A potential Stanley Cup Playoff force in the Colorado Avalanche take the ice against a scrappy Arizona Coyotes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The bout between Colorado and Arizona will feature a team with balance and a team that puts the majority of its eggs into one basket. In this case, Colorado’s balance and depth all over the ice will be pitted against a Coyotes’ roster that prioritizes elite goaltending.
The balance on Colorado’s side of the rink becomes readily apparent after taking a brief scan of their regular season statistics. Over the course of the shortened regular season, Colorado scored 236 goals and averaged 3.37 goals per game (GF/GP). These areas would be tied for third (goals scored) and fourth (GF/GP) in the NHL. The irony of their goal-scoring barrage, however, comes in the form of their success (or relative lack thereof) on the power play, as Colorado’s 19.1 PP% ranked 19th. Even still, Colorado’s overall success on offense did not solely come from the homegrown stars of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. Other supporting players, including offseason acquisitions in Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri and Joonas Donskoi, have helped give Colorado productive depth even through injury spells Colorado had to endure during the season. All seven skaters collected at least 30 points during the regular season. Injuries or not, that is solid.
Defensively, it is not a Makar solo film, as Samuel Girard, Ryan Graves and Ian Cole have also helped in preventing offensive momentum from the opposing team. Colorado’s defense allowed 31.3 shots per game (SA/GP), which ranked 17th during the regular season. Colorado’s 190 goals allowed was tied for sixth in the entire NHL, while their goals allowed per game played average (GA/GP) of 2.71 ranked sixth. Colorado’s defense on the man-disadvantage was also solid, as their 81.4 Penalty Kill Percentage (PK%) ranked 13th. While the defense has helped break up rhythm, goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz prevented any puck movement that was able to break through the blueline, as they collected a GAA of 2.41 and 2.63, respectively.
Arizona, despite scoring 190 goals during the regular season (which was tied for 22nd) and averaging 2.71 goals a game (which ranked 23rd), their goaltending was superb, as the duo of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta (who had a 2.22 GAA and 2.63 GAA during the regular season, respectively) allowed 183 goals in total during the regular season (tied for third) and allow only 2.61 goals per game (also tied for third). This strong area of play, in addition to their fifth-ranked 82.7 PK%, would help offset the discrepancies on offense. Forward Nick Schmaltz picked up the most points among all Arizona skaters (45). Even still, Arizona’s 19.2 PP% ranked 18th (ahead of Colorado).
Schmaltz, Taylor Hall, Phil Kessel and company will need to pick it up a notch should they contend with the high-octane offense of the Avalanche. The urgency becomes even more apparent as Raanta is nursing an undisclosed injury and might not be available for the first couple games. While Kuemper can definitely take care of the pipes himself, Arizona’s roster strength is currently thin on depth.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, along with Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet, both have the liberty of working with significant strengths on their respective rosters. Colorado’s roster, top to bottom, is quicker, deeper and more explosive on offense than Arizona. Colorado’s overall depth will be too much for Arizona and will eventually get to the point where Arizona will not be able to keep up.
Prediction: Colorado in 5