolled the Blues. The Knights needed 7 games to take out the Wild.
On the defensive side of the puck, the Avalanche are the best in the post-season with a minuscule 1.75 GAA. Coming in at #3 are the Knights with a low 1.86 goals against per game. This is going to be a great series.
“This is two evenly matched teams, a little bit of a different style but both teams are deep and both teams play with a lot of speed, both teams have good goaltending,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s a little bit different style. I’m expecting a long, hard series here and so is our team.”NHL.com
West Division Round Two Prediction
Offense: Edge Avalanche
The Avalanche have two players in the top 10 in scoring for the NHL Playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon is third with 9 points, Gabriel Landeskog is eighth with 8 points, and their linemate Mikko Rantanen is 13th with 7. Just a reminder, they played only four games. Colorado can flat out score and their PP is running at 50% clip right now.
Vegas’ offense is pretty solid too, but it’s just not on Colorado’s level. Trade deadline acquisition Mattias Janmark leads all Golden Knights skaters with 6 points, on the strength of a hat-trick in game 7 versus the Wild. Mark Stone comes in next with 5 points. The real hope for the Knights is Max Pacioretty returned just in time from injury and scored a goal to help Vegas advance.
Overall I like the way the Knights play as a 5 man unit. Their defense has Stanley Cup experience on it with Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez. The entire group is fantastic with Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud playing fantastic hockey too.
The Avs defense is young and fast. We are talking impressive on transition led by Cale Makar who has three points in the playoffs. Then there is the surprising Ryan Graves who is leading the backline with 4 points. Samuel Girard and Devon Toews are also incredible to watch which is why I’m looking at this as an even category for this series.
Goaltending: Edge Golden Knights
This where I feel if the Knights pull this series out, it will be because of goaltending. Robin Lehner may get the start in game one based on indications from practice today. Not a bad back up as he and Marc-Andre Fleury combined to win the William M. Jennings Trophy for least goals against in 2021.
As for Phillip Grubauer, well I feel like Agent Mulder in the X-Files. I want to believe but I’m still not sure. Maybe this series will be what does it for me.
Final Predictions: Avalanche in 7 games