Jan 30, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) defends his net from a a shot attempt by Minnesota Wild right wing Justin Fontaine (14) in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild Series Preview

 

Two teams without a lot of recent playoff success square off, and for both teams it turned out that they got a better first round matchup against each other than what it appeared it was going to be heading into the last week of the season.  Here is a preview of the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild.

SEASON SERIES

 Colorado won 4 of the 5 meetings of the season, with the lone Wild win coming in a shootout.

THE MATCHUPS

Goaltending

Russian goalies will be in the spotlight in this series.  Semyon Varlamov had an up and down season on and off the ice, but has played well lately and carried the Avs to the division title, winning a franchise record 41 games, breaking that set by his current coach.

Ilya Bryzgalov was 5-1-1 in his last 7 decisions down the stretch for Minnesota, and with Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom out, it will be on the shoulders of the enigmatic Russian.

 

Defense

Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson anchor the Avalanche blue line, with Barrie expected back from injury for game 1.  Former Senators Andre Benoit had a career year for Colorado.

Ryan Suter will play 50% of each game and is a workhorse at both ends of the ice, with support from Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.

 

Offense

A big blow to the Avalanche, Matt Duchene is not expected to make an appearance in the first round.  Duchene still led the Avs in scoring despite missing 11 games, but they had 4 others reach 60 points – Gabriel Landeskog, rookie Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny.

The Wild offense is less potent, and 3 of their top 4 scorers missed substantial time with injury.  The addition of Matt Moulson at the trade deadline and the return of Mikael Granlund from injury bolster the top 6 and give support to Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu.

Special Teams

The Avalanche special teams are a notch or two better than the Wild’s in both penalty killing and power play.

INTANGIBLES

  • Patrick Roy has had a tremendous freshman season behind the bench of the Avalanche, and you have to wonder if there is something special going on there.
  • The Wild are a team that just hangs around, not getting too far out of games, and before you know it, they have taken a game.  They aren’t going to run and gun, but will play the game the right way.

STORYLINES

  • How the mighty have fallen as Dany Heatley (former 2 time 50 goal scorer) could be a healthy scratch to open the series after posting a career low 12 goals (for a full season).
  • Both teams have to be looking across the ice and pleased they are not seeing the Blues or Blackhawks.  Each team would have had a tougher matchup if Colorado hadn’t tracked the Blues down in the last week of the season.

PREDICTION

Duchene’s absence makes this a tight series for one that features a division champion and a wild card team. If Suter can keep his 30 minute pace the Wild will stay competitve, but a couple of long overtimes early on might start to wear down the guy who has played more than 300 minutes more than anyone else this season, not including the Olympics.

AVALANCHE in 7

 

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Tags: Matt Duchene Playoff Preview Ryan Suter Tyson Barrie Zach Parise

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