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Vegas had the President’s Trophy in their hands, but a late stumble against Colorado shifted power back to the Avalanche, who went on to win top spot in the league, and division. That means that Vegas gets a less than ideal matchup versus the Minnesota Wild, opposed to one against the Blues, who they dominated all season long. Not finishing first might end up costing Vegas in the worst way possible for a team with real cup aspirations.
Odds via Bet365
Percentage odds via Dom Luszczyszyn & MoneyPuck.com
|Vegas Golden Knights|
|Series Probability||Minnesota Wild|
This series for Vegas is one that they should win, but it is far from a guarantee. By the numbers, this series is expected to go six or seven games. That makes sense considering how close these two have played each other all season.
Vegas, in their fourth season, once again has cup aspirations. This year might be their best shot to do it. They’ve assembled an all-star lineup of forwards, signed a big free agent in Alex Pietrangelo, and have a tandem of Vezina caliber netminders. Vegas’ former first line is now their second, which is a testimony to the talent brought in with guys like Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, which is the best line in this series, by far. But that new second line with Smith, Karlsson, and Marchessault has actually taken a significant step back, mostly due to Smiths’ lack in production with just 25 points in 53 games, albeit a playoff performer. The bottom six of Vegas plays fast and furious but tends to get out-chanced and bailed out by their goalie, not a recipe for success. The defense edge in this series belongs to Vegas because of the additions of Pietrangelo and Martinez, who eat up all the tough minutes. Leaving Shea Theodore to continue his strong offensive play against weaker opponents. In net is the biggest edge for Vegas. It’s hard to beat Fleury and Lehner. They’ve got leadership, talent, and a winning pedigree. Normally platoon tandems don’t fair well because they are both 1B options, that is not the case here with both being true 1A options.
Minnesota has had a breakout season and looking to ride that momentum as deep as they can go. Teams like them can be scary, they finished high in the standings and have nothing to lose. Few teams can assemble a bottom-six with as much talent as Minnesota, and that gives them a significant edge since they don’t need to play a matchup game and can roll all four lines with equal efficiency. Finally, they have a true star forward. Rookie Kirill Kaprisov has not only impressed as a rookie but truly taken the league by storm in a way we haven’t seen since Artemi Panarin. Kirill and his chemistry with Matts Zuccarello will be a big key to the Wild’s success upfront. I would also look at guys like Marcus Foligno who is an xGF king, when he missed time the Wild slumped hard. Others like Kevin Fiala, Ryan Hartman, or Marco Sturm can all make significant impacts, the list of depth goes on and on in ways the Wild haven’t had before. The Wild’s top four will be seeing big minutes, especially since the third pair struggled against Vegas in the regular season. Brodin and Dumba were one of the best pairs in the league and can contribute at both ends of the ice. In goal, Cam Talbot will be either hit or miss. It wouldn’t shock me if they turn to rookie Kaapo Kahkonen if Talbot struggles early.
Players to Watch
- Mark Stone: 55GP / 21G / 40A / 61P
- Max Pacioretty: 48GP / 24G / 27A / 51P
- Jonathan Marchessault: 53GP / 22G / 21A / 43P
- Wildcard – William Karlsson: 56GP / 14G / 25A / 39P
- Kirill Kaprisov: 55GP / 27G/ 24A / 51P
- Kevin Fiala: 50GP / 20G / 20A / 40GP
- Matts Zuccarello: 42GP / 11G / 24A / 35P
- Wildcard – Marcus Foligno : 39GP / 11G / 15A / 26P
To me, this is one series that has the chance for a legitimate upset. Vegas is the better team, and that’s not a question, but for some reason Minnesota has just played top teams tough all year, that includes Vegas. A lot is going to land on matchups, which Minnesota doesn’t care much about, and how well Vegas is able to contain Kirill ‘The Thrill’ Kaprisov.
Minnesota is just so intriguing and I would even go as far as sprinkling some money on the Wild. It will be a battle and likely one of the most entertaining ones of the first round. All signs point to Vegas, but Minnesota is not a team to be slept on.