Jake Shapiro takes a look at the two teams heading into this tasty NHL Playoffs matchup and predicts the outcome of the Series.
Following a four-game series win over the Nashville Predators, the Arizona Coyotes are set to take on the cup favorites. The Colorado Avalanche went 2-0-1 in seeding games, keeping with the strong play they had before COVID-19 halted NHL play in March.
To understand how this series may back it’s key took back at these two teams in the regular season and their matchups against each other.
The ‘Yotes flew in their two games against the Avs. The first matchup was a high-speed game in Denver that went to overtime where 2018 Cup winner Andre Burakovsky scored his second game-winning goal in as many games. It only came after a crazy third period. Colorado scored twice in less than two minutes midway through the period but was replied to quickly when Arizona scored two unanswered while showcasing their youth.
In the second game, the Coyotes caught the Avs at the bottom of an early-season five-game losing streak. It was a fast-beating by Arizona and a frustrating night for the visiting Avs.
In his first full season in the desert, Nick Schmaltz led the Coyotes with 45 points in 70 games. While the young trio of Clayton Keller, Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak all had admirable seasons. Arizona was also bolstered by their veterans Michael Grabner, Carl Soderberg and Michael Grabner upfront and Alex Goligoski, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers and Niklas Hjalmarsson on defense.
The Coyotes are a team that’s mixed between exciting young players and experienced veterans. Those are the teams that can normally upset a good team or sneak their way into a long playoff run. And that’s not even to mention they traded for 2017-18 NHL MVP (Hart winner) Taylor Hall in December. Hall has never made it out of the first round but combining the achievements of the other players on the roster they have won seven cups and have had a few players make very deep runs. That includes Antti Raanta who is recovering from an injury but had a very nice season in goal partnering with Darcy Kuemper. Soderberg also has great playoff experience and was key for the Avs in their jaunt to the second round last season.
The Avs replaced Soderberg’s physicality with Burakovsky who offers more speed. That’s a theme with Colorado up and down the roster from rookie star Cale Makar to Hart finalist Nathan MacKinnon. Not only do the Avs have more players in their prime and perhaps better top players but their depth is what many people love. The Avs had 10 different players score 10 or more goals this season proving their third line is just as capable as many teams’ first.
(2) Colorado -250 vs. (7) Arizona +210
Ekman-Larsson is good enough where he should be able to slow down one Avalanche line and it will likely be MacKinnon’s with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Hjalmarsson and Goligoski have been great players earlier in their careers but can they stop Nazem Kadri’s line which has been among the best second lines in hockey this season. And even then Burakovsky J.T. Compher and Joonas Donskoi is a group that are no strangers to big playoff goals.
While it may look appealing to take the biggest first-round underdogs to upset the mighty Avs, the Desert Dogs are underdogs for a reason. They do not have the depth or star power that Colorado does. What they do have though is great playoff experience and two decent goalies.
Prediction: Colorado in 5
The Avs have all of this talent and have gone deeper each of the last two seasons. In 2018 it was a first-round knockout, 2019 a second-round send home. Is this the year the Avs can win it all with +600 odds? It’s very possible but it all starts with getting this series over with and doing it quickly to preserve themselves in what is always a taxing tournament, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.