2023-04-17 · 4 min read · NHL/Hockey
Connor McDavid and Cale Makar

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Colorado Avalanche Vs Seattle Kraken
The Kraken has to be happy with their second-year improvement and first-ever playoff trip. Sadly, that seems likely to be where the good times end as they have a tough first-round matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Despite injuries to almost all key players and the continued absence of Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche finished the season 23-5-2 across their last thirty games. Powered by the incredibly high-end trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, they have a top-10 offence and defence this year; looking a lot like the team that went all the way last time around.
The Kraken has a potent offence (tied for 4th most goals per game with 3.52) and fairly good defence, but their Achilles’ heel this season has typically been their goaltending. Against the team with the experience and offensive capabilities of Colorado that seems like a recipe for trouble. I can see the Kraken getting hot and stealing a game or even two I could see but upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champs in the first round seems like a bad bet.
The pick - Avs in 5
Dallas Stars Vs Minnesota Wild
This is a tough one, both of these teams feel capable of going on a run and both have goaltenders that seem like they could steal a series. Dallas feels well built for playoff hockey or goaltending is crucial and a good two-way game is key, Stars were top five on the power play and the penalty kill. Jake Oettinger seems to find another gear come playoff time, even in a loss he gave the Flames fits last year. The wild, however, is not an easy first-round draw as Filip Gustavsson was one of the best netminders on the season, especially in the second half. Minnesota has a deep roster on offence and defence and possesses a game-breaker in Kirill Kaprizov. Yet they are missing key forward Joel Erickson Ek, which could play a major role in what seems likely to be a tight series.
The Stars enter this year's playoffs in a good spot they've only lost two games in a row once since the end of February, going on a 16-5-1 run in their final 22 games of the season. Dallas also seems to have the goaltending edge given Oettinger's previous playoff performances and has a good hockey mind in Peter DeBoer at the helm.
The pick - Stars in 7
Vegas Golden Knights Vs Winnipeg Jets
This is another tough series to pick as both these teams have similar strengths and weaknesses. This series feels likely to get physical and despite being a division winner vs a wildcard it is a fairly even matchup. Vegas has better depth and the seemingly impending return of Mark Stone’s stabilizing two plays is crucial. The Jets however are scrappy and have the goaltending edge with Connor Hellebuyck, a key element for playoff hockey. The Knights meanwhile need a not-so-inspiring tandem of Jonathan Quick and Laurent Brossoit to deliver with Logan Thompson out.
In this sort of series, I typically would give the edge to the goaltending, which would lead me to take Hellebuyck and the Jets. Despite this with the return of Mark Stone, I think the Knights are deeper, possess more offensive punch and are well-coached. Assuming Vegas can keep the pressure on Hellebuyck, while Quick and Brossoit bend but don't break the Golden Knights should get by Jets.
The pick - Knights in 7
Edmonton Oilers Vs Los Angeles Kings
I'll admit I'm high on the Edmonton Oilers right now and it's not even all about the best player in the world Connor McDavid or the fact they possess another top-five talent in Leon Draisaitl. Their defence has improved this year, especially once they picked Mattias Ekholm, while Stuart Skinner is the best goaltender Edmonton has had in years. The Oilers also come into the playoffs scorching hot having won their last nine in a row. However, to give the Kings some credit they pushed McDavid and the Oilers to seven games last year. Los Angeles has made some good additions since then, namely Kevin Fiala (whose health I’m worried about) in the offseason and Vladislav Gavrikov at the trade deadline. The Kings also have to be happy with the solid play of trade deadline acquisition Joonas Korpisalo who has stabilized the crease posting quality numbers with the Kings (2.13 GAA, .921 SP in 11 games).
While the Kings seem like they're going to be a tough out and feel bound to at least take a game or two, my pick here has got to be the Oilers. Edmonton sports the league’s best goals per game average with 3.96, their secondary scoring is excellent with Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins seemingly finding new gears this season. Lastly, with the man advantage, Edmonton is exceptional, their 32.4% power play rate is well above second-place Toronto (26%). If their offence can come through, which it often does Edmonton could make another deep run.
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By: Chase Howard


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