NHL Playoffs 2014: Round 1 Preview – Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild


Next up in Ice Nation UK’s Playoff Preview extravaganza is this Central Division matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild.

SERIES BEGINS: THURSDAY, APRIL 16

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm EST (2:30am GMT) IN COLORADO

BY THE NUMBERS

COLORADO MINNESOTA
SEASON RECORD 52-22-8 43-27-12
POINTS 112 98
GOALS FOR/AGAINST  (DIFFERENTIAL) 250 / 220(+30) 207 / 206(+1)
LAST 10 GAMES 7-1-2 6-3-1
TOP POINT SCORER  70 PTS(M.DUCHENE) 60 PTS(J.POMINVILLE)
TOP GOAL SCORER  28 G(R. O’REILLY) 30 G(J.POMINVILLE)
MOST TOI/G  23:00(E.JOHNSON) 29:24(R.SUTER)
TOTAL 5v5 SV%  92.9%(7th in NHL) 93.2%(3rd in NHL)

COLORADO AVALANCHE SEASON LOWDOWN:

The Avalanche have been the surprise story of the season. After a disastrous 2012/13 which finished with them drafting 1st overall, the Avs hired legendary goaltender Patrick Roy as their new coach and he has put himself firmly in the Jack Adams conversation by leading this young team to the top of the Central Division.

The Avs have relied heavily on their young forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene as well as goalie Semyon Varlamov and have managed to overcome some defensive deficiencies to gain their high seeding. They are particularly dangerous on the powerplay thanks to their speed.

COLORADO AVALANCHE PLAYER TO WATCH:

Nathan MacKinnon –The Avs have several talented players worth watching but none more so than the 2013 1st overall pick. MacKinnon has been electric this season, scoring 63 points in 82 games aged just 18. He is definitely going to be a player to watch as he makes his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

MINNESOTA WILD SEASON LOWDOWN:

The Wild have been extremely unpredictable this season. They have gone through periods where they have looked like a dominant team that could contend for a Cup but also some periods where they look like a basement team. They have benefited from great goaltending and are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Their offence has been stagnant but the acquisition of Matt Moulson at the deadline might payoff in the playoffs if he can hit top form.

The Wild have been crippled by injuries for a lot of the season and are currently without their starting and back-up goalies (Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding) as Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper take over the responsibilities in net.

MINNESOTA WILD PLAYER TO WATCH:

Jared Spurgeon – There are some talented young players who will be dressing for the Wild in this series (Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle), but one you should keep an eye on is defenceman, Jared Spurgeon. The diminutive puck mover has been simply outstanding this season at both ends of the ice. He is excellent positionaly, he skates well and he is extremely enjoyable to watch when he is in full flow. Expect to see him on the top defensive pairing with Ryan Suter and on the 2nd powerplay unit.

PREDICTION:

It’s hard to call this one. Both teams have had their underlying issues this season in terms of being out-shot and relying heavily on their goaltenders. In the end it could come down to:

a) Goaltending

b) Special Teams

The Wild have struggled on the PK as of late and the Avalanche are a dangerous powerplay team. Also, Bryzgalov has a history of choking in the playoffs while Varlamov has been dominant all year and doesn’t seem to be letting up.

The advantage the Wild have is their superior forward depth, better defencemen and the Avs have injuries to Matt Duchene and John Mitchell to start the series. If the Wild take advantage of the Avs top-heavy line-up, then they should win this series.

Overall prediction – Wild in 5 games.

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF ICE NATION UK’S NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS.

Follow Ger on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk throughout the playoffs!

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