It will be a battle for West Division supremacy as the Vegas Golden Knights take on the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The top two seeds in the division will meet in the post-season for the first time in a best-of-seven series. They tangled in the round robin portion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the Golden Knights won 4-3 in overtime.
And they met in at Lake Tahoe earlier in 2021 for an outdoor game, a beautiful contest the Avalanche ended up winning despite the bad ice.
Colorado enters this second round series coming off an impressive sweep of the St. Louis Blues. They outscored their opponents 20-7 and won every game by at least three goals, a showcase of dominance they may not be able to replicate against the Golden Knights.
Vegas will have plenty to contend with, however. The Avalanche boast a top line that came up with 24 points against the Blues.
What’s more, Colorado will be well-rested. While the Golden Knights are fresh from a physical Game Seven, the Avalanche have been off for a week.
Vegas plays a physical game and they tested that against the Wild in a close series, with most of the games decided by close margins. Game Seven was a 6-2 finish that was hardly indicative of the series tone.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon leads all skaters in playoff scoring with six goals. Against the Blues, he became the first player in franchise history to put up nine points in a playoff series while playing four or fewer games. He averages 1.43 points per game in the post-season, a stat that puts him in the company of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Mark Stone led Vegas with four goals in the first round. He averaged 19:33 of ice time against Minnesota and will have to be a huge part of this series if his team wants to win this thing. In the regular season, Stone was good for six points in eight games against Colorado.
But all rolls back to scoring, with the Avalanche averaging an astonishing five goals a game in the first round. Their power play was clicking at 50 percent and they won 52.3 percent of the draws. Stopping the top unit of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen is Job One.
For Vegas to counter, they’ll have to keep playing physical hockey. They averaged 42.1 hits a game against the Wild and got in the lanes to block shots.
Marc-Andre Fleury will also have to be magnificent in the Golden Knights’ net. The 36-year-old started all seven games against Minnesota and finished with a 1.71 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. He turned aside 35 shots for a shutout in Game Four.
Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer is more than equal to the task. The 29-year-old allowed just seven goals against in the Blues series and posted a .936 save percentage with a 1.75 goals against average.