Congratulations to the eight teams for making it this far. Half the battle is getting to this point. You play a total of 82 games just to have your entire season decided by a maximum of seven games at a time. There’s no question that this is the best time of year. Only one team can win in all and it all starts with this round. Let’s take a look at which teams will be moving one, and which teams will be playing golf a lot earlier than they hoped.  As always, you can send your love/hate tweets to me on Twitter @fuzzychris91. 



Dallas Stars Vs. Minnesota Wild

It’s not surprising to see both of these teams make the playoffs. Both teams have elite goalies and an above-average set of forwards who can score goals. The biggest question is: who can come away with four wins first?

As good as the Minnesota Wild have been in goal and on the back end, they really struggled to score goals. They finished 23rd in that category and now have to deal with Jake Oettinger, who was stellar against Calgary last postseason. This will be a tight series, but the Stars have enough offensive power to challenge Marc-Andre Fleury or Filip Gustavsson, whoever gets the call for game one. We probably won’t see a ton of high-scoring games between these two teams, but that doesn’t mean that this series will be boring. In the end, the Stars are the better overall team, so they should be able to win this series in six games. 

Prediction: Dallas in 6


Colorado Avalanche Vs. Seattle Kraken

Despite not having their captain for the entire season and dealing with a ton of injuries, Colorado reminded the league that they are still the best team in the Central Division. Nathan MacKinnon had another great season and Mikko Rantanen set the record for most goals scored in franchise history. It’s nice to see Seattle make it this far in such a short period of time, but they have no chance of getting past the defending champions. 

Seattle finished third this season in goals per game, but they really struggled to keep the puck out of their own net. Martin Jones started off the season well but faltered and is now the backup to Philipp Grubauer. The Germain net minder has played well down the stretch, but his numbers still aren’t very good. He’s going to want to show his former team that they made a mistake letting him go, but Seattle just isn’t good enough to contain Colorado’s best players. They are a complete hockey team and should be able to cruise in this first round without having to really break a sweat.

Prediction: Colorado in 5


Vegas Golden Knights Vs. Winnipeg Jets

I’m not going to lie, it’s quite shocking to see the Golden Knights finish at the top of the Pacific Division. They are a great hockey team and deserve to be there, but maybe they benefitted from playing against a ton of awful teams. The Winnipeg Jets really struggled in the second half of the season, but as a team, they are as complete as it gets. There’s no reason to discredit them in this series because they could easily win it. 

The biggest question mark for Vegas is their goaltending. Logan Thompson is still not ready to return, Adin Hill is also out due to injury and Jonathan Quick is old and not the elite goalie he once was. That leaves Laurent Brossoit as the possible starter for game one. Woof. It’s also unlikely that we see Mark Stone back for this series, so when you put all that together, the Golden Knights are quite short-handed. 

Winnipeg, on the other hand, is healthy and are a complete hockey team. Their top six is great, their defense is solid and Connor Hellebuyck is a Vezina-winning goalie. Can’t get much better than that, right? If Cole Perfetti can be ready to make a return to the lineup at some point, that would give Winnipeg one of the best top-9’s in the league, behind only the Rangers. Their defense is more than capable of stopping Vegas’ best players, and after all that, there’s Hellebuyck who, despite playing a ton of hockey this season, still posted a 2.49 GAA and a .920 SV%. Even if Thompson is healthy and returns at some point in this series, I don’t believe he will beat out Hellebuyck. All the Jets have to do is play well as a team and score some goals and this series is theirs. 

Prediction: Winnipeg in 6

Los Angeles Kings Vs. Edmonton Oilers

Yes, I did save the best for last. This is the second year in a row that the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers are meeting in the first round. Edmonton was able to get past their divisional opponents last season and are looking to do more of the same this year. Both teams are exceptionally better this year than they were last year, but that doesn’t mean this series will be close.

Los Angeles added Kevin Fiala in the offseason to add some scoring depth to the lineup and picked up Joonas Korpisalo at the trade deadline to bolster their goaltending. Those are two great moves and a healthy Drew Doughty just makes it all that much better. We know how good Anze Kopitar and Philipp Danault are at slowing down elite players, but I truly believe that they can’t slow down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl this year.

McDavid was on a whole other planet this season and just kept reminding everyone that there is no one as good as him in the league. Edmonton finished with three 100-point players and finished as the top-scoring team in the league. That’s all fun and games during the regular season, but we know that in the playoffs, defense wins championships. They added Mattias Ekholm at the deadline and that seems to have been the missing piece they were looking for. Edmonton has been one of the best defensive teams since the trade deadline and Stuart Skinner has been just as good in that same span. We know that Edmonton can score goals, but we didn’t know if they could defend and get good goaltending. Those questions have been answered in the last two months, so is anyone really going to be able to slow them down?

The Kings are a good hockey team that can shoot the puck, but Edmonton’s two weak spots seem to be fixed, so where are you going to attack them? Not to mention, if you take a penalty against them, good luck stopping the league’s best power play. There’s so much firepower on this team that even two of the best defensive forwards in the league won’t have an answer. I’d like to see this series go seven games, but it could very well be over in five. 

Prediction: Edmonton in 5