This one is really difficult to call.
The Colorado Avalanche had an incredible regular season under the guidance of rookie head coach Patrick Roy, but it all seems too good to be true.
The Minnesota Wild had an up-and-down season, but they were good enough to make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.
Based on seeding, the Avalanche are the favourite to win this first-round series. The Avs accumulated 112 points in the regular season standings to sit atop a Central Division that includes the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and solidly built St. Louis Blues. The Wild finished fourth in the Central.
Let’s call this the Battle Of The Bad Corsis. According to extraskater.com the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche finished the regular season twenty-third and twenty-fifth, respectively, in Corsi For. Translation: both clubs aren’t that good at possessing the puck/creating offence that can be quantified by this advanced stat. But, here they are, and somebody’s gotta drive the offence, so something’s gotta give in this one.
The goaltending matchup in this first-round showdown between the Avs and Wild features two Russian netminders against each other. Semyon Varlamov of the Avalanche had a Vezina calibre season despite off-ice troubles and Olympic heartache. Ilya Bryzgalov was acquired by Minnesota at the trade deadline and he’s performed strongly since joining the club, going 7-1-3 with evergreen trees on his chest.
Both teams possess respectable top six forwards in abundance but lack Stanley Cup winning depth throughout their rosters. The Avs talented young forwards are just that: young. Minnesota are led up front by veterans with more experience: Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson, to name a few.
This will probably be a very fast paced series between two teams that prefer up-tempo skating over ruggedness.
Colorado Avalanche Injuries: LW Alex Tanguay (hip surgery), C Matt Duchene (knee), D Tyson Barrie (upper body), C John Mitchell (concussion), F Cody McLeod (ankle/knee), D Jan Hejda (upper body).
Minnesota Wild Injuries: G Josh Harding (illness), G Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgeery), D Keith Ballard (groin), F Kyle Brodziak (undisclosed), C Mikael Granlund (upper body), LW Mike Rupp (undisclosed).
Injuries courtesy of TSN.com.
Sal’s Prediction: Wild in 7.
The Wild have more experience and they’ve played sound hockey since Ilya Bryzgalov took over between the pipes. The injury to Avs centre Matt Duchene might be tough for the Avs to overcome, and their lack of experience could do them in. But I truly think this series could go either way.
Brett’s Prediction: Wild in 7.
I’m worried about the Avalanche. I shouldn’t be given their performance this season but it almost feels like a too good to be true story for me. A lot will be expected of Jack Adams lock Patrick Roy and his team against an under the radar Minnesota squad. Ilya Bryzgalov (believe it or not) has three shutouts in 12 games since he’s arrived in Minny. Ryan Suter will barely be off the ice, while Parise, Koivu, and Pominville can provide some good experience to the youngsters. Going out on a little bit of a limb on this one.