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Playoff preview: Plenty of fish in the sea for the Avs

With the regular season coming to a close, the focus turns to the postseason.

NHL: JUN 08 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round - Golden Knights at Avalanche Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche are the Western Conference Champions. The first seed from the West will be having home advantage throughout the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. However, the race for the last few playoff spots is far from done for the rest of the West.

The wild card race is going to go down to the wire to have a “waste of eight days” as Darryl Sutter said. The Avs will be feeling good but some possible teams they’d face in the first round would certainly pick a fight. Let’s preview the possible opponents the Avs could have and how much of a fight they could put up.

Dallas Stars

Fifth in Central | 91 pts (43-30-5) | Season record vs. Avalanche: 2-1-0

Remaining Games: vs. SEA 4/23; vs. VGK 4/26; vs. ARI 4/27; vs. ANA 4/29

Worry Level: Pretty stress-inducing

The Stars have been in the wild card race for the second half of the season. They just wouldn’t go away and look to be lining up toward a first-round matchup with the Avs. These two faced off in the 2020 bubble playoffs with the Stars winning Game 7 in OT in a major upset.

This is probably the matchup the Avs should fear the most. This season, the Stars have had the Avs’ number, going 2-1 in the regular season. The goaltending from Braden Holtby and Jake Oettinger has been spectacular, with the team having a .947 save percentage this season against the Avs.

With players like Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson, and Tyler Seguin, they can take over a hockey game. We saw it earlier this season when Pavelski scored two goals in 90 seconds to beat the Avs. They could definitely pull off an upset on the Avs in the first round - those pesky Stars.

Nashville Predators

Fourth in Central | 93 pts (44-28-5) | Season record vs. Avalanche: 2-1

Remaining Games: @TBL 4/23; vs. MIN 4/24; vs. CGY 4/26; @COL 4/28; @ARI 4/29

Worry Level: Somewhat stress-inducing

The Predators have also had the Avs’ number this season. This has come with some caveats, however. They played when the Avs had a number of COVID cases back in December right before the game started, and had a terrible penalty decision called against them in January cost them the game in OT.

The Preds are without a doubt still going to give the Avs a challenge if the two meet in the first round. They have their own Norris-capable defender in Roman Josi who has been outstanding in the second half of the season. The goaltending of Juuse Saros could also throw the Avs in a loop.

It would be a good series nonetheless with plenty of stories like Josi vs. Makar as an example. It would also see Matt Duchene return to face the Avs in the postseason. The Avs could seek revenge after the 2018 first round matchup these two had. However, the Avs should be feeling alright due to the lack of depth the Preds have.

Vegas Golden Knights

Fourth in Pacific | 89 pts (42-31-5) | Season record vs. Avalanche: 1-2

Remaining Games: vs. SJS 4/24; @DAL 4/26; @CHI 4/27; @STL 4/29

Worry Level: Comfortable

The Golden Knights are feeling the heat of missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. However, they still are in with a shot within the final weeks of the regular season. They need a lot of things to go their way to have a chance at the postseason.

With Vegas feeling what it’s like to be a normal NHL team, it doesn't mean they lack the skill and talent to take them far. When fully healthy with Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jack Eichel, they are certainly a force to reckon with.

They lack in defense and goaltending, the loss of Marc-Andre Fleury hurt them. Robin Lehner as a number one netminder didn’t work for Vegas. Even if Vegas makes the playoffs, their time would be short-lived with plays shown in the tweet below and with Lehner supposedly undergoing season-ending surgery but also maybe not, who knows.

Los Angeles Kings

Third in Pacific | 94 pts (42-27-10) | Season record vs. Avalanche: 0-3

Remaining Games: vs. ANA 4/24; @SEA 4/27; @VAN 4/28

Worry Level: Comfortable

The Kings have had a surprisingly remarkable season. They have had a wonderful rebound from last season finishing towards the bottom of the West. It looks somewhat similar to what the Avs went through in the 2017-18 season and they look to make some noise in downtown LA.

For the Avs, they shouldn’t be worried about the Kings if they slip down into the wild card position. Having dominated the season series including a 9-3 drubbing not too long ago, the Avs wouldn’t mess with their food much in this hypothetical series.

The Kings could still very easily steal a game or two. Johnathan Quick could revert to his early 2010s form to keep his team in it. Forwards like Anze Kopitar and Quinton Byfield could make some noise too, but the loss of Drew Doughty would severely hurt the Kings in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Kings v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Vancouver Canucks

5th in Pacific | 87 pts (38-29-11) | Season record vs. Avalanche: 1-2

Remaining Games: @CGY 4/23; vs. SEA 4/26; vs. LAK 4/28; @EDM 4/29

Worry Level: Comfortable

The Canucks are still in it with a long shot. However, their chances seem to improve daily with the Kings, Knights, and Stars collapsing late on in the season. The Canucks are streaking, having won six straight recently and an eight-game point streak. They’re making some noise to perhaps leapfrog into the wild card slots or even third in the Pacific.

If they find themselves in the second wildcard spot by April 29, they probably wouldn’t like their chances. The Avs walloped the Nucks early on in the season before Bruce Boudreau came in. When the coaching change happened, they did steal a win out of Ball Arena back in March.

Boudreau’s hockey-style has been good and brought Vancouver back to the spotlight. It would certainly be an amazing achievement for the Canucks to reach the postseason. They could make some noise against Colorado, but the skill and talent of the Avs should prevail.

Vancouver Canucks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

There’s still plenty of time to figure out who the Avs will be facing when the playoffs begin on May 2. Here are my personal rankings for who I wish the Avs would face in round one, from most stress-inducing to least stress-inducing:

  1. Dallas Stars
  2. Nashville Predators
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Vancouver Canucks
  5. Los Angeles Kings

So I turn to you, who’d you rather face in the first round? It’s looking to be one of the two teams from the Central Division but you never know in the wild wild West. Let us know what you think!

Poll

Who would you like to face the Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Dallas Stars
    (56 votes)
  • 9%
    Nashvillle Predators
    (39 votes)
  • 43%
    Los Angeles Kings
    (183 votes)
  • 14%
    Vancouver Canucks
    (62 votes)
  • 19%
    Vegas Golden Knights
    (82 votes)
422 votes total Vote Now