Surprise Avalanche versus Unheralded Wild
The Minnesota Wild will meet the upstart Colorado Avalanche in the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs. The series will begin on Thursday, and the first 2-games will be played at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. According to NHL betting odds Colorado is a -145 money line favorite in this series, and the Wild is listed at a +125 underdog. Colorado is the winner of the Central Division and the #2 overall seed in the Western Conference, while Minnesota enters the postseason as the #7 seed in the West. Colorado has won 4 of the 5 meetings between these clubs this season, with the last of those games taking place back on January 30th.
the Magic in the Postseason
The Colorado Avalanche was unquestionably the biggest surprise team in the NHL this season. Putting things in perspective, the Avalanche finished last overall in the Western Conference just a season ago. Just when Colorado fans thought they’d seen it all this season their team roared down the stretch to take advantage of a late season St. Louis slump, and as a result captured the Central Division crown. Granted the Blues dropped their last 6-games of the season. However, give some credit to the Avalanche as well who earned 18 of 22-points possible in their final 11-games. If the Avalanche is to advance past the 1st round they will have to do it without the services of their leading scorer Matt Duchene who sustained a knee injury late in the season. Duchesne has been listed as doubtful for the 1st round of the playoffs.
Making the Playoffs
The Minnesota Wild is giddy about the opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There was a time during the last couple of months of the regular season in which a playoff berth was very much up in the air. Now that they’ve made it into the postseason, focus has shifted to advancing beyond the 1st round in a series that realistically can be won. They will be facing an opponent that’s vastly overachieved this season, is without their leading scorer, and is depending on some skilled youngsters to carry the scoring load. The Wild really strengthened their chances at the trade deadline with the acquisition of veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The Wild has earned at least 1-point in all of Bryzgalov’s 10-starts (7-0-3), while the veteran has posted an excellent 1.78 GAA in those outings.
This should be a very closely contested series in which the role players on both sides may ultimately be the deciding factor. I look for this series to go the full 7-games with a slight nod going to the team with home ice advantage for our NHL picks.
Free Hockey Pick: Colorado over Minnesota in 7-games