The first three playoff spots were clinched by teams in the western division. Surprisingly, one of those was the Minnesota Wild, a team that exceeded everyone’s expectations and gave two of the other three playoff teams in their division a scare.
This is a unique season where the top four teams of each division play each other until one team remains. The remaining four teams play each other in the conference finals. Without further delay, here’s the playoff predictions for the 2021 western division.
#2 Vegas Golden Knights v. #3 Minnesota Wild
A lot of fans and analysts probably had a mix of either Vegas, St. Louis or Colorado for the two/three spot. That’s fair considering those were the three dominant names before the season began. The Wild are the third spot because Vegas and Colorado are further ahead chemistry-wise. This series will prove a problem for Vegas because of their struggles with Minnesota the past two months.
Both teams have a great 1A/1B goalie tandem. Minnesota brought in both Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen this offseason, while Vegas’ tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner have gotten better with continued work and games played.
The tilt goes to the Wild, who have better defensemen capable of locking down Vegas’ star centers and forwards. It’s how the Wild beat Vegas the past couple of months. Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Kevin Fiala and Matt Dumba locked down Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault. It gave the Knights’ offense fits while Shea Theodore, Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez struggled to contain Kirill Kaprizov, Marcus Foligno and Joel Erikson Ek.
Upset Prediction of the First Round: Minnesota wins series 4-2
#1 Colorado Avalanche v. #4 St. Louis Blues
The Avalanche and Blues hope to start their series healthy. Both Bednar and Craig Berube have dealt with adversity during the season with their clubs. The former has to keep the roster healthy unlike the past few years in the playoffs, and push them to championship aspirations while the latter has seen team productivity dip after being the top team in the west last year.
The Avalanche weren’t going to play Vegas in the first round, but the Blues are the harder of the two between them and Minnesota. Colorado steam-rolled over the Wild in most of their games. St. Louis is grittier, harder to put away, and have their star players back at the right time. That’s the formula to having a successful playoff run.
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington didn’t play stellar most of the season, a big reason the they had to battle most of the season to get the fourth seed. Part of the dip in play is because captain Alex Petrangelo was signed by Vegas in the offseason, but it’s worth mentioning because the Avalanche will take full advantage of any defensive mistakes St. Louis has.
This series is full of what-ifs, notably on the Avalanche’s side if they can’t stay healthy. Coach Bednar’s decision to rest Philipp Grubauer and Nathan MacKinnon before the playoffs helped.
Prediction: Colorado win series 4-1
Regular Season Playoff Picks: 3-1