The two teams tied with the best regular season record go head-to-head in the second round as the Colorado Avalanche take on the Vegas Golden Knights.
Their paths to the second round couldn’t have been more different. Colorado swept St. Louis in four games, outscoring the Blues 20-7 in those contests. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights needed a home win in Game Seven to get by the Minnesota Wild, nearly letting another 3-1 series lead slip through their fingers.
In this Avalanche vs Golden Knights series preview, I’ll break down all you need to know before Colorado and Vegas take the ice, along with a winning pick for who will advance in the 2021 NHL Playoffs.
Avalanche vs Golden Knights Series Schedule
GAME ONE: Sunday, May 30, 8:00 P.M.
GAME TWO: Wednesday, June 2, 10:00 P.M.
GAME THREE: Friday, June 4, 10:00 P.M.
GAME FOUR: Sunday, June 6, 8:30 P.M.
GAME FIVE*: Tuesday, June 8, TBD
GAME SIX*: Thursday, June 10, TBD
GAME SEVEN*: Saturday, June 12, TBD
* = if needed, all times Eastern
Avalanche vs Golden Knights Regular Season Results
February 14: Golden Knights 1, Avalanche 0
February 16: Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2
February 20: Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2
February 22: Golden Knights 3, Avalanche 0
March 25: Avalanche 5, Golden Knights 1
March 27: Golden Knights 3, Avalanche 2 (OT)
April 28: Golden Knights 5, Avalanche 2
May 10: Avalanche 2, Golden Knights 1
Philipp Grubauer: 4-0-0, 1.75 GAA, .936 save percentage, (regular season: 30-9-1, 1.95 GAA, .922 save percentage, seven shutouts)
Jonas Johansson: No Playoff Stats, (regular season, split between Buffalo and Colorado: 5-6-2, 2.86 GAA, .897 save percentage, one shutout, all five wins with Colorado)
Devan Dubnyk: No Playoff Stats, (regular season, split between San Jose and Colorado: 6-11-2, 3.20 GAA, .895 save percentage, one shutout)
Marc-André Fleury: 4-2-1, 1.71 GAA, .931 save percentage, one shutout, (regular season: 26-10-0, 1.98 GAA, .928 save percentage, six shutouts, career bests in GAA and save percentage)
Robin Lehner: No Playoff Stats, (regular season: 13-4-2, 2.29 GAA, .913 save percentage, one shutout)
Matt Calvert – undisclosed surgery, expected return: September 2021
Erik Johnson – upper body, expected return: September 2021
Jayson Megna – COVID-19 protocol, expected return: unknown (added to list on May 26)
Logan O’Connor – Lower Body, expected return: June 3
Peyton Krebs – Jaw, expected return: June 3
Brayden McNabb – COVID-19 protocol, expected return: June 3
Tomas Nosek – undisclosed, expected return: unknown
Power Play: 50.0% (6/12), first in playoffs, (regular season: 22.7%, eighth in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 77.8% (7/9), 10th in playoffs, (regular season: 83.1%, eighth in NHL)
Power Play: 13.3% (2/15), 14th in playoffs, (regular season: 17.8%, 22nd in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 81.8% (9/11), seventh in playoffs, (regular season: 86.8%, first in NHL)
Avalanche vs Golden Knights Storylines
One of the biggest storylines overshadowing the series is the suspension of Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri. Kadri was suspended for eight games for an illegal check to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in Game Two of the first round. He was also assessed a match penalty during the game.
However, Kadri appealed the suspension on the grounds that eight games was an excessive suspension based on established precedents. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has not set a time to hear the appeal, so Kadri is not expected to play in Game One. If he is not in the lineup for Game One, he will receive credit for three games worth of his suspension.
In the event he’s needed, Robin Lehner is quite likely the best backup goaltender in the NHL. Marc-André Fleury struggled at times in the opening round against Minnesota, including giving up three goals on 13 shots in Game Five against Minnesota in a 4-2 loss. There was talk Lehner might get the call in Game Seven, though that did not come to fruition.
Nathan MacKinnon is tied for third in postseason points despite playing two fewer games than everyone ahead of him. In four games against St. Louis, MacKinnon tallied six goals and three assists. He also leads the NHL in postseason goals.
Vegas got a healthy Max Pacioretty back in the lineup for Game Seven. Pacioretty led the Golden Knights in goals in the regular season with 24, and also had 27 assists in 48 games. He scored a goal and was a +2 in his postseason debut.
One key matchup to watch will be Mark Stone’s line defense (with Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson) against Colorado’s top line of Mikko Rantanen, MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog. Stone is quite possibly the league’s best defensive forward, and he did an excellent job shutting down Wild scorers Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala in the first round. The way these lines play against each other will set the tone for the series.
Rookies could play a big role in this series as well. Vegas’ Zach Whitecloud looked like a true shutdown defenseman capable of big minutes while Keegan Kolesar hit everything in sight against Minnesota (31 hits in six games).
For Colorado, Alex Newhook scored in his NHL debut in Game One but was injured in Game Four, which could open up a spot for former University of Minnesota forward Sampo Ranta, who scored 19 goals and 12 assists for the Gophers in 2021. His 19 goals were second in the NCAA. Rookie defenseman Conor Timmons has been a quality rotation defenseman to spot Cale Makar, Ryan Graves, Bowen Byram, and Samuel Girard.
The Avalanche look hell-bent on a Stanley Cup win this year. They’re built to win right now, but also sustain that dominance over the next few seasons. However, Vegas’ defense poses a difficult test and could be Colorado’s downfall. However the series plays out, I think the winner of this series advances to the Stanley Cup final.
Though both teams have a ton of depth, I think Colorado’s forwards are more capable of scoring against Vegas than vice versa. The slight offensive edge is enough for the Avs to take the series, which I think they will do in six games.
Series Prediction: Colorado Avalanche in Six Games.
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