The 2021 regular season is now over and the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are here! For the West Division, The two series will be Colorado against St. Louis and the Wild versus the Golden Knights. With the NHL only letting teams play in their division during the regular season, the teams playing have gotten a pretty good look at each other. With that being said, the playoffs always bring something different.
Minnesota and Vegas have played each other eight times this season. In those eight games, Minnesota has gone 5-1-2. But when you look at the score totals, they are deadlocked at 24 points each. these two teams are very similar when it comes to playing style. They both have very strong offenses that rely on their goaltenders more than their defense. So when it comes to a seven-game series, it’s going to boil down to goalie performance.
This series is going to be all about the young Kaapo Kahkonen against the veteran Marc-Andre Fleury. Playoff hockey is not a new thing for Fleury and he has shown time and time again that he does his best work in the crease when the Cup is on the line. But for Kahkonen, this is a whole new experience. He has shown that he can keep a cool head under pressure, which Vegas will test the limit of. This season, the two goalies are both in the .900 when it comes to save percentage. Because of that, there is going to be a lot of strong offense needed to score. Which puts most of the weight onto the forwards.
Everyone is going to have eyes on rookie forward and Calder front-runner, Kirill Kaprizov. He has had a spectacular rookie season, leading his team in points with 51. But he isn’t the only forward who knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. Minnesota has players like Kevin Fiala who has 20 goals on the year and Mats Zuccarello who has matched Kaprizov with assists with 24.
This isn’t to say Vegas doesn’t have its own list of goal-scorers. Mark Stone has been on it all season both with and without the puck. He has 61 points this season coming mostly from assists. Not to mention Jonathan Marchessault, who has 44 points this season. I am going to say that Max Pacioretty not practicing two days before the first round of the playoffs is unsettling. Ryan Reaves is also out and although he isn’t a regular on the score sheet, his presence on the ice can change the tides of a game. Without them, they might have some issues.
Now I know I stated that both teams heavily rely on their goalies, but that doesn’t mean that both defending sides of these teams don’t put in work. Shea Theodore has the second most assists for Vegas, only behind Mark Stone. Minnesota Captain Jared Spurgeon has made an insane 102 blocks this season and has the second-highest time on ice average. Vegas might find some difficulty on the defensive side though. They are currently without Alec Martinez and he plays a big part on both ends of the ice.
Honestly, this series could go one of two ways. Either one team is going to blow the other out of the water or it’ll be a full seven-game series with back and forth wins. That’s just how close these two teams are. Even though Minnesota won the majority of their regular-season games against Vegas. The playoffs just bring another gear. Everyone is playing their best hockey and it’s really hard to say which team will come out on top. I guess we’ll just have to wait until puck drop.
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