By Jeff Richardson – Published on Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Oh how sweet it is to finally say the Colorado Avalanche are back in the playoffs. Not to mention it comes after a very disappointing couple of seasons. For the longest time it looked like the Avalanche would have to face the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. However, due to a slew of wins by Colorado and both the Hawks and Blues slumping, The Avs took control of the Central Division. Now, they will open up the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Minnesota Wild.
What To Look For From The Wild:
Minnesota is a team that has really bulked up with experienced players in the last couple years. Acquiring Zach Parise and Ryan Suter before the lockout shortened season, and then bringing in Ilya Bryzgalov and Matt Moulson during the trade deadline has added to a team of worthy contenders. Suter definitely needs to be contained as well as Parise, but Moulson and Jason Pominville are two key players I see emerging as scorers for the Wild in this series. If the Avs hope to win, they will need to contain these guys and throw everything on net in order to pressure Brygalov into making a mistake. (Which we all know Mr. Universe is capable of) The Wild may have a 30 goal scorer in Pominville, and a 29 goal scorer in Parise, but they still rank 24th in the entire league when it comes to goals per game. Their goaltending has been solid all season, which explains why they were able to clinch a wildcard spot in this years playoffs.
What To Look For From The Avalanche:
Colorado has been nothing short of extraordinary this season. Patrick Roy has done exactly what he said he would do when he was introduced as head coach. He made sure these kids played with a Stanley Cup attitude all season. They finished the season with 5 different 20+ goal scorers. Rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon is a Calder Trophy favorite. Patrick Roy is a favorite for the Jack Adams award. Ryan O’Reilly only had two penalty minutes all season, making him a top choice for the Lady Byng. Then there is Semyon Varlamov fit to be a Vezina candidate after finishing the season with the most wins. The Avalanche may have issues on defense, but Varlamov has proven that he only gets better the more pucks you fire at him. With Colorado finishing 4th in the league in scoring, and Minnesota being a team that struggles to put up goals, I can see the Wild struggling to keep up.
The Keys For Success And My Biased Yet Confident Prediction: This will be a fun series to watch. Not as fun as a few others around the league, but it will be entertaining in its own way. The Avalanche are riding on some momentum coming into the playoffs and the Wild have a lot to prove. This series may even come down to special teams play. Both teams are low ranked in the Penalty Kill and can sometimes find themselves fending off an odd-man rush. I will look for Paul Stastny to come up big in the absence of Matt Duchene and his knee injury. I believe Varlamov will lead the Avalanche to a 4-2 series win over the Minnesota Wild.