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The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are finally set and the first round matchups are awesome. There are going to be some very good teams that are going to be out after playing only a few games. The Western Conference does not seem quite as deep as the East, but as all hockey fans nothing is a guarantee in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the first round.
Colorado Avalanche 1st in the Central Division vs. Nashville Predators The 2nd Wild-Card: The Avalanche led the league in points most of the season before closing out on a 1-4-1 run. That is obviously not the way they wanted to finish out, but they did. This is a deep, talented team and they can score a bunch of goals and shut you down as well. They won 56 games and scored 312 goals and would appear to have the definite edge in this series. The Predators accumulated enough points to sneak in as the 2nd wild card team and they are decent. But they only went 4-4-4 down the stretch and it is going to take a superhuman effort to beat Colorado. I think the Avalanche could sweep the Predators.\
Minnesota Wild 2nd in the Central Division vs. Minnesota 3rd in the Central Division: This is a series between two teams that couldn’t be any more similar. The Wild nosed out the Blues for home ice on the last day of the regular season. They are a much better scoring team than usual and scored the 5th most goals of anyone else in the NHL. They have a tendency to go out early in the playoffs and will be looking to end that trend. This is a sleeper team and they either won or tied 22 of their final 24 games. St.Louis played almost as well down the stretch finishing 16-5-4 to come up just short of beating out the wild for 2nd. They were the 4th best scoring team in the league scoring one more goal than Minnesota. The key, and perhaps the weakness, of the Blues is shaky goaltending and that isn’t good heading into the playoffs. This is a toss-up series and could go either way.
Calgary Flames 1st in the Pacific Division vs. Dallas Stars The 1st Wild-Card Team: The Flames had a great regular season and would seem to have an edge against Dallas. Calgary is the best defensive team in the Western Conference Playoffs and the Stars have scored only 238 goals, which is by far the lowest of the remaining playoff teams. This should be a series that Calgary breezes in and I think they will win it, but I give Dallas a fighting chance because the Flames have a tendency to flame-out in this position. I’ll take Calgary in 6.
Edmonton Oilers 2nd in the Pacific Division vs. Los Angeles Kings 3rd in the Pacific: This is another good matchup between the 2 and 3 teams in the Pacific. The Kings finished the regular season 6-1-1 and are another team that isn’t given much credit. Edmonton has the star players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl who scored 99 goals between led by Draisaitl with 55. But the Kings, have a veteran goaltender and have a lot of momentum and could surprise the talented Oilers. Edmonton went 19-4-2 down the stretch in the regular season and they are coming as hot as anyone in the league. I am going to go with the more talented bunch and take the Oilers in 6.
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