NHL Playoffs: Western Conference – Round 1 Preview & Predictions

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    Final Season Standings with Futures Market

    SeedTeamRecordPointsTo Win WestTo Win Cup
    C1Colorado Avalanche56-19-7119+270+320
    C2Minnesota Wild53-22-7113+800+1700
    C3St. Louis Blues49-22-11109+1000+2000
    P1Calgary Flames50-21-11111+270+700
    P2Edmonton Oilers48-27-6102+750+1600
    P3Los Angeles Kings44-27-1199+3500+5000
    WC1Dallas Stars46-30-698+2200+5000
    WC2Nashville Predators45-30-797+1800+3500

    Series Previews & Predictions

    C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. WC2 Nashville Predators
    Series Odds: Avalanche -420
    Game 1: Tuesday, 5/3
    Key Injuries:
    – Gabe Landeskog (COL) had scored 30 goals with 29 assists through 52 games before going down with a knee injury on March 14th that required surgery. Despite only being 6-weeks removed from surgery, Landeskog and the team are hopeful he can play in Round 1
    – G Juuse Saros (NSH) sprained his ankle on April 27th and will miss Round 1 (timetable is 4-6 weeks). This is a huge blow for Nashville; Saros was an All-Star this season, is a Top 10 goalie in the league, and the Preds don’t have a strong backup to take his place.

    Regular Season Meetings (Nashville 3-1)
    November 27 – Colorado W 6-2 at home
    December 16 – Nashville W 5-2 at home
    January 11 – Nashville W 5-4 OT at home
    April 28 – Nashville W 5-4 SO on the road

    Series Outlook: Damn I feel bad for Predators fans. They now face the best team in the West after blowing a 4-0 lead against the Coyotes Friday plus All-Star goalie Juuse Saros sprained his ankle late in the 3rd period on Wednesday and will be out at least 4+ weeks. The Preds will be forced to turn to either Connor Ingram, responsible for the Coyotes loss, or David Rittich who surrendered the game tying goal with 0.1 seconds left, ultimately losing in OT after Saros left with the injury. Unfortunately neither are good options to stop this Colorado offense averaging 3.76 goals per game (4th in the NHL). The Avs finished with 22 more points than the Preds, yet it’s Nashville that won the season series against the Avs 3-1. Last month Avs leading scorer at the time Gabe Landeskog went down with a knee injury requiring surgery but hopes to return this series. It’s scary to think a team that lost their leading scorer still finished the remaining 6-weeks 17-9-3, finishing with the 4th most goals in the league (308). Colorado’s offense is extremely dangerous with 7+ legitimate scoring threats that many teams would welcome to their 1st line. Leading that group is Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon who finished with 36 and 32 goals, respectively. You’ll also be hearing plenty from Cale Makar and Nazem Kadri this series too. Nashville has a few great offensive weapons of their own; Matt Duchene and Filip Forberg scored 40+ often fed by Roman Josi 72 assists (5th in the NHL). These series previews are supposed to be as objective as possible, but as everyone knows you want to be playing your best hockey and injury free heading into the playoffs, and that just isn’t Nashville right now. Not only will they be without Saros, but they finished the season losing 8 of 12.

    Series Predictions

    P1 Calgary Flames vs. WC1 Dallas Stars
    Series Odds: Flames -300
    Game 1: Tuesday, 5/3
    Key Injuries: N/A

    Regular Season Meetings (Calgary 2-1)
    November 4 – Dallas W 4-3 OT on the road
    February 1 – Calgary W 4-3 on the road
    April 21 – Calgary W 4-2 at home

    Series Outlook: The record for most 40+ goal scores on a team in a single season is 4, and Calgary came just 5 goals shy of the mark with Andrew Mangiapane finishing with 35. Calgary’s 40 goal scorers include Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Johnny Gaudreau to round out an offense averaging 3.55 goals per game (6th in the NHL). They’re also as well rounded as it gets with Jacob Markstrom in net, finishing the year in elite Top 5 league company in Sv% (.922) and GAA (2.22). Ultimately that offensive firepower is why this is a series mismatch for a Dallas team that has scored almost 60 fewer goals than Calgary and features 23-year old Jake Oettinger from Boston University between the pipes in need of goal support. Oettinger is a future star goalie in this league but he’s 0-2 against Calgary giving up 7 goals. Since Feb-15 though he’s produced a very solid 92% Sv% with 2.48 GAA but has a 16-10 record because of that lack of a goal support. Dallas is a top-heavy team led by Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski, all finishing the season with 70+ points, 20 more than the next. They still have the talent, leadership, and goaltending upside to take a couple games from Calgary, but odds are easily against them in a full 7-game series.

    Series Predictions

    C2 Minnesota Wild vs. C3 St. Louis Blues
    Series Odds: Wild -140
    Game 1: Monday, 5/2
    Key Injuries: N/A

    Regular Season Meetings (St. Louis 3-0)
    January 1 – St. Louis W 6-4 on the road
    April 8 – St. Louis W 4-3 OT at home
    April 16 – St. Louis W 6-5 OT at home

    Series Outlook: The Blues swept the season series with the most recent games in April being a pair of OT thrillers. The Wild edged them out during the regular season by 2 points though, claiming home ice advantage in this Round 1 Central Division clash. These are alarmingly even matched teams; look at these number comps: home record (31-8-2 vs. 26-10-5), (away record 22-14-5 vs. 23-12-6), goals for (310 vs. 311), goals against (253 vs. 242), L10 games (8-1-1 vs. 7-2-1), shots-for per game (32.5 vs. 30.4), shots-against per game (31.4 vs. 31.6). Honestly, I could keep doing that. Both teams even have goalies that won a Stanley Cup, but only 1 is the starter. Marc-Andre Fleury was acquired by the Wild in a trade with Chicago last month bringing much needed championship pedigree and big-game experience between the pipes. For the Blues, Jordan Binnington will serve as the backup for Ville Husso who’s been very solid in his first full season as a starter with the Blues but doesn’t carry any elite stats/metrics. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Craig Berube turns to Binnington if things go wrong early for Husso. They very well might because the Wild have scored the 3rd most goals in the NHL since March 1st (although it’s worth mentioning here that the Blues are right behind them with the 5th most). Minnesota is led by Kirill Kaprizov, 1 of 8 NHL players that surpassed the 100-point mark with 108. For the Blues it’s Vladimir Tarasenko who led his team in goals (34) and was 2nd in assists (48) despite missing a handful of games. Like I started this preview, these are evenly matched clubs heading into the playoffs hot and healthy. This will be decided behind the net; it’s Fleury vs. Husso/Binnington.

    Series Predictions

    P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings
    Series Odds: Oilers -230
    Game 1: Monday, 5/2
    Key Injuries:
    D Darnell Nurse is nursing a lower-body injury and is questionable to play in this series, he plays a ton of minutes for the Oilers

    Regular Season Meetings (Edmonton 3-1)
    December 5 – Los Angeles W 5-1 on the road
    February 15 – Edmonton W 5-2 on the road
    March 30 – Edmonton W 4-3 SO at home
    April 7 – Edmonton W 3-2 on the road

    Series Outlook: Connor McDavid led the NHL in points (123) with teammate Leon Draisaitl right behind him at 110. You have to scroll a little bit to find the Kings leading point scorer Anze Kopitar with 67. Edmonton has relied on McDavid and Draisaitl all season long to produce 30% of the teams points while the Kings have been incredibly balanced with no single player contributing more than 10%. With 35 goals, Kings leader was Adrian Kempe but the 2 from the Oilers should tilt this series as goaltending isn’t a particular strength for either team. Edmonton has 40-year old Mike Smith and Los Angeles has 36-year old Jonathan Quick which in a rare non-stat check by me, just has to be the oldest goalie matchup in this Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’re both solid, Quick’s Sv%/GAA split is .910/2.59 to Smith’s .915/2.81, but neither rank inside the Top 10. Since March 1st Edmonton has been the 3rd best team in the NHL with a 20-6-3 record. They won the season series against the Kings 3-1 and I wouldn’t expect a much different result in this one either.

    Series Predictions

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