Jan 30, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) skates with the puck in front of Minnesota Wild defenseman Keith Ballard (2) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Avalanche enter the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The Avalanche are the overall number one seed in the Western Conference and the Central Division Champion. They overtook the St. Louis Blues with a late season surge and a Blue Collapse. The Avalanche finished 4th in the NHL with 250 goals and 13th in the league with 220 goals against. They went 7-1-2 in their last ten games to end the regular season and might be one of the hottest teams in hockey. They are led by first head Coach Patrick Roy, who took an awful team in 2012-13 to a Division winner in 2013-14. The Avalanche have young talent group of forwards which includes Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly. Their best forward Matt Duchene is out with a knee injury and is not scheduled to come back during this series. The biggest X factor in this series will be Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov has transformed into an elite goalie this season and need to play big for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche win if: If their offense can solve Brzygalov and Varlamov continues his impressive season.
On the other side of the ice, the Minnesota Wild are returning to the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Wild finished fourth in the Ultra tough central Division. The Wild finished the regular season 6-3-1. The Wild are looking to advance in the playoffs, last year they were ousted by the Blackhawks in five games. The Wild have two star players in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Both Parise and Suter signed identical 13 year 98 million dollar contract two years ago. Parise was also the Captain of Team USA during the Olympics. Ryan Suter continues to be one of the NHL top defenseman. The Wild need their stars to flex their star power during this series. The Wild x-factor is Ilya Bryzgalov. Brzygalov will be their starting goalie after starting this NHL season in the ECHL. Brzygalov will need a huge series for the Wild to contend. The Wild will also need a big series from their depth players.
The Wild will win if: Brzygalov out plays Varlamov and the Wild get production from Matt Moulsen and other not top tier players
On the season, the Avalanche finished the season 4-0-1 against the Wild.
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