After waiting and preparing for nearly a week, the Colorado Avalanche finally know who they will take on in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Minnesota Wild 6-2 in Game 7 Friday night, allowing them to move on to faceoff against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Avalanche.
After a somewhat even first period, Vegas began to dominate early in the second period and never looked back. The Wild put up a great fight on the back of an incredible performance from Cam Talbot but at the end of the day, the better team won out. Game 7 saw Max Pacioretty return from an injury and score a huge second period goal, giving Vegas momentum to finish out the game and the series.
Though their first rounds looked drastically different, these two teams were very evenly matched in the regular season. Vegas and Colorado split the eight game series with four wins apiece on their way to finishing the season with 82 points each.
During the regular season, the Golden Knights were a tough matchup for the best players on the Avalanche. Mikko Rantanen failed to score a goal in any of the eight games against Vegas this season and he was held without a point in half of those outings. Nathan MacKinnon struggled as well, as his six points against VGK were the fewest he scored against any team this season. Add to that the fact that Gabriel Landeskog only had two points against Vegas this season and it’s fair to say that Colorado’s big-3 are going to need to be a lot better is the Avs hope to get past the second round for the first time since 2002.
While the two teams are evenly matched on paper, the Avalanche have a significant advantage to start the series thanks to their sweep of the St. Louis Blues in round one. By the time Game 1 starts, the Avalanche will have been off for an entire week while Vegas will have had less than 48 hours to recoup from their Game 7 victory against the Wild. The extra time to prepare could make all the difference in a series that will have very little margin for error.
This matchup also shows how important it was for the Avalanche to get hot at the end of the season and pass VGK in the standings on the last day of the season. Home ice advantage will allow Coach Bednar to dictate the matchups in an attempt to give his top line the best chance to succeed.
These are the best two teams in the NHL and it’s a shame that one of them will be eliminated so early in the playoffs. With a deeply talented lineup on both sides and two groups that like to play with a ton of speed a skill, there is a very good chance that this ends up being the best series these playoffs will see.
Game 1 goes Sunday night at Ball Arena in Denver.